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a different perspective on human capital

How to Rejoin the Workforce


There are an unlimited number of reasons why you might decide to step off the career track. It could be for maternity leave, family issues, or just a well-needed break from the daily grind. Often a short break might turn into multiple years and suddenly you are faced with the daunting task of stepping back into the workforce even though much has changed.

After stepping back from the day-to-day of your job you might realize your goals have changed or your prior experience is less relevant now. All of this adds up to a stressful situation where you need to reevaluate your career goals and desires and then actually take that huge leap of starting again (from closer to scratch than you may like).

Whether the break has been 6 months or 15 years, it will lead to many of the same feelings. Here are our 5 Treehouse Tips for an easy transition back to work:

Analyze your Decision: iRelaunch, a company that runs virtual coaching sessions for people ready to re-enter the workforce after a break, says the first step is to analyze your decision. This is your chance to make your official decision to return to work and evaluate why you want to, what your goals are, and what kind of support you have around you.  During this process, you’ve got to speak with friends and family members who know you well to get a sense for what types of opportunities you should consider.  Ask those you trust to tell you honestly what they view as your strengths and look for positions that align with those strengths.

Find your Rockstar Confidence: After not working for awhile, you might lose your faith in your skills as a professional. When you are doing other things it is hard to remember how great you were at your job. It is important to find that professional strength again before you start interviewing.  Believe it or not, freshening up your wardrobe may help as well.  We recently placed a candidate who hadn’t interviewed for a job in nearly 8 year… part of the preparation advise we gave her was to buy a new “power suit” for the interview – it worked!  Think back to how you felt when you were doing a great job at work and plug back into those feelings!

– Be realistic: While confidence is key, it’s also important to be realistic about your expectations for this next stage.  It is unlikely that you will find your next job overnight and making a drastic career shift with limited recent work experience to justify the shift will be difficult.  For example, we had a candidate apply to a graphic design job once who indicated that her love for and proficiency at scrapbooking was her primary motivator for applying… however, all of her professional experience had been as an accountant!  Focus on the professional skills you already have and can leverage to help a company’s bottom line vs. exclusively focusing on roles you think you would like.

Freshen up your skillset: Whether you’re looking to re-enter into the same functional area, or making a shift, it will be important for you to have some recent and relevant professional experiences.  These can be obtained in a variety of ways – e.g. through volunteering, helping out a friend’s small business, or taking a class.  It’s important to demonstrate your ability to pick up new skills and, who know, the network you build in the process could lead you to your next big role!

Update your Resume: Although this is an obvious one, it can be a little more complicated after an extended break. Although in an interview you will have a chance to explain why you have had a long break and employers will understand, the resume will actually be the first thing the employer sees. Focus on your skills and successes rather than your dates of employment. This way your break from the workplace won’t be the first impression.

Be bold! In order to get that first interview, you might have to put yourself out there again. Sending your resume out may not be enough. Make phone calls, network with extreme enthusiasm, attend conferences and make sure you are taking every opportunity that may lead to your next dream job.

Take your interview to the next level: Since a hiring manager will be considering you over applicants who haven’t been out of the workforce, you need to make sure you stand out. Do as much research as possible on the company and know the background of everybody you are interviewing with. Make sure to not focus on why you took a break – instead talk about your achievements and how you could add to the organization.

Remember, take your time to take this next step of your career down a path you really want! Don’t just accept the first job you receive out of eagerness to start again. This is a great time to evaluate what you really want out of your career and make decisions accordingly.

Good luck!