Four Tips for Returning to Work After a Long Career Break

When you started to settle into your career, you may have envisaged yourself remaining in that line of work until retirement. Not everyone’s career path follows such a smooth, predictable trajectory though. At some point, you might opt to take a long break to either travel the world, study or take care of the kids.

Returning to work after such an extended hiatus can be daunting. You’ll wonder just where and how to start. Worse still, you are faced with challenges that first time jobseekers don’t have to deal with. The good thing is many people have managed to get back in the saddle. The following tips have proven useful in this regard.

1.   Determine the Type of Job to Apply For
After several years of staying away, you may have a strong urge to immediately dive headlong into applying for work. That can be a costly mistake and may end up as a colossal waste of your precious time and energy. Instead, take a step back and think about the kind of job that you are best cut out for.

Naturally, your first choice may be the exact type of job you held before. But no industry is static. First, the role you worked in then may have evolved with market needs and now requires a new type of skill set.

Second, you may have gained new knowledge or learned an additional skill that equips you for a different type of job. For example, if you were a banker but spent several years overseas as a volunteer working in developing countries, your experience may be relevant to a role in a humanitarian aid organization.

2.   Refresh Your Industry Knowledge
Your industry has likely changed in numerous ways since you left. That includes new developments in rules and regulations, best practice, key competitors, consumer preferences, process automation, technology (e.g. scheduling software such as Humanity) and remuneration.

Ergo, spend some time reading industry-related journals, books, news stories and blogs. Attend conferences, exhibitions, trade fairs, seminars and webinars. For pay scales, take a look at sites like that provide fairly reliable information on the salary ranges in your chosen profession.

The goal is to gather as much information as you can before you get your first invite for an interview. As someone who has been out of work for a while, you’ll probably face an above average number of questions that test your knowledge of the industry.

3.   Reignite Your Networks
Get in touch with former colleagues and peers to notify them of your intention to return to work. Your networks will perhaps be your most formidable weapon in securing a job quickly.

First, people who previously worked with you are already familiar with your work ethic, teamwork, soft skills and professional qualifications. They can vouch for your competence and suitability among employers who don’t have that kind of history with you.

Second, former colleagues have probably moved higher up the decision-making ranks. They may therefore hold substantial sway in whether you get hired. Not just because of their present position but also because of their contacts with persons in similarly senior positions in other places you may want to work.

4.   Refresh Your Skills
During your research on industry changes, you may realize that your preferred job has skill requirements that weren’t necessary at the time you took a break. But even if nothing has fundamentally changed in the work environment, your absence means you may need a bit of fresh familiarization to get your knowledge current.

There are a number of ways to quickly strengthen your expertise. First, volunteer. Ideally, you should volunteer in something that’s relevant to your field. Realistically though, that’s not always possible. And that’s okay. Volunteering is of itself a great way to get accustomed to a formal structured environment, something employers would be happy to see.

Second, enroll for an online or in person class. Classes are a more direct way to acquire new skills compared to volunteering. You can zero in on the specific type of knowledge you require. Third, listen to podcasts, watch online videos, read books, attend conferences and read industry news.

Returning to work can be hard. Not only do you have to get used to taking orders once again but some employers may be hesitant to hire a person with a substantial time gap on their CV. Fortunately, many people have made it back successfully and went on to have a more successful career than they ever envisaged. These tips can help you do just that.

Share this Article