Returning To Work After A Career Break?

Are you thinking of returning to work after being out of the job market for a few years? Maybe you’ve been raising kids, caring for a sick/dying relative, you’ve retired, or something else? 

If so, you’re well advised to do some careful planning and use effective strategies to manage the challenges ahead. Let’s look at how to do this right. 

Fight Off the Negative Thoughts

The first rule is don’t undermine yourself with a lot of negative thoughts. I recently worked with a man in his seventies. Though he was passionate about returning to work, he was convinced that no one would hire him at his age, despite his deep expertise in his field. He did run into age discrimination and every rejection he received was further proof of his belief. After starting and stopping his search several times, he found success, landing a position at a company that values his experience in a role that makes him happy. 

What’s Next for You?

Don’t just dive in and start submitting job applications without reflecting on who you are today. How have you changed during the time off? Have your priorities shifted? Do you still want to be in the same field—or do you want to consider a change? What did you most enjoy/dislike from your previous roles? 

If you’re an older worker contemplating coming out of retirement, consider the amount of time and energy you want to put into a job. Do you want a demanding, full-time job, or are you content to work less and enjoy life more? Maybe you want to make sure there’s plenty of time for the grandkids—or other friends and family. If money isn’t important, you might consider marketing yourself a consultant or performing volunteer work with an organization you really care about. That way, you can work as much—or as little—as you want. No right answer here—do what’s right for you.

Are Your Skills / Knowledge Up to Date?

Obviously, things change rapidly these days. You’ll want to ensure that you’re current with the demands of the job. If you need certifications, enroll in courses to get them. You might also attend workshops and seminars to strengthen your skill set. If you have a paid plan with LinkedIn, LinkedIn Learning has quite a few excellent courses on a wide array of topics to help you do that.

Revamp Your Resume and Online Presence

Don’t just create what I call a “compost resume” where you toss your latest experience on top of the old resume. Your new resume needs to reflect who you are today and focus attention on what you most want to sell. I’ve seen a lot of resumes which take up valuable space discussing jobs performed in the 1990s—or even the 1980s. Generally speaking, you’ll want to focus on the last ten to fifteen years of experience, but general rules don’t apply to everyone. An experienced resume writer can help you determine how best to present yourself. 

Your resume needs to reflect your most recent experiences and skills, including those acquired during your time out of the job market. Include relevant volunteer work, freelance projects, or continuing education you pursued during this time. 

Many people neglect their LinkedIn profile—a big mistake! Recruiters and employers often look for candidates on LinkedIn. You’ll want to ensure that your profile has the right “bait” to attract people plus the right material to impress those who read your profile. 

Rebuild and Leverage Your Network

As you may know, most jobs are not advertised, and networking is a powerful job search method. You’ll want to carefully revitalize your network of former colleagues, mentors, and professional contacts. Don’t just say, “Hey, I’m returning to work! Let me know if you hear of anything.” That’s wasting your connections. Instead, you should artfully reengage with them and let them know about what you’re considering doing. Get information about their company, the industry, developments you should be aware of—and enlist them as active participants in your search. Attend industry events, join professional groups, and participate in online forums to expand your network.

Don’t spend a lot of time on recruiters. If you’ve been out of the workforce for a few years, they are unlikely to be helpful to you (Please see the blog article on recruiters). This doesn’t mean you’re not a great candidate—just that recruiters might not be the right vehicle for you to get hired.

Take a Transitional Role?

Maybe going back into a full-time role feels overwhelming? You might transition by starting with a part-time position, freelance work, or temp work while you regain confidence in yourself and adjust to being in the workforce again. 


Getting support is invaluable during this process. It can be very discouraging, so get some support from a career coach, a mentor, support groups, family—or all of the above. Their support can be invaluable. You can save a lot of time and energy—not to mention avoiding a ton of frustration—by doing the search with professional guidance and support.

I recently gave some brief assistance to a woman wanting to return to work after over a decade of raising children. Though she’s a great professional with a lot to offer, the resume she had written made her look unappealing, and what she was saying about herself diminished her, instead of making her sound like a serious professional. Don’t let this happen to you!  Want to talk about your return to work? I’m glad to have a no-obligation conversation. Here’s a link to my calendar:

Persistence vs. Flexibility

It’s important to know what you want—or have a plan to help you find what you want. Sometimes, it makes sense to go all out for what you want. Other times, you’ll want to be flexible and respond to new opportunities—maybe something you’d never considered before. Getting support helps you to know the difference. 

By reflecting on your goals, updating your skills, leveraging your network, and maintaining a positive attitude, you can make a successful transition to find a great job that meets your needs—whatever they may be.

Want to talk about your return to work? I’m glad to have a no-obligation conversation. Here’s a link to my calendar:

Wishing you all the best in your careers.

Steve Frederick

Our coaching helps people from across America to earn more money –AND get benefits and perks...

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