How to reenter the workplace after an extended leave

Whether you leave your job to raise kids, care for aging parents, or maybe just travel, reentering the workforce after a significant absence can be tricky. Human resources professional Debby Carreau shares her tips on how to do it successfully.

Be proactive

Keep one foot in the door by staying connected with your coworkers and people in the industry. Stay active on professional social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter and follow leaders, share relevant articles, and engage with peers. You should also read industry publications and listen to podcasts—you’d be surprised how effective it is to use current business language to portray how up-to-speed you are on the industry.

Take a break

If the above sounds too overwhelming to you, there’s nothing wrong with taking a break. At the end of the day, you have to do what’s best for you.

Be strategic

First you have to decide what you want your new work experience to be like:

Do you want to go back fulltime? Maybe you’d prefer part-time or freelance work.
Do you want to go to an office downtown? Near your home? Perhaps you’d prefer to work from home?
Have your interests changed? Many people find they are passionate about different things after a break or significant life change.
Finally, do your research. Statistics Canada will tell you everything you need to know about job openings and wage trajectories of specific roles in your region. Glassdoor is also a great resource to find out about prospective employers Employees today can be much more choosy and educated about the kind of company they’d like to work for.

Have a good elevator pitch

Start off with a strong headline, go into your value proposition, and then spend the rest of the time backing up your position with evidence. What do you do? What role did you play? What results were achieved? Prove it. The more you practice, the more confident you’ll become.

Gather your confidence

The biggest thing holding people back when re-entering the workforce is confidence and self-doubt. Think of yourself as coming back rejuvenated and refreshed, as an enhanced version of your former self. Remember, over the course of your lifetime, you’ve developed many skills and they weren’t all developed at work. Write yourself a list of your skills and accomplishments and revisit them every time you start feeling insecure.

Update your skills

There’s no doubt running a household and raising a family takes a lot of different skills, many of which are directly transferable into the workplace. For example: multi-tasking, communication, conflict management, negotiation and budgeting. Volunteering for things, like managing your child’s hockey team, can provide invaluable experience in different areas like governance, fundraising, event planning or even technology exposure with scheduling software. Even things like managing a home renovation or building a new house provide excellent exposure to project management, vendor relations and budget adherence.

Don’t hide the gap

The average recruiter looks at a resume for six seconds, so here are a few suggestions:

Put your skills as bullet points at the top right under the career objective
List your skills under a stand alone section called skills
Explain on your cover letter how much time you took off work and the reason for it. Then, explain why you’re now deciding to return to work.
It’s also really important to include the actual terms that align with the job posting so they’re picked up by the applicant screening tools many companies use today (in other words, fancy statements and creative language won’t serve the applicant well—it will likely get the resume screened out of the candidate mix). Lastly, you should never try to hide career gaps from your potential employer.

Tell others about your job search

The vast majority of jobs are on the hidden job market so accessing it is key. Casually telling others that you’re searching for employment could make a difference. Don’t hesitate to use your social networks as much as your personal networks to get the message out. >Whether you leave your job to raise kids, care for aging parents, or maybe just travel, reentering the workforce after a significant absence can be tricky. Human resources professional Debby Carreau shares her tips on how to do it successfully.