5 Things Strategic People Do When Returning to Work After a Career Break

Returning to work



There are a multitude of reasons why, at some point during the course of your life, you may need to hit the proverbial brakes and take a step away from your career. But while temporarily exiting the workforce is one thing, reentering it can prove to be quite another.

One survey from LeanIn.Org and McKinsey found that for educated working women today, 43% have taken a career break to tend to family or personal needs. Of these women, a full 90% ultimately want to resume working — and yet, only 40% return to the workforce full-time. 

Much of that disconnect can be attributed to the obstacles women face when attempting to return to work. From explaining a gap on your resume to uncertainty over what level of role you should be applying for, without a supportive network on your side, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. That’s why iRelaunch is dedicated to equipping women who’ve taken a career break with the tools and resources they need to return with confidence. Inspired by their “Return to Work Roadmap,” here are some expert-approved hacks for women who are determined to reignite their careers.

1. Make the most of your break.

This is about setting the stage for a successful career re-entry down the road by doing some necessary maintenance and upkeep ahead of time. Stay in touch or reconnect with your networks, both personally and professionally, so that when the time comes to jump back into the workforce, you’ll have a supportive framework in place to help. In addition, maintain relevance by refreshing your skills, taking an online course, and staying up-to-date on industry knowledge.

2. Attend the iRelaunch Return to Work Conference.  

Here’s where the secret sauce for confident career re-entry lies. After all, one can prepare themselves as much as possible from behind a computer screen, but the power of in-person workshops and networking is hard to beat. At events like iRelaunch’s Return to Work Conference — next held in New York City on October 3rd — you can get a leg up by receiving expert advice on return-to-work strategies, developing a personalized re-entry plan, building your peer network, and connecting with employers who are interested in hiring relaunchers. Added perks include: 

  • Special presentations on resumes, LinkedIn profiles, interviewing tips, and more

  • Employer panels with best practices and job search advice

  • Breakout sessions featuring employers and relaunchers, covering a wide range of industries

  • A judgement-free space dedicated to women just like you, and the employers who are looking to hire them

Since launching its first Return to Work Conference in 2008, nearly 7,500 professionals have taken advantage of iRelaunch’s program — and more than 50% went on to relaunch their careers less than a year after attending the conference, with many women re-entering the workforce within a six-month window. 

3. Define yourself and get clarity. 

Assess your career reentry readiness (which iRelaunch can help with) and rebuild confidence while doing so. Now’s the time to nail down your answer to questions like: where would you most like your career to go from here? What values in a company are important to you? What is your unique value proposition? 

4. Explore your ideal job fit.

Building upon the personal career exploration you underwent in Step 2 by mapping the key functions of your ideal job and setting specific goals around it. What opportunities today seem most aligned with your value offer? Career coaching can be of particular value here, as well as some preliminary informational interviews.

5. Activate your network.

As many as 85% of jobs today are found through a personal or professional connection. With that in mind, it’s time to activate your contacts. Promote widely the fact that you’re job searching, and be clear about the specific kinds of opportunities you’re after. Take advantage of social media platforms and women’s online career communities for this.