Whether you have taken a sabbatical to travel the world, are on maternity or paternity leave, or have had a long career break for personal or health reasons, a return from leave and re-entering the workplace can be daunting. As one of the trickiest transitions of your career, it may make you feel like you are starting from scratch by having to get into a full-time routine and get used to all the formalities, etiquette, deadlines and office politics.
But re-entering the workforce post-break has its benefits, as you’re starting with a fresh perspective and a mature mindset. To help make your transition back to work as smooth as can be, here are 8 tips from our founder, organisational and performance psychologist Gemma Leigh Roberts.
Before anything else, take time to prepare yourself for what is to come, as it takes mental preparation to acknowledge that there will be highs and lows to the career relaunch process. Creating a cue to tell yourself repeatedly: “this is just a curve and I will get through this” is powerful when you return from leave and are getting back into the swing of things at work.
To help you focus in the first few critical months as you ease yourself back into work mode, you need to be clear about two things at the outset: A) what you achieved during your break and B) what your goals are now that you are back.
Your achievements during your break do not have to be work-related as long as they involve business transferable skills. This will also help you decide your goals for the next challenge and on what success looks like for you. Write a list of your achievements and goals down to stay focused and build your professional confidence.
Before you dive back in wholeheartedly, think about other options that may be out there for you, for example you could start working part-time at the beginning and move towards full-time later on. Not everyone will have the privilege of having this as an option, but it’s worth thinking about if you can make it work.
Change is the only constant in life, as the saying goes, so start pinning down any changes within your role and the organisation from the get go. Ask people whether there is anything you need to know that will help you perform at your peak in those first few months back.
Apart from changes within your company, make sure your technology and industry knowledge is up to date. Even before you return from leave, start reading about the updates in your space and find out what’s new – it will make your transition back much easier.
This might be the last thing on your mind, but your co-workers are the ones who will be able to support you first-hand as you move back. Start building those relationships early on by staying in touch with colleagues and friends who are relevant to your career – let them know what you are up to or how you can help or support them too.
Everyone needs a helping hand every once in a while. As career breaks are more common than they used to be, don’t be afraid to ask whether your employer has resources for career relaunchers or new parents. Seek advice advice from colleagues who have been through the process and look for an online support community. Help is out there if you just start asking questions.
A few months after your return from leave, don’t forget to review your life and career goals. It’s easy to just get on with things once you are settled in, but it’s important to reflect on your life and career goals on a regular basis to check whether they’re aligned, what’s working and what’s not working for you, and where you need to alter things to make the return to work better.
If you haven’t secured a job to come back to yet, it’s advisable to look out for roles at companies that offer Return to Work programmes. You can apply knowing that these employers recognise the value of returners, rather than seeing helping a returner back into the workplace as a favour.
If the organisation you want to work for doesn’t have any form of re-entry programmes, why not suggest it to them? You can ask for a testing period or even paid internship-style placements that help ease you back into the world of work. There’s no need to sell yourself short, but this is one way of getting back out there after a particularly long career break.
For whatever reason you have taken a career break, they can enhance life skills and ensure that you come back with a more grounded mindset. Keep that in mind as you start your career relaunch journey.
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