“The comeback is greater than the setback.”
So you’ve been away from the workforce for quite a bit. Maybe you took a sabbatical, you had a baby, had a medical emergency, took time off to care for a loved one, wanted a change or something didn’t pan out, for example. To be clear, not every reason is a setback, and regardless of the reason you left, re-entering the working world after a prolonged leave of absence calls for a paradigm shift.
This is especially true when advancements are happening at hyper-speed.
Transitions are daunting. Egos are fragile (yes, even our own) and the thought of starting over when the workforce is significantly younger can make anyone reconsider if there’s a real need to get back in the game (there is, of course).
Here’s the secret. The comeback is attached with a reset.
We’ll explain how this helps you among other tips on how to make your return after a career break the best comeback story yet.
Find your zen state of mind
You’ve taken the first big step. Firmly deciding that you do, in fact, want to get back to work. Good for you! Before you rush to work on your CV or hurriedly look for the latest job listings, it is important to make sure that you are in the right frame of mind. After being away for some time, your professional identity could use some polishing. Use this time to list down your fresh career goals, your personal aspirations and what you need to do to get there. Spend some time rediscovering your ‘career confidence’ with a positive mindset. The time to be your own cheerleader is now.
Get personal with your personal brand
Amped up with confidence? You’re ready for the next step. Redefine your personal brand by looking into part time courses, podcasts or webinars on professional topics that you’re interested in. while you are tweaking your corporate identity, you may even feel like revamping your style. If you do, go for it. This is not just about a new career, it’s a new and updated ‘you’ that’s reemerging.
Catch up on what’s been up
During your time away, a lot may have changed. There may be new policies in place, new processes, new positions and more. It can feel a little overwhelming at first thinking about what you’ve missed but push those negative thoughts away.
Spend an adequate amount of time (a few months if that’s what you’re comfortable with) catching up on what you’ve missed in terms of technological advancements and industry related updates. Make full use of this time to get back in touch with your old contacts too.
Bonus Tip: You can also ask around and do research on companies that have a re-entry program (return-to-work program).
Refresh your CV and LinkedIn profile
It’s time to get down to business. The business of crafting the perfect CV that explains your career break. Addressing a gap in your employment isn’t the easiest thing to do but it’s doable. Be honest about it and maintain positivity.
If you happened to participate in some volunteer work during your absence, took a part-time course, did some freelance work or got involved in a project with some friends – consider listing these projects down in your CV, LinkedIn profile or mentioning it during your interview.
On LinkedIn, you’ll be able to be more thorough and candid (if you’d like) about your time away. Always maintain professionalism when explaining and practice addressing the gap in person as well.
Bonus Tip: Employers are also likely to ask why you’ve decided to return to work. You may even be tempted to respond with ‘I need the money’ but try not to. Instead, bring the conversation back around to your career goals and what you want to achieve professionally.
Hit the reset button
On your expectations. This is what we were referring to in the beginning. Getting back in the game means you’ll need to learn the new rules and ropes and see where you fit in. Not everyone is fortunate enough to walk back into the workforce and land the same position they held before (unless you managed to have worked this out before you left).
Going back in with no expectations or, at the very least, being open to the unexpected can be rewarding on its own. Let’s say you don’t land your dream job straight away, or you find that the benefits you’re being offered now are meagre compared to what you had before. Take it all in stride and remember your goal. A comeback doesn’t always happen overnight.
Check your fears at the door
What this means is that you need to be prepared to alter your course. And before you get to that, get rid of old expectations about the kind of position you want, your salary range and even the industry you’re in.
Don’t be afraid of starting over, doing grunt work or asking questions. It’s okay if you’re starting something that’s new to you or that you’re working with a team that’s much younger than you are. Don’t let your fears get it in the way of you playing your part.
Practice, practice and practice some more
Interviews are no walk in the park but that doesn’t mean that you can’t prepare for it. Research interview questions, think about your answers and craft your responses accordingly. Don’t just stop there, get a trusted friend or family member to do dry runs with you.
Practising can help ease some of the nerves and prepare you for any unexpected follow-up questions. It is also a good way to see how your answers flow in an actual conversation. If there are certain phrases or words that don’t come naturally – remove and replace them accordingly.
Cast a wider net
Think of it as going fishing. Only this time, you’re not looking to catch just one special fish. You’re casting a net that’s wide enough to cover your range of interests. Don’t limit yourself before you’ve even put yourself out there.
When you are open to new opportunities, new work roles, new industries and such, you’ll find the experience renewing and rewarding. The wait or process may not be as straightforward or one that you’re used to, but it could possibly lead you to a passion that was otherwise dormant or undiscovered.
Don’t hold back
Picking up things that match your interest(s) will come in handy, especially if you’re choosing to explore designations in a different industry. Look at any opportunities that pop up as a platform for you get back into the workforce instead of waiting around or holding out for the “right job.”
If you don’t land a full-time job straight away, don’t dismiss part-time, contract or freelance work either. It’s better to get your foot in the door and work your way back up the ladder. Your focus should be on reentering the workforce and getting out of your comfort zone.
Keep on keepin’ on
Things may not work out at the pace you imagined or you could hit a roadblock on your journey back. Go easy on yourself. Everyone on a job hunt finds the process nerve-wracking. You probably feel it more intensely because you’ve been away.
Be ready to showcase the level of commitment you’re bringing to the table. And always keep your confidence and positivity in check. You are valuable, you’ve still got a lot to offer and you’re ready. All you need now is a little extra elbow grease and a good pair of running shoes for when you’re back on the grind.
Look at you go.