1. Be ready to explain. If you’ve been on a voluntary career break, you’re going to have gaps in your resume—and you’re going to have to explain those gaps to a prospective employer. Think about what you will say ahead of time. You don’t need to be apologetic in your explanation. Be straightforward, have your say, and move on to the next subject. If possible, frame your career break in positive terms: Maybe you took time off to travel the world or care for a child—talk about how those experiences helped you grow as a person and how that insight may make you a more valuable employee.
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Prospective employers also are likely to ask you why you want to get back into the workforce. Avoid telling them that you need money. You don’t want to seem desperate. Think about things—aside from the paycheck—you enjoyed about working before you took your career break. Talk about your need for new challenges and intellectual stimulation.
2. Stay connected. Look for ways to stay connected to your career while you’re on your break—consult, volunteer, or take the occasional freelance gig. The goal is to remain close to your profession—and even continue to build your resume—during a career break.
3. Dust off your resume. The resume you used before your career break is undoubtedly out of date these days. Do some research on the current best practices for resume writing (online experts abound!), draft a new resume—include all that stuff you’ve been doing during your break to stay connected to your career.
4. Look to your network. Seek out your former colleagues and other professional friends. Catch up. Talk shop. Let them know you’re looking for work. Many people get jobs through personal connections, so don’t hesitate to tell friends, family, and acquaintances that you’re planning a workplace comeback. Also, look for opportunities to meet new people and expand your professional network. The more lines you have in the water, the more likely you are to catch a fish.
5. Broaden your scope. Don’t limit your job prospects with a narrow search focused only on positions similar to those you have held in the past. Assess your skills and think about how they can apply to different positions in different fields. When looking at job postings, pay more attention to the skills required than the job title.
6. Don’t pass on opportunities. Even if your goal is a full-time position, don’t shun part-time, freelance or contract opportunities that are consistent with your career relaunch goals. A contract job can lead to full-time work—in the meantime, you’re updating your resume, gaining experience and meeting new people.
Luke Roney is content manager for CareerBliss, an online career community dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace. Check out CareerBliss for millions of job listings, company reviews, salary information and a free career happiness assessment.