Many of us have been in a similar situation—taken a couple of years break from work, traveled the world (or the country), brought up children, looked after unwell parents or maybe taken a sabbatical to write a book—the reasons are many. This break could be a few months or sometimes a few years—but now as it’s time to get back to working life again—and it can all seem a bit daunting.
While some things might have changed, others remain the same. But like you’ll find out, it’s always better to be prepared for the challenges ahead and gear up accordingly. You need to equip yourself with a positive attitude and arm yourself with a few of these tips.
Polish up your resume
This is usually the first thing someone sees—it’s your public face until the actual meeting. Now is the time to clean it up and give it a makeover, if required. Firstly, get it up to date and make sure all the other information is still valid. Secondly, make sure the resume format is along the current industry trends.
For example, today, hiring managers are looking for short and crisp resumes. Even if you have a career spanning a decade, it’s a good idea to bring out the strong highlights and leave the rest to your Linkedin profile and the interview. If you feel you need outside help, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Even ask for someone in your industry to do a critique if possible. Head here for a guide on how to do your resume the right way.
Don’t apologize. Know your reasons
The worst thing you can do is get to an interview and then get flustered when asked about your break. Or something you did differently. There’s no reason to apologize. Everyone is entitled to a break or a stab at something different.
Whatever your reasons were, have them ready and be sure about what you’re saying. One interviewee seemed genuinely curious about what I did during my one year break and where I traveled. I didn’t get the job, but at least I didn’t try and cover it up but talked about how I benefited from it instead. So you need to be convincing and unapologetic. And you never know—the person on the other side might have been in your boat sometime too!
Prepare, prepare, prepare!
Interviewing techniques differ from one company to another. You might have one where everyone is casual and dressed in denims or another where you’ll be interviewed by a room full of formally dressed people.
You need to find out in advance about the company culture, their usual interviewing practice and what to expect. A friend of mine came back after a day of back-to-back interviews where she talked to nearly eight people through the day; without having time for a break. She could have been better prepared if she’d asked more questions about their interviewing process beforehand.
The ability to not get flustered, to remain calm under pressure and make sure that you’re not blurting out things you regret later can be avoided if you've prepared well. Many of us have come out of interviews wishing we'd said something differently. One tip is to find someone who has already been through interviews with the company or perhaps, the recruiter can give you more information.
Read Interviewing Do’s and Don’ts for Returnees to learn more.
Tell everyone you’re looking
While you shouldn’t be shy about your break; you need to be equally forthright when you’re looking to step back into the workforce.
Linkedin is a good way to tell others in your circle that you’ve started actively looking out for an opportunity. Look at it this way—unless you tell people, they might not assume you’re looking.
A friend of mine gave me this piece of advice: “Don’t be shy about it, go out there and yell out from the roof-top if you have to—someone will hear you!” And though she said it with some humor – there is a great deal of truth to it. I remember a former colleague mentioning that it didn’t seem like I was looking since I hadn't sent out any feelers. Don’t make that mistake! Create a profile today (if you haven’t already) and start telling the world about what you want to do next. Someone, somewhere is looking!
PART 2: We'll conclude this feature with more pointers. If you have any important ones to share, send us an email with your tip at firstname.lastname@example.org.