Successful Return: Business Leaders’ Tips for Reentering the Workforce After a Break
Reentering the workforce after an extended career break can be a daunting task. To help you navigate this process, we’ve gathered seven insightful tips from CEOs and COOs. From brushing up your skills and preparing an explanation to considering a consulting role, these leaders share their strategies and experiences to help you successfully reintegrate.
- Brush Up Your Skills and Prepare an Explanation
- Concisely Address the Career Gap
- Embrace Honesty
- Network and Refresh
- Focus on What is Transferable
- Change Your Routine for Motivation
- Consider a Consulting Role
Brush Up Your Skills and Prepare an Explanation
When I was coming back to work after a year-long break, the first thing I did was check my skills. I wanted to make sure they matched what employers were looking for. I practiced and brushed up on anything that needed work.
The next big step was getting ready to explain the gap in my career. Job interviewers often asked me about it, so it was important to have an appropriate answer prepared. By focusing on these two things, I felt more confident and was able to find a job again. It really helped me get back into the workforce successfully.
Concisely Address the Career Gap
One common mistake people make when re-entering the workforce after an extended break is not explaining the reason for their career gap. Importantly, you don’t need to go into detail why you took a break from formal employment. However, you want to ease any worries a potential employer may have about why there’s a gap in your work history.
If you took several years off from formal employment to complete an MBA, for instance, you can write something like, “Completed full-time MBA program at [University Name] and completed courses in [topic], [topic], and [topic].” Similarly, if you took a break from employment to care for a loved one, you might write, “Took purposeful break from employment to care for a family member’s one-time health concern that is now 100% resolved.”
Again, you want to briefly and concisely address the gap to alleviate the recruiter or hiring manager’s potential worries.
I’ve noticed more candidates coming to me after a long break from the workforce. They’re often nervous about returning, especially in the fast-paced tech sphere.
The first thing I do is tell them to relax. Sabbaticals are more common than ever and are largely accepted by employers. My next piece of advice? Honesty is the best policy.
If you took your break for family time or even a solo vacation, don’t be afraid to admit it. Resist the urge to dress it up as a re-education or training period—it will backfire when it becomes clear you only took one part-time online course in the better part of a year.
Instead, highlight the fact that you’re feeling restored and ready to focus on work. Nobody wants a burned-out, overworked employee.
Network and Refresh
Navigating reentry into the workforce after a prolonged break can be challenging. One strategy that proved invaluable for me was “Networking and Skill Refresh.” I actively reached out to former colleagues, attended industry seminars, and took online courses to update my skills. This not only helped me stay informed about the latest industry trends but also reestablished my professional connections.
For anyone looking to reintegrate, I’d recommend being proactive in rekindling professional relationships and continuously updating your skill set to ensure a smoother transition back.
Focus on What is Transferable
There are times when many people step aside for a while and re-enter their careers later. Reasons for stepping aside could be to stay at home with the kids, manage a health crisis, or start a business.
One tip for those re-entering the workforce is to focus on the transferable skills acquired while on a break. New skills are always acquired, even if not immediately apparent. It’s beneficial to sit down with a laptop or pen and paper, and list them. For instance, someone staying at home with the kids may now know about food-cost budgeting, child care, pet training, home sanitation and cleaning, home decorating, and household money management.
Thinking about the extra-special skills one possesses is one thing. The next thing is to show how they can be used by an employer. It’s helpful to list that out ahead of time before applying so one is prepared for questions about why they should be hired.
Bruce Tasios, CEO, Tasios Orthodontics
Change Your Routine for Motivation
A member of my family recently took some time off work for an extended period. One of the key things she has sought out in new employers is the ability to go back into the office and change up her routine.
She has been working remotely since 2020, and with some time off, she has not been in an office for three years. Changing the routine was incredibly motivating for her because it gave her something new to look forward to in the next stage of her career.
Consider a Consulting Role
Consider taking on a consulting role, if possible. I’ve seen a few people do this after an extended break because of health or parental reasons—it can mean fewer hours and more work on your own terms rather than the day-to-day realities of the corporate grind.
If you’ve managed to maintain some industry connections, this isn’t a bad option to explore in the short term as you get acclimated to the working world.