Returning To Work After a Long Absence

There are many reasons why one might need to take an extended leave of absence from work; having a child is a common reason, or recovering from an illness or injury. Sometimes people retire, then decide to return to the workforce, sometimes months or even years down the track. People can also be out of the workforce for extended periods of time while they are studying, caring for an aged or disabled family member, or travelling overseas.

Whatever the reason, going back into the workforce can seem daunting, especially if you've been away from it for a while. You may not feel confident and be concerned that your skills are outdated. It's important to realise that while you were out of paid employment, you were developing many skills that you may not have even considered - such as budgeting, planning and organisation, which are valued skills in the workplace, irrespective of whether you achieved them in doing volunteer work or in the home. If you feel your skill set needs to be further upgraded however, enquire into short courses at community centres or similar, where you can learn basic computer skills, résumé building and job application skills.

Having a short and long-term plan is a great way to build confidence and help you to feel organised as you approach the time to apply for a job. A short-term plan may include deciding what type of job you want - full or part time, volunteer work or paid employment, or retraining. You might include a list of job service providers and helpful contacts. Short-term goals might also include a list of careers you might be interested in and if it's a new career, the types of things you need to do to advance your chances of gainful employment, such as research, attending seminars and enrolment in relevant courses. Long-term goals might include companies you'd like to work for, whether you might be prepared to relocate to secure a position, financial goals and target dates.

Once you have identified the type of job you're aiming for, assessed your skills and identified any gap in knowledge that may prevent you in securing your preferred employment, develop a career profile, honestly assessing any barriers you perceive may prevent you from re-entering the workforce. It's important to be realistic though and not too hard on yourself, for what you may perceive to be a barrier, may be viewed differently by a potential employer.

The next step is identifying a possible job placement and applying, with both your resume and a cover letter. Your résumé should include a full list of your skills with dates, names and addresses of people who may be contacted as referees. If you haven't written a résumé in a while, now is a good time to seek help from a trained professional who can help to make your résumé look confident and professional. Your cover letter should directly reference the position advertised, with a focus on your skills and knowledge and your perceived ability to how quickly you can become productive in the workplace.

With every position you apply for, listen to the feedback from the interviewers and continue to build your confidence, update your skills and seek professional help when required.


The CFS Team
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