Artwork by: Katya Vakulenko
Re-entering the workforce after a long absence can be a daunting prospect. If you’re wondering how to get back in the game, check out our best approaches and expert tips to jump start your career.
If you’ve had an extended absence from the workforce, it may feel like an uphill struggle to get back in the game. Maybe you’ve stayed at home while raising children, experienced a long-term illness, traveled the world, or decided to go back to work after retiring. Whatever the reason, it can be easy to feel that the workforce has moved on and left you behind.
The good news is you’re not alone. Statistics reveal a large number of workers have taken a break at some point in their career. Further, your past experience, combined with any skills acquired during your period out of the workforce, can still be a valuable asset to a potential employer.
In this article, we explore the best practices to use to re-enter the workforce after a long absence and get back on track, including:
Challenges when re-entering the workforce
5 expert tips for re-entering the workforce
A LinkedIn survey found that nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of respondents had taken a career break at some point and over one third (35 percent) plan to take a career break in the future.
If you’ve decided the time is right to re-enter the workforce after a long absence, having a good understanding of the potential challenges you may face is a good place to start. While focusing on the negatives is never pleasant, at least you will know what you are up against and you can create a plan to overcome these hurdles.
Whether you’ve had a five-, 10-, or 15-year absence from the workforce, it’s inevitable that your industry will have changed and evolved. However, this does not devalue your strengths, the experience under your belt, or the transferable skills acquired during your absence. You also have the opportunity to fill some of these skill or experience gaps to help you get back on track.
When hiring managers review your resume and cover letter and see a significant employment gap, it may raise concerns. However, if you provide a valid reason for your long-term absence and communicate your strengths, skills, and experience, this can help alleviate concerns.
It can be easy to let your insecurities take over when deciding to reenter the workforce after a long career gap. Focus on building your confidence and remember what you have to offer a potential employer.
Age discrimination is illegal, but it’s still a real thing. While you may be able to disguise your age by removing dates on your resume, hiring managers can easily find out this information. The good news is that many companies are starting to recognize older employees for the value they offer in maturity, experience, and reliability.
Re-entering the workforce after a long absence can feel a bit intimidating, but with the right approach and a positive mindset, you can achieve your goal. Here are our top tips to help you get back into your stride:
When you’ve had a break from the workforce, it’s a good idea to take a step back and take stock of your career situation. Where are you in your career? What do you really want out of a job? What are your skills, interests, and strengths? The answers to these questions will help you take your job search in the right direction.
If you feel at a crossroads in your career and are wondering which way to turn, consider using assessment tools or consulting a career coach. Assessment tools, such as the Myers Briggs test, can help you identify career options, and career coaches work in partnership with you to pinpoint what you want to achieve in your career.
Done the right way, your resume will get you a foot in the door, even if you’ve had a long absence from the workplace. Refreshing your resume and tailoring it for each job opening is the best approach. Use the job description as your guide and arrange your work experience and skills so that the most relevant are prominent.
You can include other types of work in your resume to cover the gap. Did you complete any volunteer or freelance work? Maybe during your travels, you secured some part-time work? As a stay-at-home mom did you complete any online courses or help out at a local parent/toddler group? What skills or experience have you gained as a family care provider?
This information can be included on your resume to address any employment gaps and to highlight transferable skills related to jobs you want to pursue.
Cover letters are a great way to address your career break. Done well, this letter can set you apart from the crowd, giving you the chance to show that your skills, experience, and achievements are a perfect match for a job opening. You can also alleviate some of the concerns the hiring manager may have about your absence from the workplace.
Address your career break at the end of the letter and keep this to one or two sentences. You don’t need to go into detail to explain your absence. Here’s an example for stay-at-home moms re-entering the workforce:
“During the last three years, I’ve been a stay-at-home mom and completed the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification to complement and remain up-to-date in my HR career. This will ensure my seamless integration into the team.”
Completing volunteer or part-time work enables you to ease the transition of re-entering the workforce after a long absence. In addition, skills you acquire as a volunteer can be useful in the workplace.
Leverage your network to announce that you’re back in the workforce and increase the chances of hearing about potential job opportunities. LinkedIn connections are a great place to start, but don’t forget about college alumni, family, friends, previous co-workers, and any memberships or affiliations you may have.
Focus on building and developing your network. Regularly attending industry or networking events will build your confidence, increase your visibility, and enable you to meet new contacts. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, request contact details, follow-up periodically, or schedule a coffee meet-up so your contacts don’t forget about you.
If you’re looking to re-enter the workforce and get started on your job search, check out Career.io’s job search tool to take the next steps.
Re-entering the workforce after a long absence may seem intimidating, but you’re not alone and you already have a wealth of skills and experience to offer an employer.
Understanding the challenges you may face is key. Try to view the positives of your absence so you can alleviate any concerns the hiring manager may have.
Taking stock of your career situation, fine tuning your resume and cover letter, networking, and completing volunteer, freelance, or part-time work are all great ways to get back into the workforce game!
Helen is an experienced freelance writer with a strong background in job search and career advice, in particular resume best practices, interviewing, and personal and professional development. Before Career.io, Helen worked for high-profile recruitment firms and in the field of HR management, so she has a strong sense of what recruiters are looking for in a potential employee as well as experience in supporting career growth and development.