Each year, thousands of people take a leave of absence from their jobs and careers in order to address a life issue—care for an ill family member, tend to their own illness and recovery, raise small children, etc. The length of time often varies from a couple of months to ten years or more.
For many, the day often arrives when they’re ready to begin working again, but it’s usually met with at least some apprehension. Whether they feel like they no longer know how to look for a job or are concerned their skills have become rusty, many realize they are “no longer in Kansas anymore” when it comes to returning to the workforce.
If you can relate and are grappling with this very real struggle, the good news is there are steps you can take. As you prepare to return to work, incorporating the following steps into your efforts will help to boost your chances for a successful return.
Have your elevator pitch ready. If you entered a building and got on the elevator to go to the 8th floor, what would you say to the person who enters right behind you who you know is a person of influence and could help you land a job (e.g. company executive)? How would you break the ice? How would you describe who you are, what key experience and/or accomplishments have, and for what type of work you’re seeking? Also, how would effectively communicate this message in 30 seconds or less?!
Notify your network. Unless you were savvy enough to maintain periodic contact with your professional colleagues and contacts, your best network with which to begin is family and friends. Most of them continued to work while you were off so they can share information and their contacts.
If you’ve maintained at least periodic contact with your professional network, now is a good time to dust off your Rolodex (okay, I’m dating myself!), go through your cell phone Contacts, and business cards from people you know to connect and let them know you’re back on the market.
Build up your resume. The first way to do this is to ensure it’s current. To account for your leave of absence, you can list your time away as “Caregiver” or “Homemaker.” Also, list any relevant volunteer work you may have done while you were away. (Hint: To help keep your skills current while not working, seek out opportunities where you may be able to volunteer a few hours per week or month.)
Advance your education. If you’re not ready to return to work right now, but are planning a return this year, why not take a class or two to obtain a certification or license, if you can? This will help you re-sharpen your skills and make you more marketable to employers. It will also show employers your dedication to your craft and career.
Consider temporary or part-time work. If your schedule, finances, and health will allow, seek out opportunities to work in a temporary assignment or part-time job. This will allow you to maintain your skills, network with new people, demonstrate your capabilities, earn extra income, and prepare you mentally for a full-time, permanent return to work.
Often, when taking a lengthy leave of absence from your job or career, it’s not for a pleasant reason. By taking advantage of any available time and resources, being able to place part of your focus on returning to work could be just what you need to weather the storm.