Career Break – Getting back to work!

Whatever your reasons for taking a career break, when you are ready to go back to work, this is definitely an opportunity to make a well-planned choice! All that is required, is clarity of thought about some facts that will help you to get back to work.

Very often people plan their breaks meticulously and while they must do what they set out to do (the purpose for which they took a break), they also make time and take efforts to ensure they get back to work easily when the planned sabbatical is over. However, if you are not one of those, no need to despair! For a willing person, there are many ways to explore!


When I say clarity of thought I mean the following:

  1. What are the circumstances that have changed with me after the sabbatical which will affect my work life when I resume work?
    1.  Now I have a 2-year-old boy to look after (running after kids this age, caring for their health, happiness and learning is both rewarding and effortful), so working full time may be difficult for me, or travelling for work like before is out, or e.g.2 My son has gone abroad to study and I’d like to go back full-fledged and occupy myself gainfully. In both cases your approach to going back to work would be different right? This is just one aspect of work that we are talking about now – Time available for work.
    2. Similarly, you also need to look at various other aspects like requirement of Finance (whether part time salary would suffice or?),
    3. What you want to do? (Go back to what you were doing before the break or try something new? What is the new thing you want to do and Why?)
    4. What are the skills you already had and have gained during the break which will help you do what you want to do? (A flashback down the work memory lane will help, positively looking at what you learnt informally or formally during the break will certainly help too).

Build your storyline using all this information. You need to be convinced about everything in the story to be able to confidently proceed and that’s possible only if you do an honest introspection.

  1. This is a good time to explore whether you want to change from employed to self-employed person or vice versa or whether you want to volunteer for social service/start a charity or may be, even a combination of both). While we will talk about job here to include freelancing in the nature of a job, we could talk about starting your own business another time.
  2. Having assessed your own circumstances at the time of getting back to work, you also need to assess the situation at the targeted workplace or the job market. What are the jobs that match my skill set? What is new out there that needs to be adjusted to, what are the expectations there? Etc.)
  3. Now that the theory and analysis is done, you need to make a SMART action plan – Specific, Measurable in terms of outcome, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound. Your plan should include your targeted date of restarting work and backwards to the date of planning to include what actions you need to complete and by when. Important milestones like remaking your CV, preparing for interviews, making applications, any courses you want to take before you start etc. should be part of the plan. You need to proceed as per this plan and monitor it periodically to see that you are on track or make any course corrections along the way till you get the targeted job. You may have multiple plans A, B, C if you are trying out multiple things, prioritize the plans so that you can chase the priority plan and leave the others at an appropriate time.
  4. Most important part of the plan is networking to be able to apply to many relevant jobs – the more the relevant applications, the more your chance of getting the job. Use social networks like LinkedIn etc. skillfully to showcase your abilities and get referred. And I would specifically emphasize on preparation for the interview because this usually decides whether you are in or not. The story around the break has to be positive, honest and convincing – first to you and then to the Interviewer. This will also boost your confidence to face the selection process. Since both of you do not have any data to show that you will do well on the job after the sabbatical, you might want to suggest upfront to an employer to look at a specific assignment/period of work for both of you to assess the fit before any commitment. That would make the offer and acceptance decision a lot easier for both. Also do some market research on salaries for the targeted position, look at your last drawn salary and your financial needs today. It’s important to feel that fair justice is done to you even after the break to maintain long term interest.
  5. We have spoken about the core preparation for the job till now. But most important is to prepare ourselves mentally for the changes to come. For this,
    1. Build a positive attitude towards the change by listing out the benefits of the changes and always SEEING them. Look at the mirror every morning and say affirmations. This will greatly help. E.g. “I have prepared myself well and am confident of getting a good job”
    2. Be patient and persevere, it may take long to get the work of your choice and to settle down. Don’t give up! Keep at it, keep preparing yourself.
    3. Take care of yourself. Eat and sleep well, exercise regularly to keep fit and be enthusiastic and happy!

    4. Prepare for support services to help ease the transition during the job search and after finding the job E.g. engage some help for some of the house/other work that you were handling during the break. Initial period of change can be quiet challenging, better to keep some time and energy intact for dealing with unforeseen requirements on the job so that important aspects of health, home and relations do not suffer.
    5. Take care of your support systems – be grateful and provide care to your In-laws/parents/maids so that the harmony will help you to concentrate at work without guilt and stress.

Qualification : MHRDM
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Neha, a freelance Assessor with DDI India, has over 23 years of all round experience in the area of Human Resource Development and Management, and has held positions of responsibility for large... Read More

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