Returning to full-time work after an extended absence can be tough physically and mentally.
Whether you have taken time out to care for children, from illness or caring for a loved one returning to the workforce can feel like you're hitting life's reset button.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
You may be out of practice, but the skills and work ethic you've developed over the years remain intact.
You simply need to remind yourself of this fact and find a way to promote your value to would-be employers.
1. Preparing for the search
Before you start looking, perform a self-analysis to discover what you want in a job.
Then write down the results.
This record will reveal what you need to find fulfillment and help you locate the right job opportunity for you in the endless procession of postings.
Here are some questions to answer:
What type of position do I want? What will I settle for?
What is my desired salary? What is my minimum?
Am I looking for jobs in my field? Do I want something new?
What type of company culture is important to me?
Am I looking for growth opportunities or getting a foot in the door?
Would I consider temp or part-time work if offered?
What perks are a must?
You should talk with your family, as well.
Discuss the likely changes to routines and the household dynamic.
Everyone should be in agreement, because their support and encouragement can make all the difference.
2. Reinvent your professional presence
Now is the perfect time to reinvent your professional presence. Revamp your resume with skills acquired during your gap period.
Work-related skills can be honed in surprising places, such as parenting, volunteering, and course work.
When tailoring your resume, consider employing a functional one rather than a chronological one.
Functional resumes put the emphasis on your skills and successes, while taking the focus away from your gap period.
Polish your online presence by updating your LinkedIn profile to match your resume.
Then scrub your social media accounts of anything detrimental to your professional persona.
3. Network, network, network
Let everyone know you're heading back to work.
Start with friends and family.
Not only will they offer much appreciated support, but they can spread the word through their social and professional networks.
Then reconnect with old colleagues and supervisors. A pleasant coffee or lunch get-together may provide a lead or stellar reference.
Finally, look for networking opportunities in your community.
These may include professional organisations, local staffing agencies, and networking events.
You never know which one will reveal a path to a new job.
4. Practice your pitch
Hiring managers will want to know about your gap period, especially if it was longer than a year.
Avoiding such questions won't look good, but you don't have to dictate a chapter from your memoirs either.
A good pitch is short, honest, and to the point.
Share your reason for leaving, why it was the right decision at the time, and emphasise your willingness to return to work. The best pitches direct the conversation back to why you're the right person for the job.
There are variants to this question that may cross ethical and professional lines. Be sure you know which questions hiring managers may ask and which you don't have to answer.
5. Be patient, stay confident
It can take months to land a job, regardless of qualifications, so be patient. Give yourself the time you need to perform the search to the best of your abilities.
One way to maintain confidence up is to set self-directed goals.
A list of accomplished goals helps you quantify your progress—mapping the ocean you've traveled, not just today's waves.
Thoughtful goals are realistic, manageable, and within your control. Setting unrealistic goals risks despondency and burnout.
Above all else, remember that you are—not "were"—an employee who brings valuable skills and an impeccable work ethic to the employer lucky enough to hire you.
It's only a matter of time before one recognises this fact, too.