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Whether you’ve been out of the workforce 10 years or 10 months, going back into the workforce is daunting. It’s also an exciting journey - that’s okay to want to do!

As hard as it might seem to get back into the work force, Carol Fishman-Cohen of assures it can be done. As someone who understands the challenges of re-launching their career firsthand, Cohen maintains that “returning to work successfully has less to do with how long you’ve been out of work, but more to do with the ability to figure out what you want to do professionally - and pursue it with creative strategies”.

Cohen, a Harvard MBA and Mum of four, took an 11-year career break before returning to work as a consultant for an investment firm. She’s gone on to publish books on the matter (Back on the Career Track) and gave this powerful TED talk on how to get back to work after a career break:


So how do you do it? Here are the seven steps you should take:

Determine your readiness

Phew, that’s a simple one! Ask yourself: Am I really ready? It might be simple answer due to existing factors, such as financial strain. Or it could be more complex. Your reasons could include wanting to do something meaningful, build confidence or put your skills to use. The answer will be different for everyone.


Learn confidence

Relaunching your career is not unusual, and you’ll be surprised how many people will gather around you to get you up to speed. Get in touch with your former colleagues and friends in your industry to have an informal chat. Find the right tools to get you going and reach out to support groups who are in similar situations. The more you know about what’s happening, the more you talk about your story, the more confident you’ll feel and sound. If you’re looking to move into a new industry, seek out people you know that may work in it already to give you insights into their role.

Take a look at your career options

What did you love about your previous jobs? What didn’t you like? Break it down and focus on what you enjoy most and what your skills are geared towards. Then begin to brainstorm about the potential opportunities. You might realise that you didn’t enjoy what you were doing in the past and want to try something new, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that!

Get in the know and update your skills

Ok, it’s time to get granular. What’s trending in your industry or the industry that you’re interested in? Read relevant journals, further your education with an online course or head back to university, and attend conferences and events.

 cohen quote

Make connections

Breaking into a new field requires some getting to know you time. One of the easiest ways to do this is through social media. Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin are fantastic tools for finding out who the thought-leaders are in the industry, keeping on the pulse for evolving trends in the practice, and even for finding work.

Volunteer or intern

Meaningful volunteering can be a fantastic way to eventually land a job. Not only can it boost your confidence and keep your skills current, it could be the differential you need to give you the edge over your competitors in the market. On average, you have a 27% better chance at finding a job, and there’s the potential your volunteer role could turn into a paid one, or at the very least, help you build your professional network.

For Maria Tedeschi, contributor at Her Collective, volunteering is what’s keeping her resume fresh. She says I’m currently volunteering my time at my local radio station writing and announcing the news as well as producing Community Service Announcements.  It’s a lovely place to start to temper any nerves about returning to a working environment. It’s a good beginning to a new beginning”.

mum and daughter

Channel your cheer-squad

The conversation around your interest returning to work needs to come early with your family.  It’s a great time to have an open discussion around how to manage the transition creatively and gradually, and what you might need from them to help you get there. Remember, they are your biggest cheerleaders and will be your voice of encouragement, so don’t be scared to approach the subject.

Once you’re back…

It’s important to be patient with yourself when you do return to the workforce and keep an open dialogue with your employer. If it helps, you could ask for frequent reviews as you begin to ramp up. Don’t be disheartened if it’s taking a bit of time to re-adjust.

Are you in the process of re-launching your career? What steps have you taken? Leave your thoughts and recommendations in the comments below or share with a friend.

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