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How to return to work after a career break

Posted by David Brown, Hays US CEO, on Tuesday, Jul 17, 2018

How to return from a career break | Hays BlogIt’s time to head back to work after a career break. You’ve spent the last few months pursuing other paths in your life – out of necessity or choice. But whatever the reason, your head’s not in professional space after your time away, and the routine you’ve grown accustomed to is different. Now it’s time to get back to work – here’s how to do it without upending your life.

After a career break – short or lengthy – you have to know how to slide back into a work headspace. On top of which, you have to be able to go back to work without sacrificing work-life balance, or impacting your health if your break was medically-induced. Once the initial, heady rush of seeing colleagues again fades, and you settle back into diving into new projects as part of a team, you have to figure out how to settle into a workplace routine again.

It’s normal to question how you ever handled early mornings, managed to get to the gym, or had time to see friends while working around the 9-5. Many people feel insecure about their capabilities on returning to work from an extended break, and wonder what’s changed in their industry since they’ve left. Are you asking yourself if your skills are rusty? Will your team be the same? Is your knowledge still up to speed?

If your team and your employer are good, they’ll accept that there’s an adjustment period while you get back in the swing of things. But there are still measures you can take to settle in comfortably and make your return as positive as possible.

Learn from your break

Time away from work can you teach you a variety of things, depending on what you were doing with your career break. But one of the best things to take away from time away is how to take care of yourself. We forget during the rush and tumble of professional life that our wellbeing, personal pursuits, and relationships are all important and need to be maintained. Sometimes it takes us stepping away from our jobs to realize just how much those things matter.

You can’t sacrifice them when you come back to work. There has to be a balance to how you approach your life and your career. And if you’ve found yourself more relaxed, more energized, or more fulfilled while away from work, it may not be that the work itself is bad – but that you’ve had a chance to connect with what matters to you and recharge.

Our bodies are batteries. If we don’t replenish them, we burn out. Sufficient sleep, eating proper meals, meditating, or exercising are all good ways to recharge. Incorporate good self-care into your work life and you benefit. Neglect to look after yourself and it gets harder to work well and meet your goals and targets.

If you’ve had a chance to catch up with old friends, make new ones, or see more of your family or pursue new hobbies, make a pact with yourself to continue along that path – whatever shape it’s taken. Work-life balance looks different for everyone. Perhaps for you it’s a way of improving your productivity during office hours while not losing touch with your home life, or maybe it’s as simple as getting to work early to avoid having to work late evenings.

Whatever it is you’ve learned from your career break, bring that back to work with you. Use that new knowledge to be the most healthy, happy version of yourself. Whether it’s an improved attitude, a better approach to your health, or just better overall work-life balance, make that how you go forward.

Stay connected

In order not to come back to your job feeling out of touch in the wake of changes with staff or the parameters of the job, it can be worth taking some time to catch up as your break comes to a close. It’s also worth catching up on industry trends by reading press releases and publications in advance of your return. You can also set up Google Alerts to get email updates on news related to your sector.

Stay in contact with colleagues, especially when you’re getting ready to come back – whether through social media, WhatsApp, catching up over lunch, or by phone. This helps you stay informed on what’s new in your company, and can warn you of changes to your projects or position before you return.

Sharpen your skills

Even if your skills are second nature, a long career break can leave them rusty. Like little-used muscles in need of toning up, start testing your skills in advance of your return. For example: if you’re a Sales Executive, brush up on your product knowledge and start practicing your client pitches.

Before you return to work can also be the ideal time to improve your existing skills or pick up new ones. Listen to podcasts, webinars, or read books related to your specialism. Expanding your knowledge can boost your confidence, and solidify your existing knowledge.

Downtime management

Whatever the reason you took your career break, that’s where your focus should be. So if you’re keeping in touch with colleagues or keeping up with the industry while you’re off work, don’t forget to make time for you. Arrange calls with colleagues or team mates that are strictly timed. Listen to podcasts or webinars for work around your schedule, rather than planning around work-related research.

Remember that keeping in touch with workmates and staying knowledgeable about your industry isn’t about being abreast of every change. No one expects you to adapt to everything that occurs in your absence while you’re still away. Learn to control what you can, and let go the rest. Value your wellbeing during a prolonged downtime or career break, and that has to include good work-life balance. When you’re ready to come back to work, that’s when flexing your skillset and updating your knowledge becomes more important. And if you’re ready to head back to work but want to do something different or find a better role in your industry, now’s a great time to talk to Hays so we can help you transition into your dream job.

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