How to Make a Smooth Return to Work After a Lengthy Break

Return to Work After a Lengthy Break-Chispa Magazine

Whether an individual has temporarily left the workplace due to a lengthy illness or to raise a family, returning to the world of work can seem daunting. While some seamlessly reintegrate themselves into their previous positions, the majority of workers return to significant changes or even to a new position altogether, especially if they’ve been out of work for years.

Reintegrating oneself into the workplace takes time and patience. From finding the right position to adjusting to new schedules and co-workers, many find themselves a bit intimidated. When preparing to re-enter the workforce, keep the following tips in mind to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Revise Your Resume

Everyone knows to revise their resumes before firing off their first application, but those with a lengthy hiatus between their last job and finding a new one may feel intimidated by how to explain the employment gap. While this can prove tricky, it can be done nevertheless.

Consider adopting a different resume format that doesn’t require the dates spent employed in various positions. If a job application requires including dates of employment, try to list only the year, not month and year, to hide smaller gaps of less than 12 months. Alternately, briefly explain the reason for the gap in employment in your cover letter.

Manage Your Social Media Presence

Like it or not, employers and recruiters often research potential job candidates online, so double-check privacy settings on all social media accounts and avoid posting anything negative or controversial. Excessively negative posts worry potential employers that a grumpy attitude online may spill over into the workplace.

Everyone knows not to publicly post suggestive pictures or photographs suggesting illegal activities or excessive alcohol consumption. Fewer realize that while discrimination in employment based on family factors remains illegal, a potential employer facing a tough decision about which candidate to hire may nevertheless note that one candidate’s social media profile indicates she’s a single mom. This could tip the scales in favor of a childless candidate who won’t need to leave the office to care for a sick little one. Profile pictures remain public even on accounts with privacy protection, so select a photo featuring just you, not you and the kiddos.

Get Experience

Employers, especially those in rapidly changing fields such as accounting or computer science, prefer candidates with recent, relevant experience. How do you get relevant experience without first finding a job?

Investigate volunteering opportunities to build experience. For example, those in the tech fields can volunteer as teacher’s aides in college computer labs. In addition, consider part-time or temp-to-hire positions. Starting on a limited basis allows a potential employer to witness a candidate’s value, while job-seekers benefit from an opportunity to examine company culture prior to committing to a full-time position.

Co-Worker Confessions

While few new moms mind co-workers asking them about their little family member upon their return to work, people with employment gaps due to health reasons or addictions often find they have to tread carefully when responding to questions. While illegal and unfair, sadly, many employers judge employees with pre-existing conditions more harshly than their healthy peers and resist requests for reasonable accommodations.

No one has an obligation to tell their employer about their health other than providing a brief explanation to their boss upon returning to the same position after an absence. Co-workers have no authority to demand details, so those who fear discrimination on the basis of disability can create an alternate explanation or simply inform the office Nosy Nancy that the absence involved personal reasons and leave it at that.

Continue Your Education

Those who treasure lifelong learning benefit their employers greatly, and brushing up on your job knowledge demonstrates this quality to them. Many community colleges offer career preparation courses in fields as diverse as culinary arts and criminal justice. Online learning services such as Udemy allow users to enroll in classes they can complete in the privacy of their own homes for far less than the cost of attending a brick-and-mortar university.

Find Your Passion

Returning to the workforce doesn’t necessarily need to mean returning to the same daily grind. Consider seeking employment in a different field that lends a sense of excitement. Those who have previously worked as receptionists, for example, may find it’s the perfect time to explore a career as an interior designer or pet sitter.

Returning to the world of work after a lengthy absence holds unique challenges. Remaining open-minded about opportunities and focusing on personal development can ease the transition back. What are you waiting for—get out there and work it!

Photo by Clay Banks

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Kate Harveston

Kate Harveston

Kate Harveston is an online journalist from Pennsylvania. She enjoys writing about women's issues, career advice, and sociopolitical change. If you enjoy her writing, you can visit her at OnlySlightlyBiased.com.