Getting Back into the Workforce: Tips and Strategies for Returners


Are you ready to jump back into the workforce? Reentering the professional world after a break can be challenging, but with the right tips and strategies, it's entirely possible to achieve a successful comeback. Whether you took time off to raise a family, pursue further education, or travel the world, this article will provide you with valuable guidance on how to navigate the process of reentering the workforce. Let's dive in and explore the challenges and strategies that will help you make a smooth transition back into the professional arena.

Understanding the Challenges of Reentering the Workforce

Returning to the workforce after a significant period of absence can be a daunting task. Whether you took time off to raise children, care for a family member, or pursue further education, the transition back into the professional world can present unique challenges. It's important to understand these challenges in order to effectively navigate them and successfully reenter the workforce.

One of the key challenges faced by returners is a lack of confidence. After time away from the workplace, you may doubt your abilities and question whether you are still competitive in a rapidly changing job market. This feeling is normal, but it's crucial to recognize that you have valuable skills and experiences that are transferable to the workforce.

As returner Claire Johnson shares, "I was so unsure of myself when I decided to go back to work. I had been out of the game for five years, and I felt like I had lost touch with the professional world. But with some self-reflection and support from friends and family, I realized that my time off had equipped me with a set of skills that were both unique and valuable."

Another challenge is the potential gap in your work history. Employers may question your commitment or ability to adapt to the demands of the workplace. However, it's crucial to showcase that the gap in your resume was intentional and purposeful. Be proactive in explaining the reasons behind your absence and emphasize the skills you acquired during that time.

Career counselor Sarah Thompson advises, "It's important to address the gap in your work history head-on and turn it into a positive. Highlight any volunteering, freelancing, or learning opportunities you engaged in during your time away. Remember, employers value skills and accomplishments, so focus on what you have achieved rather than the time you were not working."

Technology is another hurdle that returners may face. Over the years, advancements in technology have significantly changed the way we work. As a returner, it's essential to update your skills and familiarize yourself with the latest tools and software relevant to your field. Take advantage of online courses, workshops, and certifications to bridge any knowledge gaps and demonstrate your commitment to staying current.

Returning professional Mark Davis shares his experience, saying, "When I decided to reenter the workforce after a long break, I knew that technology had changed significantly. I took the initiative to enroll in an online course and brushed up on my digital skills. This not only helped me feel more confident, but it also showed employers that I was committed to self-improvement."

Lastly, the lack of a professional network can be a significant obstacle for returners. A strong network can provide invaluable support, guidance, and potential job opportunities. However, after a break, you may find that your network has dwindled or become outdated. It's crucial to invest time in rebuilding and expanding your professional connections.

Networking expert Jane Miller advises, "Don't underestimate the power of networking in your reentry journey. Attend industry events, join professional associations, and utilize online platforms like LinkedIn to connect with like-minded professionals. Remember, building relationships takes time, so be patient and persistent. You never know when an opportunity may arise from a simple conversation."

Returning to the workforce after a significant break can be challenging, but it's important to approach it with confidence and a strategic mindset. Understand the unique challenges you may face, and actively work towards overcoming them. Remember, you have valuable skills and experiences to offer, and with the right mindset and preparation, you can successfully navigate the journey of reentering the workforce.

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Photo by Asap PANG on Unsplash

Personal Assessment: Identifying Your Skills and Goals

When you find yourself in the position of reentering the workforce after a period of absence, it is essential to take the time for self-reflection and assess your skills and goals. This personal assessment will not only help you identify what you have to offer employers, but also determine the direction you want to take in your career.

Start by considering the skills you have acquired in your previous roles, as well as any new skills you may have developed during your break. Reflect on the tasks you enjoyed and excelled at, as well as the areas where you may need further development. Remember, every experience, even outside of the workforce, has provided you with valuable skills that can be transferred to a new job.

As career coach John C. Maxwell once said, "You must know yourself to grow yourself." Taking the time to understand your skills, strengths, and weaknesses will allow you to make more informed decisions about the type of work you are seeking. This self-awareness will also help you convey your value to potential employers.

Consider conducting a self-assessment exercise, such as creating a list of your accomplishments and the skills you utilized to achieve them. Think about the tasks that brought you joy and a sense of fulfillment. Assess your strengths and weaknesses objectively by seeking feedback from colleagues or mentors.

Additionally, reflect on your goals for returning to the workforce. Are you seeking a similar role to what you had before? Or are you looking to make a career change? Understanding your goals will help you shape your job search strategy and tailor your application materials to positions that align with your intentions.

A valuable approach to gaining clarity around your goals is networking. Reach out to professionals in your desired industry or attend industry events to learn more about the current job market and gain insights into different career paths. Networking can also provide you with valuable advice and guidance from others who have successfully transitioned back into the workforce.

Remember, your personal assessment is an ongoing process. As you gain more experience and insight, your goals and skills may evolve. Keep an open mind and be willing to adapt your career direction based on new opportunities that arise.

By taking the time for self-reflection and personal assessment, you will be better equipped to present your skills and goals to employers, allowing you to confidently navigate your way back into the workforce. As career expert Richard Nelson Bolles once said, "The more you know about yourself, the more freedom you have to choose well, and the better will be your job-search process." So invest in yourself, and embrace this opportunity for personal growth and professional success.

Updating and Upgrading Necessary Skills

As you prepare to reenter the workforce, it's crucial to update and upgrade your skills to ensure you have a competitive edge. Chances are, the job market has evolved since you were last employed, and it's important to stay abreast of the latest trends and technologies. According to Susan Brown, a career coach, "Employers are looking for candidates who are adaptable and have a willingness to learn new things."

Here are some tips to help you update and upgrade your skills:

  1. Research the Market: Begin by researching the job market and identifying the skills that are in demand. This will give you an idea of the areas where you need to focus your efforts. Look at job postings and industry reports to gather information about the skills that employers are seeking.

  2. Take Online Courses: The internet is a treasure trove of knowledge, and there are numerous online platforms that offer courses on various topics. Take advantage of these resources to learn new skills or refresh your existing ones. Platforms like Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, and Udemy offer a wide range of courses that can be accessed from the comfort of your own home.

  3. Attend Workshops and Webinars: In addition to online courses, attending workshops and webinars can provide you with valuable insights and hands-on experience. Keep an eye out for industry events in your area or online, where you can learn from experts and network with professionals in your field.

  4. Join Professional Associations: Professional associations are a great way to stay connected to your industry and access valuable resources. These associations often offer training programs, workshops, and networking opportunities that can boost your skills and help you stay up to date with industry trends.

  5. Volunteer or Freelance: Volunteering or taking on freelance projects can be a practical way to acquire new skills or enhance your existing ones. By offering your services to nonprofit organizations or small businesses, you can gain valuable experience while contributing to a worthy cause.

  6. Network with Peers: Networking is not only crucial for building professional connections but also for staying informed about the latest trends in your industry. Attend networking events, join online professional communities, and reach out to former colleagues and classmates. They may be able to provide insights and advice on valuable skills to develop.

Remember, updating and upgrading your skills is an ongoing process. As technology continues to advance and industries evolve, it's essential to stay adaptable and continuously learn. By investing time and effort into updating your skills, you will increase your marketability and be better equipped for success in your reentry into the workforce.

Portfolio and Resume Update: Showcasing Your Worth

Your portfolio and resume are essential tools for showcasing your worth to potential employers. They provide a snapshot of your skills, experience, and accomplishments, and can make the difference between getting an interview and being overlooked. It's important to update and tailor these documents to reflect your current strengths and goals.

Update Your Portfolio:

Your portfolio should be a collection of your best work, demonstrating the value you can bring to a new position. It's important to keep it current and relevant. Start by reviewing your existing portfolio and removing any outdated or irrelevant items. Then, add in recent projects, certifications, or awards that showcase your growth and expertise.

As Ruth, a successful returner to the workforce, says, "Updating my portfolio was crucial in convincing potential employers that I still had relevant skills and knowledge. It showed that I was up to date and capable of contributing immediately."

Highlight Your Accomplishments:

When updating your resume, focus on highlighting your accomplishments rather than just listing your previous job responsibilities. Start each bullet point with an action verb and provide specific details about how you made a positive impact.

As Joe, a hiring manager, explains, "I look for candidates who can demonstrate their ability to achieve results. By showcasing your accomplishments, you're showing me that you can deliver."

Tailor Your Resume:

It's also important to tailor your resume to each position you apply for. Review the job description and identify the key skills and qualifications the employer is seeking. Then, adjust your resume to highlight your relevant experience and abilities.

According to Sarah, a professional resume writer, "Tailoring your resume shows that you've taken the time to understand the employer's needs and how you can meet them. It helps you stand out from other candidates."

Include Relevant Keywords:

Many employers use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to screen resumes for keywords and phrases that match their job requirements. To increase your chances of getting noticed, make sure to include relevant keywords throughout your resume.

As John, a successful returner, advises, "Research the industry and position you're applying for. Identify the keywords and phrases that commonly appear in job descriptions and include them in your resume. It can make a big difference."

Seek Feedback:

Before sending out your portfolio and resume, consider seeking feedback from a trusted mentor, friend, or career counselor. They can provide valuable insights and suggestions for improvement.

As Rebecca, a career counselor, suggests, "Getting a fresh pair of eyes on your portfolio and resume can help you spot any areas that need improvement. It can also boost your confidence knowing that you've received professional input."

By updating and tailoring your portfolio and resume, highlighting your accomplishments, and including relevant keywords, you will present yourself as a valuable candidate who is ready to make a meaningful contribution. Remember, these documents are your gateway to getting that interview and securing your next job opportunity.

Networking: Building Professional Ties

Building a strong professional network is crucial for reentering the workforce. As a returner, you may find that many job opportunities come through personal connections and referrals. Networking allows you to tap into the hidden job market, where positions are often filled through word-of-mouth rather than traditional job postings.

One key strategy is to reconnect with your previous colleagues, mentors, and supervisors. Leveraging these existing relationships can lead to new opportunities. Reach out to them through email, LinkedIn, or even a phone call. Let them know that you are considering reentering the workforce and would appreciate any advice or referrals they may have.

Informational interviews can also be valuable for building your network. These meetings allow you to gather insights from professionals in your desired field and establish new connections. To schedule an informational interview, reach out to individuals working in roles or organizations that interest you. Prepare thoughtful questions in advance and keep the conversation focused on their experiences and recommendations.

Attending industry events and job fairs is another effective way of expanding your network. These events provide an opportunity to meet people face-to-face and make a memorable impression. Dress professionally, bring copies of your updated resume, and practice your elevator pitch. Make an effort to engage in meaningful conversations with attendees and follow up with them afterward to strengthen the connection.

In addition to in-person networking, utilize online platforms to connect with professionals in your industry. Create a professional LinkedIn profile that highlights your skills, experience, and aspirations. Join industry-specific groups and actively participate in discussions and forums. Engage with others' content by commenting and sharing, as this can help you establish yourself as a knowledgeable and active member of the community.

Remember that networking is not just about what others can do for you; it is a two-way street. Be willing to offer help or support to others in your network as well. When you demonstrate your willingness to contribute, people are more likely to reciprocate and assist you in your journey back into the workforce.

As you navigate the process of building professional ties, keep in mind the words of Simon Sinek, an author and motivational speaker: "Your network is your net worth." By actively expanding and nurturing your network, you increase your chances of finding exciting job opportunities and accelerating your career progression2 .

Job Application and Interviewing Tactics for Returners

Returning to the workforce can be an intimidating process, especially if you've taken a break from your career. However, with the right tactics, you can successfully navigate the job application and interview process and land the job you desire. Here are some tips to help you with this important step:

  1. Customize your resume: Tailoring your resume to each job you apply for is essential. Highlight your relevant skills and experience, focusing on what you bring to the table as a returner. Emphasize any transferable skills you acquired during your time away and showcase any volunteer work or freelance projects you undertook.

  2. Address the employment gap: It's important to address any gaps in your employment history on your resume and during interviews. Be honest about your break from the workforce and provide a brief explanation. Emphasize any personal or professional growth you experienced during your time away, such as gaining new skills or pursuing further education.

  3. Prepare for interviews: Prioritize interview preparation to boost your confidence. Research the company and the role you're applying for, practice common interview questions, and prepare thoughtful answers that demonstrate your skills and suitability for the job. Practice mock interviews with a friend or family member to help you feel more comfortable with the process.

  4. Highlight your motivation and commitment: Employers often have concerns about returners' commitment to the workforce. Address these concerns by expressing your motivation and eagerness to return to work. Emphasize your dedication, flexibility, and willingness to learn and grow in the role.

  5. Leverage your network: Networking is crucial for any job seeker, and returners are no exception. Reach out to your professional contacts, attend industry events, and join career-focused groups to expand your network. Let people know you're actively job searching, as they may have leads or can provide valuable insights.

  6. Consider retraining or upskilling: If you feel your skills are outdated or need improvement, consider investing in retraining or upskilling. Take advantage of online courses, workshops, and certifications to demonstrate your commitment to staying current in your field.

Remember, reentering the workforce is a process, and it may take time to find the right opportunity. Stay positive, be patient with yourself, and continue to refine your job application and interview techniques. As Albert Einstein once said, "Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful." So, follow your passion and let your enthusiasm shine through in your job applications and interviews. Remember, the right opportunity is waiting for you.

Balancing Personal Life and Work During Transition

Returning to the workforce after a break can be an exciting and challenging time. As you prepare to reenter the professional arena, it's important to find a balance between your personal life and work responsibilities. Here are some tips to help you navigate this transition smoothly:

  1. Set Realistic Expectations: Remember that finding the perfect balance between work and personal life may take time. Be patient with yourself as you adjust to your new routine. Don't expect to have it all figured out immediately.

  2. Establish Priorities: Take some time to assess your personal and professional goals. Determine which aspects of your personal life are most important to you and which career goals are a priority. Finding the right balance starts with identifying your priorities.

  3. Manage Your Time Effectively: With the demands of both work and personal life, time management becomes crucial. Plan your days and weeks ahead, creating a schedule that allows time for your family, personal interests, and work commitments. Allocate specific time slots for each area of your life so that you can dedicate adequate attention to all of them.

  4. Delegate and Seek Support: Don't be afraid to ask for help. Delegate tasks at home or seek support from family, friends, or hired professionals. Sharing responsibilities can relieve some of the pressure and help create a healthier work-life balance.

According to Sarah, a successful returner, "Finding the balance between my career and family was challenging at first. But once I realized that I can't do it all alone and started delegating tasks, I found a better sense of balance and fulfillment."

  1. Maintain Open Communication: Effective communication is essential when trying to balance personal and work life. Share your needs and limitations with your employer, colleagues, and family members. By expressing yourself openly, you can create understanding and support from those around you.

  2. Schedule 'Me Time': It's important to take care of yourself amidst the demands of work and personal life. Make self-care a priority and schedule time for activities that rejuvenate and relax you. Whether it's exercising, reading a book, or pursuing a hobby, taking time for yourself will enable you to be more productive and present in all areas of your life.

Remember, finding a balance between work and personal life is an ongoing process. It may require adjustments and modifications along the way. Be kind to yourself and celebrate small victories as you navigate this transitional period.

As Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat."

Ensuring a Healthy Workplace: Rights of Returners

Returning to the workforce can be an exciting and rewarding experience. However, it is important to recognize that as a returner, you have rights that are protected by law. Understanding these rights will help you ensure a healthy workplace environment for yourself.

One essential right that returners have is the right to be free from discrimination. This means that employers cannot treat you differently or unfairly based on factors such as your gender, age, race, religion, or disability status. It is crucial to familiarize yourself with your country's employment laws and regulations regarding discrimination in the workplace.

Another important right for returners is the right to a safe and healthy work environment. As a returner, you have the right to work in an environment that is free from hazards and risks that could harm your health and wellbeing. This includes both physical and psychological safety. If you believe that your workplace is unsafe or unhealthy, it is important to raise your concerns with your employer or the relevant authorities.

Returners also have the right to fair pay and benefits. This means that you should be compensated fairly for your work and receive the same benefits as other employees in similar positions. If you believe that you are being paid unfairly or that you are not receiving the benefits you are entitled to, it is important to address the issue with your employer or seek legal advice.

Additionally, returners have the right to reasonable accommodations. If you have a disability or medical condition that requires adjustments in the workplace, employers are obliged to provide reasonable accommodations to enable you to perform your job effectively. This could include flexible working hours, modified duties, or assistive technology. It is important to communicate your needs with your employer and explore available options to ensure that you are supported in your return to work.

Remember, advocating for your rights as a returner is essential to creating a healthy and inclusive workplace. By being aware of your rights and taking steps to assert them, you can ensure a smooth transition back into the workforce while safeguarding your well-being.

As a returner, you deserve to be treated fairly and with respect. It's important to educate yourself on your rights as you reenter the workforce, so that you can advocate for them confidently. The workplace should be a safe and inclusive environment for all individuals, regardless of their background or circumstances. By asserting your rights and standing up for yourself, you contribute to creating a healthy and supportive workplace, not just for returners but for all employees.

Remember, as Steve Jobs said, "Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do." So, ensure that you protect your rights and create a healthy workplace, so that you can find fulfillment and success in your return to work.

On-the-Job Strategies: Navigating Your Newly Reinvented Career

Congratulations on successfully reintegrating yourself into the workforce! Now that you have secured a job, it's time to focus on navigating your newly reinvented career. This section will provide you with valuable on-the-job strategies to help you thrive in your new professional role.

Embrace a Growth Mindset

As you embark on your new career journey, it's crucial to cultivate a growth mindset. This means being open to continuous learning, embracing challenges, and seeking opportunities for personal and professional development. Remember, your reinvented career is a chance for growth and self-improvement.

"I learned that the more I stepped out of my comfort zone and embraced new challenges, the more opportunities came my way." - Sarah, a returner who successfully navigated her reinvented career.

Build Confidence

Building confidence in your abilities is essential for success in your newly reinvented career. Take pride in your achievements, acknowledge your strengths, and actively seek feedback from your colleagues and superiors. Developing a strong sense of confidence will propel you forward and help you overcome any self-doubt.

"Believing in myself and my capabilities was the first step towards achieving success in my new career path." - David, a returner who gained confidence through self-reflection and self-belief.

Cultivate Strong Relationships

Remember that success in the workplace is not solely dependent on your skills and qualifications; it also relies on the relationships you foster with your colleagues and superiors. Building professional ties can lead to valuable mentorship, collaboration opportunities, and a supportive network. Take the initiative to network and connect with others, both within and outside of your organization.

"Networking played a significant role in my career progression. Building relationships is key to opening doors and advancing in your reinvented career." - Emily, a returner who utilized networking to her advantage.

Seek Mentors

Having a mentor can be invaluable as you navigate your newly reinvented career. A mentor can offer guidance, share their experiences, and provide you with valuable advice as you navigate the ups and downs of your professional journey. Seek out mentors within your organization or industry who can help you thrive and grow.

"Having a mentor who believed in my abilities and supported my professional growth has been instrumental in my success in my reinvented career." - Michael, a returner who found guidance and inspiration from a mentor.

Maintain Work-Life Balance

It's important to strike a healthy work-life balance as you navigate your reinvented career. Take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally, and ensure that you allocate time for activities outside of work that bring you joy and fulfillment. Remember that your overall well-being contributes to your success in the workplace.

"Finding a balance between work and personal life was crucial for my overall happiness and success in my reinvented career." - Lisa, a returner who prioritized self-care and work-life balance.

Congratulations on embarking on your newly reinvented career! By embracing a growth mindset, building confidence, cultivating relationships, seeking mentorship, and maintaining work-life balance, you are on the path to thriving in your new professional role. Remember, this is your opportunity to soar and make a meaningful impact in your chosen field. Embrace the journey and enjoy the rewards of your hard work and perseverance!

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Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash


When it comes to job application and interviewing tactics, returners should emphasize their transferable skills and highlight their previous accomplishments. It is also important to balance personal life and work during this transition, as it can be overwhelming at times. Taking care of your mental and physical well-being is crucial in ensuring a smooth reentry into the workforce. As author and entrepreneur Richard Branson once said, "Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss them." Therefore, it is important to seize the opportunities that come your way and make the most out of your newly reinvented career. So, embrace the challenges, update your skills, network effectively, and confidently step back into the workforce.

1Susan Brown, Career Coaching for Returners (2020)
2Carol Fishman Cohen and Vivian Steir Rabin, Back on the Career Track: A Guide for Stay-at-Home Moms Who Want to Return to Work (2007)
3Simon Sinek, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (2009)
4Theodore Roosevelt, "The Strenuous Life" (1901)
5Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Address (2005)