Anyone who has taken an extended period of time off from work for any reason understands just how terrifying it is to jump back into the professional world. Taking time away from your role also means taking a break from developing your skills. As a result, it can be easy to lose confidence in yourself.
Given that 54 percent of employees surveyed by Pew Research Center said training and skills development were essential throughout their work lives, it’s no wonder we put so much pressure on ourselves when returning to work after an extended absence.
The good news is you’re not doomed to an unsuccessful career. Here are a few tips to help you rise up and return to the workforce successfully:
1. Rediscover Your Passions
Whether you’ve taken time off for three months or three years, your passions have likely changed. This could necessitate a drastic career change, or just a new focus in the same field. Before making a choice either way, you should reflect on who you were, who you are now, and who you want to become. Start by asking yourself these questions:
- What activities did I enjoy doing?
- What did I miss about my job while away?
- Did I feel relieved about not going to work? If so, why?
- Did I read anything that sparked my interest?
Use the answers to these questions to evaluate your passions and determine whether a major career change is in order. Search for jobs with descriptions and organizations with missions that align with your values and inspirations.
Let what you missed about your job — and what you dreaded about it — guide your job search. These factors will help narrow down your options and give you a bit of confidence in moving forward.
2. Regain Your Confidence
The job search is hard enough under normal circumstances; trying to rejoin the workforce after a long time away makes it all the more daunting. This is especially true when you’re competing against new grads and job seekers with advanced experience.
It doesn’t help that we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. In the Pew survey cited earlier, 72 percent of respondents said “‘a lot’ of responsibility falls on individuals to make sure they have the right skills and education to be successful in today’s economy.”
Remember: You were hired once before because of the skills and qualifications you have, and you will be hired again. Don’t lose sight of your previous achievements. Think back to each time you hit a goal, accomplished a difficult project, or were acknowledged for your hard work.
Because insecurity feeds off stress, it’s important to talk about your accomplishments out loud. Sit down with a friend or former coworker to chat it out. Have your peer shut down any insecurities along the way. Most importantly, let them help you shift your focus to your qualifications and positive attributes.
3. Dive Back In
The next job offer you consider accepting will feel like a big step. After being out of the game for a while, it’s natural to believe everything needs to be perfect when you make your next move. Sometimes, though, you have to just dive into the water.
You can only rediscover so much of yourself outside of the workforce. Getting back into a job — even if it’s not your long-term career choice — will help build your confidence. It may even lead to some new skills as well.
Once your feet are wet, revisit your list of passions. Note what you like about this new job, what you dread doing, and any new passions you’ve discovered. This will help you decide if you’re on the right track, or if this job is just a stop along the way to rediscovering yourself.