9 Tips For Returning To Work

How can you effectively go back to work after a 10-year absence from the workforce? 

Whether you have been out of the workforce for one or 10 years, it can be challenging to reenter. Breaking into your past industry or a new one presents different sets of needs. 

There are several strategies people take when preparing to reenter the workforce, so we asked business leaders and HR specialists this question for their top insights. From showcasing your strengths to learning new technologies, there are several ways to go back to work after a 10-year absence from the workforce.

Here are nine ways to get back into the workforce:

  • Strategize and Make Your Move
  • Update Employees on Changes
  • Showcase Your Strengths
  • Reach Out to Your Network
  • Re-Learn Your Industry
  • Highlight Your Growth
  • Volunteer to Gain Skills (or a Job)
  • Plan to Learn New Technologies
  • Rework Your Resumé

Strategize and Make Your Move 

Job hunting after being out of work for so long can be frustrating if you don’t have a strategy. Before you can effectively jump back into the workforce after a long break, choose an area of focus. Job hunting without a specific industry or role in mind is more difficult and much less effective. Think about your natural strengths, interests, skills, and value. Use this to guide yourself in the right direction. Are you a people person that wants to work in Human Resources? Maybe you are good at numbers and are more interested in Finance?  Whatever it may be, stick to your focus and go after those specific positions aggressively! 

Jon Schneider, Recruiterie

Update Employees on Changes

One of the ways to ensure a smooth transition back to work is to prepare employees in advance for the many changes they are likely to see when they return. In the COVID-19 era, this can include new protocols and policies, so it’s important to proactively address employees’ questions and concerns and minimize confusion and fears. Including online compliance training in the reboarding process is a great way to reinforce the organization’s core values, principles, and standards for respectful, inclusive behavior.

Andrew Rawson, Traliant

Showcase Your Strengths  

Having a multi-year gap in your work history can be a challenging obstacle to overcome when you’re ready to get back to work. Depending on the reason for the gap, using your resume to focus on your strengths and personal competencies can be a way to showcase how you will impact your next employer. If you have developed any skills during your time off, list those in your accomplishments. A well-written cover letter can also explain the situation and how you will immediately make an impact if hired. 

Jenn Christie, Markitors 

Reach Out to Your Network 

Although it may sound simple, relying on your network is a get-out-of-jail card. Just because you have not been working for ten years does not mean that you know absolutely no one in the field. Reach out to your old employer or coworkers that you had a connection with to see if they have any insights about positions that would fit your skill set. If you do not have anyone close enough to reach out to, then it’s time to make a LinkedIn and start messaging people in the field you are interested in so that your name gets known by more and more people. Don’t be afraid to message random people in your field on LinkedIn. As long as you are professional, there should never be a reason to feel embarrassed. 

Chris Gadek, AdQuick

Re-Learn Your Industry

Many jobs have significantly changed over the last decade. Many jobs have partially moved online. Even previously boring jobs such as accounting have moved to online services such as Xero. If you are out of the workforce for ten or even more years, you are up for an uphill battle. You will need to, in essence, re-learn a fair chunk. While the fundamentals likely remain, the methods and tools are likely to have changed. 

If you haven’t got anyone to question in the industry anymore, start researching your industry on Google and YouTube. Your aim is to find out how the job is done today. Note down any tools mentioned and check their websites. Often the product explainer videos give you great insights on the cutting edge of how things are done. A platform such as Upwork can help to understand where the demand is. Once you have a basic idea, you can jump on learning platforms such as Udemy and check for courses. These are often (almost) free and bring you up to speed in a short time.

Hays Bailey, SHEQSY

Highlight Your Growth 

Life happens, and gaps in resumes will occur. It is best to come clean and explain the reasons behind the gap. Even if you were not employed during this time, think of anything else you’ve done or learned which could be relevant to the job for which you’re applying. Were you volunteering? Were you reading books on a particular topic? Did you take any classes? No matter what, depending on the position you’re looking for, you will have to prepare in some way, whether this means grad school or taking some classes to educate yourself on the type of role you’re aiming for. Ten years is a significant amount of time, and even if you are looking to get back into an industry in which you previously worked, there’s a chance you may need to brush up on your skills if you haven’t exercised them in a while. Overall, be honest about your resume gap but, at the same time, show that you’re making as much effort as possible to prepare yourself for re-entering the workforce.

Brittany Dolin, Pocketbook Agency

Volunteer to Gain Skills (or a Job) 

A good way to slowly get back and start building a resume is volunteering. Of course, not everyone has the time, and some desperately need to increase income to feed their families. However, for people that can dedicate just a few hours a week, they can not only help their communities, and impact the lives of so many people, but they get experience, and acquire new skills which would give them an advantage when looking for a job. Additionally, many humanitarian organizations would welcome volunteers for so many different types of roles, and you just never know if you might end up as a permanent employee after a while. 

Chris Kindler, Alight

Plan to Learn New Technologies

Research the job market to determine which jobs you’re currently qualified to hold by searching for job postings on indeed.com or LinkedIn. Every company career portal in the US feeds into indeed.com, so it’s a great overview of what\’s available. Employers today only interview candidates who have 90%+ of the qualifications on the job posting. If employers are asking for skills or technology you do not currently have, strategize how you will acquire them. Be aware that in some cases you’ll need to accept a position one level lower than the job you left.

Joni Holderman, Thrive! Resumes

Rework Your Resumé

Every person has a career story. If yours includes an extended break from the workplace, never apologize. Instead, convert your traditional chronological resume into a skill-based document and showcase your expertise. Sure, recruiters are interested in what you’ve done and where, but they also want to know what you can do. Transferable skills, visible work product examples, and volunteer activities are all keys to get you back into the workplace setting.

Tim Toterhi, Plotline Leadership

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