Re-Entering the Workforce After a Career Break

Re-entering the workforce after an extended career break can be scary, but with Career Coach Andrea Towe’s tips, you’ll be back in a new job in no time!

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This article on re-entering the workforce after a career break is part of the Coaching Collective series, featuring tips and expertise from Flatiron School Career Coaches. Every Flatiron School graduate is eligible to receive up to 180 days of 1:1 career coaching with one of our professional coaches. This series is a glimpse of the expertise you can access during career coaching at Flatiron School.  

Are you re-entering the workforce after a career break? If so, you are not alone. Career breaks have become more common, particularly during and after the Covid pandemic. According to a 2022 LinkedIn survey, 62% of employees worldwide have taken a career break at some point. LinkedIn has even added a “career break” feature, which allows users to add a career break to their LinkedIn profile employment history.

What is a Career Break?

The term “career break” simply means time away from work for an extended period of time, typically at least several months to several years.

There are several reasons why one may choose or need to take a break throughout their career; whether it’s returning to school full-time, caring for a child or family member, personal or medical reasons, or testing the waters as an entrepreneur. Whatever the reason – and with some introspective, planning, and patience – you can successfully find your way back into the workforce.

Let’s dive into what a career break is, and some options on how to plan and take action toward getting back into it.

Begin with Focused Self-Reflection

Before you even start looking for a job, make it easier on yourself by taking some proactive steps that will help your job search run more smoothly. One important step is narrowing down what you’re looking for in a new role. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • What does a new job look like for me?
  • What are my interests, skills, strengths, and transferable skills?
  • Are there certain industries or companies I want to focus on?
  • Am I looking for a new role locally, remotely, or am I willing to relocate?
  • How can my unique background and experiences add value to the type of work I’m seeking?

These questions will provide some clarity and focus with which to bring your job search.

Develop an Elevator Pitch

An elevator pitch is a brief, high-level summary of your work experience, skills, and interests that articulates how all of that makes you a unique candidate and an excellent match for a given position. Develop and practice your elevator pitch until it feels natural and conversational. Practice with a friend or record yourself so you can watch it and see where you may want to make some changes. 

Use your elevator pitch as a conversation starter at networking events and conversations. That will set the stage for a deeper discussion on how you can make a positive contribution and add value to a team.

And, speaking of networking…

Refresh Your Professional Network

When one is employed and looking to switch jobs, networking is critical and probably the most important component of a successful job search. The same holds true for those re-entering the workforce.

Use Existing Ties

As a first step, tap into your current network and let them know you are “on the market” and looking for a new opportunity. This includes family, friends, neighbors, previous co-workers or classmates, etc.

Are any of them in the field you want to enter? If not, do they work at companies that have the type of role you’re looking for and can they introduce you to someone? If you were employed in the past and liked where you worked, can you contact someone there and see if they have work available that you can help with?

Many people have obtained job referrals and employment through neighbors, realtors, and people they’ve met through casual conversation at the gym or grocery store, so don’t underestimate the endless networking options!

Expand Your Network

You can also expand your network by trying to meet new people in the field you’re trying to enter. Engage on LinkedIn and build your brand, identify industry meetups or conferences that you can attend, set up informational interviews, or volunteer to work on an open-source project. Building on your network increases your exposure to individuals who may have insight into job opportunities or are hiring managers themselves. 

Connect With Others In Similar Situations

Finally, see if you can find others who took career breaks. Set up an information interview with them and hear their story on how they got back into the workforce. Not only is that an excellent networking opportunity, but you may find out other tips and information that can assist you in your journey to re-join the workforce. 

Polish Up That Resume and LinkedIn Profile

You’ll want to update your resume and LinkedIn profile and any other relevant career-related documents, social media sites, websites, GitHub, etc. Add or revise any of the content that may be outdated. If you’ve acquired new skills, certifications, or degrees, be sure to add them. 

Even if your time out of the workforce was not spent formally pursuing further education, you’ve likely gained additional skills that enhance your employability. Whether it’s developing and managing a budget, project management, or other relevant skills, brainstorm ways you can take what you’ve done on your career break and include it on your resume and LinkedIn and show how your break aligns with your career. 

If you had a break for several months or more, then you can add a line item to reflect that on your resume. You can always go into more detail in your cover letter or during an interview about your career break. 

On the flip side, sometimes “less is more” in these scenarios. Don’t feel like you have to provide very detailed information as to why you took a career break. Stating something as simple as Career Break –  “Returned to School”, “Cared for Family Member”, “Freelance”, etc. may be all you need. Then you can elaborate accordingly during an interview or related discussion as needed. Once you start interviewing, keep this in mind, and don’t hide the fact that you took a career break. Be candid and use your best judgment on how much detail to provide. Many hiring managers don’t have an issue with applicants who took career breaks. Some of those hiring managers may have taken their own career break at some point!

Consider Part-time or Volunteer Work

Be open to part-time or contract work, even if your ultimate goal is a full-time opportunity. This option can ease you back into the workforce and be an opportunity for both you and the company to see if it’s a good fit –  all while getting valuable experience you can add to your resume. You’ll also increase your exposure to potential networking connections.

Work With A Career Coach

A job search can be overwhelming, regardless of whether or not you’re coming back from a career break. Being able to talk with a Career Coach can help provide you with much-needed support. A Career Coach can help you discover how to put your best foot forward and enhance your overall marketability as a candidate.

Final Thoughts

As with anything else in life, consistency is key when re-entering the workforce after a career break. Keeping your momentum going and working through the frustrations of the job search process may be trying; but, if you keep at it and don’t give up, you’ll be back in the workforce before you know it. 

About Andrea Towe

Andrea Towe is a Career Coach with Flatiron School. She has 20+ years of experience in career coaching and corporate human resources, including employee relations, talent acquisition, career and leadership development, training development, and facilitation.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog is current as of May 5, 2023. Current policies, offerings, procedures, and programs may differ.

About Andrea Towe

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