Insights & Ideas

Yes, you can come back to work after a career break (a pep talk) 

Ready to return to the workforce? Here’s everything you really need to know.

If you Google something like, “How to get back into the workforce after a career break” most of the articles have similar suggestions, such as: Update your LinkedIn page. Freshen up your wardrobe. Reconnect with colleagues.

That’s all good (albeit obvious) advice. However, if you’re like most “career returners,” the real questions swirling around in your head are hard to say out loud, much less answer. They might include things like: Am I still talented enough to get the job I want? Are my skills too out of date? Will hiring managers use my career break against me? Why didn’t I get the job I applied for? Should I even go back to work at all?

Here’s the truth. Rejoining the workplace can be a daunting process. But it can also be rewarding and exciting. We believe in you. Here’s what you need to know to believe in yourself.

You’re not alone

Think a career break makes you an outlier? Think again. A whopping 62% of employees worldwide have already taken a career break and 84% of millennials plan to take one in the future.1 As a result, today’s companies are starting to notice that breaks are a normal—and often healthy—part of life. For example, LinkedIn now has a “Career Break” feature that allows you to treat your break like a job (providing details and accomplishments) and avoid awkward gaps on your resume.

You’re a (career break) trailblazer

In the past, a career break might have been viewed as a red flag. But, today, a break can be a value add for employers. So, don’t be embarrassed and don’t apologize. Instead, make your break a positive part of your career trajectory. According to a LinkedIn study, 46% of hiring managers believe candidates who have taken a break undersell themselves.1

So, take inventory of all the things you did in your time away from work, what you learned, and how you can apply it to your next role. Then, during interviews, talk to prospective employers about the skills you gained during your break—whether you were multi-tasking as a parent or caregiver, navigating complex health issues, or learning about other cultures while traveling the world. If you were laid off, talk about things like gaining resilience or learning new things while on the job hunt.

In the end, you might just realize that hiring managers are looking for people just like you. The LinkedIn study1 also found:

  • 74% of people who have taken a career break believe employers valued the skills they gained during it.
  • 50% of hiring managers believe people returning from a career break have often gained valuable soft skills.
  • 46% of hiring managers felt that candidates with career breaks are an untapped talent pool.

You’re in charge of your career choices

You may not get every job you apply for, but you can control the kinds of jobs you take. Just because you had career break doesn’t mean you have to settle for an unfulfilling role. Take your career into your own hands. Define what you want and need from your next position, by thinking about these three things:

  1. What’s motivating you to rejoin the workforce, and what’s most important for you to be happy in a job? Prioritize what’s most important: high salary, work location, prestige, security, flexibility, challenging work, work you love, etc.
  2. What’s your idea of a “successful career” now, noting it might have changed during your time away? For example: Maybe success used to be becoming an executive, but now it’s more about making a difference. Perhaps travel wasn’t possible earlier in your career, but you’re open to it now.
  3. What would you secretly love to do? Examine which parts of your past roles were most enjoyable and why. Then think about what kinds of work you’re most interested in today.

When you put the answers to these three questions down on paper, you’re creating your ideal job description. When you consider a role you might take, measure it against your list. Does the job meet most of your criteria? If not, consider giving it a pass. You can do better.

Take the opportunity to try something new

Often “career returners” try to find a job similar to what they had previously because it feels safe and achievable. While that’s completely valid choice, don’t be afraid to step out of your “job comfort zone.”

When you come back from a career break, you have an opportunity to try something new—a new industry, a new role, or a new kind of career. For example, you could ease the transition back to the workforce with a remote job, instead of an office job. Or you could consider a consulting career that allows you to choose the work you do and take more planned career breaks between gigs! The possibilities are endless.

Activate your network

While searching job boards online is part of any job search, getting the word out among your own contacts is key. Reach out to friends, family, former colleagues, and clients to let them know not just that you’re available, but what type of roles you’re seeking.

Personal connections are a time-tested method to finding a job, but if your community doesn’t know you’re looking—and that you’re looking for something different than before—they can’t keep an eye out for you. Your network is a force multiplier for your job search, so spread the word about your goals.

Stay confident—job rejections are not a measure of your worth

Nobody likes rejection but the reality is, you’ll probably get a few in your job hunt. Researchers from Joblist found that before getting hired, “successful applicants had applied for anywhere from 11 to 15 jobs and received between six and 10 rejections.”2 This number can be higher, depending on the kind of positions you’re seeking.

The Joblist research also says, “The average respondent started losing confidence in themselves after the fifth rejection and about 64% ended up pivoting on the type of job they were applying for after losing their confidence. Of those, about 36% started therapy, 34% stopped job searching altogether, and 30% went back to school.”2 Yipes.

The moral of the story is: don’t take rejections personally. It’s a crummy, but normal, part of the process, and not really about you or your skills. With internet listings, hundreds of people can apply—therefore it’s a numbers game. There’s a good fit for you out there, so keep your chin up.

After a career break, your career could be better than ever

Finding the next chapter in your career can be stressful, but it’s worth the effort. For many people, the job they get after a break often marks a new evolution in their lives—with interesting work they would have never done before. Sure, it takes some time to settle into a new job, but your career might be more rewarding than ever. You got this.

Consulting with Salo could be your next career

When people have choice and control over their work, they often find it more rewarding. At Salo, we help senior professionals in finance, accounting, and HR design their own consulting careers—choosing the work that is most meaningful to them. Every day, we help our consultants Make It Meaningful®. Learn more about our consulting careers!