Whether your career break was planned or unplanned, returning to the workforce after an extended period away can be challenging. Some recruiters and hiring managers will be understanding about years away from the nine-to-five grind, but others may feel trepidation about hiring you. And, with time away from the workforce, your skills—along with your resume and interview skills—may need an update. It may be hard to feel confident and qualified, too.
Overwhelmed? Nervous? Don’t be: Here’s how to have a successful job search and transition back to employment after a leave.
Tips for Getting Back into the Workforce After a Career Break
Assess Your Job Wants & Needs
Don’t just dive into searching on job posting websites. Instead, take time to consider what you want: What type of job will be fulfilling and gratifying? And, do you want to go back to a role like the one you had before you left the workforce, or do you want to try something a bit different? Consider what you’d like to get out of a job, and why (aside from financial reasons) you’re interested in working again. Keep your needs in mind, too: whether it’s salary requirements, flexible hours, or anything else.
Re-Learn Your Industry and Network
If it’s been quite a while since you worked, you’ll likely need to refamiliarize yourself with your industry and the job opportunities in it. Some possible steps to take:
- Research your industry
- Attend conferences & informational interviews
Freshen Your Skills
Freshen up your skills before you go out on interviews or send out cover letters—this will help you feel more confident as a candidate. Here are a few ideas:
- Volunteer work
- Newsletters, podcasts, etc.
Practice Job Search Skills
How long has it been since you last applied for a job? If it’s hard to remember, you probably need to update your resume. (And maybe your LinkedIn profile, too!) As you update your resume, consider opting for a functional version, rather than a chronological one—this may help de-emphasize the gap in your employment history.
You’ll also want to practice interviewing too
Explain Your Career Break—But Keep It Brief
If you’ve had a long break, you’ll likely have to discuss it within your cover letter, as well as during interviews. No matter what your reason for your extended leave from the workforce, keep your explanation brief. A simple sentence will do. Try, “I’ve spent time caring for a sick relative,” or “It was important to me to be home with my child until nursery school,” “I’ve been volunteering at a homelessness charity while taking bookkeeping classes,” or “I’ve spent the past few years traveling throughout the world, working on my language skills.”
Whatever your reason for being away, try to distill it down to something brief—and the return the conversation to the work you did prior to your time away. Your work experience remains relevant, even if some time has passed since you gained that experience.