4 Steps To Take When You Are Ready To Restart Your Career

There are a lot of reasons to be out of the workforce. Maybe you took some time to raise your children or care for an ailing parent. Maybe you went back to school. Maybe you grabbed a once-in-a-lifetime chance to travel the world. Whatever the reason, if you’ve been out of work for more than six months the prospect of returning can feel daunting. And if you’ve been out of the workforce for years, it can seem downright terrifying.

But, like most challenges, there’s no way around it – you just have to go through it. These four concrete steps will help you on your journey and make you feel better prepared for your transition back into the workforce

Find an answer to “What do you want to do now?”For most people contemplating a career restart this is the most daunting part. I think that’s for two reasons. First, if you’ve been out of the workforce for a while you may not know what your options are and how well those options would fit you. Second, and I think this is the bigger hurdle, you don’t want to give an answer that will restrict your opportunities. I think the way to solve both of these problems is to focus on finding an answer but not the answer. Consider what you did, what you know about what’s out there and construct a “good enough” answer that also leaves open adjacent opportunities. As you get more information about the marketplace and how your skills compare, refine your answer.

Practice telling your story. Once you have identified your “good enough” answer to what you want to do, reach out to 3 to 5 friends or former colleagues who you trust to be kind, but also honest so that you can practice talking about what you want your next challenge to be. Your answer needs to project confidence that you have good ideas on how you can contribute while also conveying your openness to opportunities. The only way to be sure you are hitting the mark is to say it, out loud, to someone who will tell you the truth. You also need to practice answering the questions of how long you were out of the workforce and why. Your goal is to be honest and not apologetic about your time out of the workforce. In your answer, be careful not to fall into TMI (too much information) territory. As you get better at telling your story, share it with a few people who are more likely to give you critical feedback so you can really hone your message.

Talk to as many people as possible. When you are restarting your career after time away what you lack most is information. And not the kind of information you can get on the internet. Information that you can only get by talking to people. Who’s hiring? What are they are hiring for? What will they be hiring for? And, most important of all, what are the skills and experiences that make someone the top candidate at that company?

Get current. Update your LinkedIn profile (and if you don’t have one, get one!). Read news about your industry or the industry you are looking to join. Depending on how long your gap is and what your job was you may need to refresh your skills. This can be done through online training or a more formal education program. You can also get current experience through pro bono work on behalf of nonprofits, freelancing or through a returnship. And don’t forget about your appearance. It’s not that what you wear matters, but it does matter how what you are wearing makes you feel. But if it’s been more than a few years since you last had to wear “work” clothes every day, investing in a few updated pieces will make you feel polished and pulled together.

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