Whether you took a long leave from work to raise a family, go back to school or just take a break to write or travel, it’s going to take a little effort to get back into the swing of things. You’ll need to come up with sound reasoning to explain your absence to interviewers when you begin job hunting, and you’ll have to gear yourself up for a regular schedule again -- on someone else’s timetable no less.
Prepare to Start at the Bottom
You may have to take a step backward in order to go forward again. Those who’ve stayed in the job market all along are moving up the corporate ladders and taking up all those management jobs. To get your feet in the ring again, you may have to settle for an entry-level job, at least for a short time, while you prove your value again. For example, if you ran a human resources department before your departure, you might land a job working as an assistant human resources director and set your sights for the higher level after a year or two.
Keep Up Your Skills
Change occurs quickly in the workplace, especially when it comes to technology. You’ll be in a much better position to get right back into the game if you’ve kept up your skills and learned any new programs or software products that have arisen in your industry. Take a few classes if you feel rusty or out of the loop. At the same time, while you’ve been away, you may have developed new skills that you can add to your resume. Maybe you learned a second language while traveling or maintained an active blog about taking care of aging parents that gives you writing and editing experience you never had before. Don’t shortchange yourself when you put together your list of qualifications when you return to the paid workforce.
Hopefully, you made some friends in your previous jobs that you’ve kept in touch with. Reach out to them and let them know that you’re available for work again. Attend professional associations and networking events where you can build new relationships that could open doors for you and fill you in on the current state of your industry. Maintain your knowledge of what’s going on in your industry by reading professional journals and checking in on important industry websites and news outlets so that you can talk the talk when you go in for an interview and won’t feel like you lost any time at all.
Rework Your Resume
Dust off your old resume and give it a complete overhaul. While you may have had a great run on your previous career path, moving directly from one job to the next, a big gap in employment history can leave recruiters wondering what’s up with you. Instead, create a functional resume that highlights all your skills and your qualifications and doesn’t focus on the times and places where you worked in the past. You can list previous positions you held, but leave off the dates. Instead, create sections that cater to your achievements and highlight how your experience and abilities ideally suit the job you’re after.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."