Many people take a career break at one point or another. Most go back to work at some point. For some financial necessity requires them to bring in an income. Some people miss the routine of working and being productive. For some, their break was planned to last for a certain length of time. Whatever the case, an extended period of time away from work can make it challenging to re-enter the workforce. It can be nerve wracking, exciting, and a little overwhelming all at the same time.

Not sure where to start when it comes to planning your return to work? We’ve put together a number of actionable tips to help you with your path to re-entering the workforce.

top reasons people take a break from work

There are many viable reasons people take a break from the workforce. Some are voluntary, while others are a matter of circumstance. Some of the top reasons people leave the workforce include:

  • re-education or re-training
  • starting a family or taking parental leave
  • extended travelling
  • caring for a family member
  • retirement wasn’t for you
  • career burnout – you simply needed time to refresh

Regardless of your reason for exiting the workforce, you’ll need a re-entry plan. Use these tips to get yourself back on track and re-enter the workforce successfully:


frame your story

If you have a sizable gap between jobs on your resume, you’re going to be asked why you took time away from work. You’ll get asked this question in every interview you attend. You’ll need to have a strong answer to explain your absence. So, why were you out of work? Practice your answer ahead of time, so you aren’t caught off guard when answering.

The key to answering this question is to speak about your break with confidence, not apologetically. Everyone has their reasons. Life happens. So be honest and to the point. A few sentences explaining your situation will suffice. Frame your absence as a learning experience that’s made you who you are. Any employer that’s hostile to your story is probably someone you wouldn’t want to work for anyway.

catch up with your industry

A lot can change, even if you were out of the workforce for a short period of time. Take some time to research your industry, understand the current trends, and identify skill and knowledge gaps you may need to fill to make yourself an appealing candidate. Understand the types of job that are available. Be clear about the average salary and type of compensation packages you’ll be offered for someone with your experience and title.

brush up on your interview skills

When was the last time you had a job interview? For many people re-entering the workforce, it could be years between interviews. Spending some time brushing up on your interview skills is advisable. Research common questions hiring managers ask in your industry. Educate yourself about the hiring process. If you need some help, we have tons of articles to help you out. To get started, read our article on how to answer challenging interview questions and download our job interview checklist.

make sure your skills are up to date

The skills and job requirements that are most in demand change all the time. Even people who don’t take a career break need to upskill to stay employable. Get skills assessments to see where you stand and find out areas for improvement. Consider taking a course or two or obtaining certifications to prove your skills and knowledge to employers. If you’ve been out of work for a while, a well-regarded certification can assure employers that you know your stuff and are the expert you claim to be.

overhaul your resume

Make sure that your resume is up-to-date with current information and reflects the current job landscape. Are you mentioning the skills and software proficiencies that employers are looking for? Make sure your resume reflects the current time and looks the part. Attractive visuals and formatting can get your foot in the door. Also, remember to customize your resume for each job you apply for to increase your chances of scoring an interview.

reach out to your network

It’s common for people who take a break from work to lose touch with their professional network. Now is the time to reconnect. Reach out to former colleagues and make it known you are looking to get back to work. If you don’t have a network, start building one. Get on LinkedIn, update your profile, join professional groups and attend industry events. Connect with as many people as possible. You never know which connection could lead to a job interview.

update your professional wardrobe

Appearances and first impressions matter. You need to look the part. Research shows that people make an initial assessment about you within 10 seconds of meeting you.  That means how you present yourself accounts for a huge part of the first impression you make at a job interview. Research current trends and what that standard dress code is within your industry. If you’re on a budget and money is tight, there’s no need to go crazy updating your professional wardrobe. You only need one polished and professional interview outfit that you can re-wear.

stay positive

Positivity is essential when you’re making a move to re-enter the workforce, especially if you’ve been out of work for an extended period of time. It can be tough to get back to work. It’s not fair, but some employers still look upon people with gaps in their work history with doubt. It’s unfortunate some employers can’t look beyond a work gap, however, the right job is out there. It only takes one opportunity to break back into the workforce. With a little persistence and an upbeat attitude, you’ll find the right fit.

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