Looking to get back to work after a career break? Whether you took a break to have a family, caregiving, your own personal fulfillment, or because you got fired, you might look at returning to work with delight or dread. In any case, it can be daunting to return to the working world.
You might worry your carefully honed skills are outdated, that competition in your field has grown, or that you won’t be able to find a good work-life balance. If you’re feeling apprehensive, you’re not alone.
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However, there are a lot of positives to being back at work. The most obvious benefit is financial but work can also give you a sense of purpose and fulfillment, mental stimulation, new skills, and a professional community.
We asked career experts for their top tips on returning to work after a career break and making the transition as smooth as possible. From enrolling in online courses to working on getting a consistent sleep pattern, here are their answers.
How to Get Back to Work After a Career Break
Enroll in Online Courses
If you have been out of the workforce for a while, it’s likely that your skills have become a bit dated. Before making a return, consider taking some time to brush up on your skills by enrolling in online courses or workshops. This will help you to get back up to speed so that you’re able to hit the ground running when you make your return.
If you’re planning to make a return to the same industry, this will also help you to make a good first impression with your new employer. If you’re planning to make a return to a different industry, this will help you to figure out if your new career path is the right fit for you. Either way, taking this time to brush up on your skills will help you to make the most of your return.
Matthew Ramirez, CEO, Rephrasely
Research How the Job Market Has Changed
Getting back to work after a career break can be challenging since you may find the job market and industry have changed. Therefore, before entering the job market unprepared and unarmed, research how it has changed, what updates you will need to make to be better qualified, what new skills are required, and what knowledge is relevant in the field. Only then, attend classes or workshops, industry events, or even get certifications to meet the new requirements.
Natalia Brzezinska, Marketing and Outreach Manager, UK Passport Photo
Audit Your Happiness To See If You Need to Update Your Career
Consider whether or not you’re going back into a job that makes you happy as you come back from a career break. There was a reason you took that break after all, it’s a perfect time to evaluate whether or not job satisfaction played a role in why you found your break necessary.
This isn’t always about something as big as switching to an entirely different career path either. It may be that your current level in your profession isn’t enough to keep you challenged, or it may be that there is a job adjacent to the one you were working in previously that better suits your skills or your personality.
Now is the perfect time to consider whether or not you need to update your career or if you’re happy with where you currently are. If changes need to be made in order to increase your satisfaction with your job, this will be the prime time to start setting things in motion, so that you can land in your professional place of happiness.
Consider Freelancing to ‘Ease’ into Work Life
While a freelancing role is certainly not easy in comparison to a full-time career, you may want to explore taking on a select few freelance opportunities from either freelancing platforms or via your existing network as a means of ‘easing’ back into the world of work, specific to the role you’re looking to obtain via a full-time position when you make the full transition back to work.
Tracey Beveridge, HR Director, Personnel Checks
Immerse Yourself in Your Industry
The best way to get back into the swing of things after a career break is to immerse yourself in your industry. If you’ve been away from work for a while, chances are you’ve fallen behind on the latest developments in your field. To help bridge this gap, set aside time each day to read trade publications and industry analyses. This will help you stay on top of the latest trends and developments in your field. By keeping this reading habit, you’ll be better prepared to hit the ground running when it comes time to resume full-time work.
Luciano Colos, Founder and CEO, PitchGrade
Have a Stepped Return
When I decided to return to my job as an Aeronautical Engineer after a few years away, I knew it would be an adjustment. The best way to get back into the groove was to utilize a grid or plan that included the right steps.
By mapping out my transition back to professional life, I felt a lot more confident in my ability to handle the new challenges. As part of my plan, I tried to set weekly goals and track my progress – this kept me motivated and on track when returning to work.
Therefore, my best tip is to plan a stepped return – break up big goals into smaller, actionable items that you can tackle one day at a time.
Ludovic Chung-Sao, Lead Engineer and Founder, Zen Soundproof
Get a Coach to Help With the Transition
When you haven’t been working for some time, it’s normal to feel a mix of energy and anxiety as you ease back in. Do yourself a favor and find a career coach you can trust to guide you through the ups and downs of the first few months. It will feel like a rollercoaster (this is normal), but it may feel odd to you since you’re the one on the ride. A solid career coach can make the transition less bumpy.
Kelli Anderson, Career Coach, Resume Seed
Develop a Networking Strategy
Regardless of the economic situation, a networking plan is key. Most jobs happen through connections and referrals, not by searching job postings. The plan starts with having a clear objective of what you want in terms of work, the skills you want to apply, industry, etc.
This must be done before reaching out to former colleagues, managers, or joining networking groups. Having a clear networking plan makes a big difference in the confidence you exude and helps the people you reach out to, who can provide advice and introduce you to potential employers.
Tony Deblauwe, VP Human Resources, Celigo
Work On Getting a Consistent Sleep Pattern
One of the most important steps in getting back to work after a career break is to get your sleep pattern back to normal. Proper rest and sleep are essential for maintaining productivity and focus. Try to go to bed at the same time every night, and wake up on a regular schedule as well.
Make sure to avoid too much caffeine or sugary snacks late in the day, as they can disrupt your sleep. Exercise regularly and practice relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation to help you relax and fall asleep more easily. Lastly, if possible, avoid checking emails or social media late at night as this can make it difficult to fall asleep.
Derek Bruce, Senior Director, Newcastle First Aid Courses
There are many ways to re-enter the workforce successfully — you might even find that your time away gave you new skills and perspective. Your individual strategy will depend on your industry, skills, and personal preference.
You can also use this time for some professional soul-searching — if you hated your last job or just felt underappreciated, this is the perfect opportunity to look for a career path more in alignment with your values.
And even if you love your career and can’t wait to get back to it, take your time to network, update your skills, and even use volunteer work to update your resume. You’ll thank yourself for it later.