How to Reenter the Workforce As If You Never Left

The process of looking for a job is stressful enough, but it’s even more daunting when you’re faced with the prospect of reentering the workforce after a long break in employment. Being out of work for an extended period of time doesn’t mean no one will want to hire you, but it does mean that you’re going to have to put some extra thought into your search.

Whether it’s due to an injury, illness, or disability, to raise children or care for a family member, or being fired or laid off, there are many reasons why people may have a break in employment. If you craft your cover letter, resume, and job applications to position yourself in the best light, and are able to minimize your break in employment or provide potential employers with reasons why your time off could actually be a benefit, your job search should ultimately result in success.

Here are five things to keep in mind once you’ve decided it’s time to reenter the workforce:

1. First, reassess your career interests. Have they changed since you were last part of the workforce? If you look for a job that was just like your last one, you could still find yourself unhappy with it if your interests have changed. Take the opportunity to determine what your current interests are, and if they are not in line with your previous type of work, take a step back and work on determining what kind of job will make you happy now.

2. Take a refresher course. Depending on how long you’ve been out of the workforce, significant changes may have occurred within your industry. Make sure you are aware of those changes, and take a course or some other training to help get yourself up-to-date within the field. Being able to show that you are not “behind” in any way due to your time out of work will be an important part of your search.

3. Have confidence in yourself. Going back to work after a break is intimidating. The longer the break, the harder it may be. You have to believe in yourself and your ability to successfully perform the job before a potential employer will believe in you. If you’re not confident, it will show in an interview. You can gain confidence in your abilities through networking, researching companies and job openings, and even by taking a refresher course. Anything that helps better position you in your job search is something that should also help you feel more confident about yourself and your abilities.

4. Start networking. Make sure everyone you know is aware that you’re taking steps towards reentering the workforce. Ideally, you have stayed in touch with past co-workers or others in your field, and can use them to help find out about potential job opportunities and even have them serve as references if needed. Word of mouth is the key to finding out about opportunities, and your network is the best place to start.

5. Address your absence. You can’t lie about it or cover it up, so find a way to use it to your benefit. Did you gain a new skill? Discover strengths you never knew you had? Think of any activities or organizations you belonged to or relevant events you may have attended during your time out of work. Include any temporary, part-time, volunteer, or freelance work you may have done during your absence. Being the first one to bring it up during an interview lets you determine how you want to address it and will give you more control over the situation.

When you’re ready to reenter the workforce after an extended break, take your time in preparing to do so. Searching for a job is a process, and it’s going to take some time. Being prepared and knowing what to expect will help with the process. More information on reentering the workforce is available here, along with additional resources.