We usually assume that we spend all of our time working. However, there are many reasons that people take a long-term leave of absence from work. You may need to take off some time due to illness or injury. Perhaps you’re spending your time as a caretaker, either for children or for an elderly parent. You might be pursuing your own business venture, or just taking time off to travel in order to make the most of your life.
In any case, after a long leave of absence, it can be difficult to get back into the swing of things. Here are some tips to help you make the transition more smoothly.
Be Ready to Explain
When you apply for a job, you’ll usually be asked to submit all of your work history for the past few years. However, if you have a couple years without anything documentable, it could send up a red flag for your employer. Remember, it’s not necessarily a dealbreaker! It’s just a question that will come up.
Therefore, you have to be ready to answer the question. This can be difficult. After all, sometimes the reason for our absence from work is a bit of a delicate subject. However, there’s always a way to spin it so that you can show your reasons and emphasize the things that you learned during that time away from work. For example, if you were being a stay-at-home mother or father, you probably learned a lot about time management, communication, and responsibility. If you’ve been kept away from work because of disability, you might have newly realized how much you missed working, and the kind of fulfillment you get from being gainfully employed. If you traveled, you learned a lot about different cultures, and coordinating minutia of travel, budget, and accomodation. In any case, this is your chance to turn a possible weakness into a strength, and a key talking point that will make you stand out among other applicants.
It’s always best to include an explanation in your cover letter so that you’re not disqualified from the job before you even get the interview. A cover letter is the perfect time to elaborate on your history.
Be Ready to Embrace Entry-Level
If you’ve been away from the workplace for a really long time–a couple years or more–you might need to prepare yourself to take a bit of a pay cut from your last job. Depending on the industry you’re in, the landscape can change drastically in just a few years, and you could find yourself needing to play catchup a little bit.
This might mean taking entry-level positions, looking into internships that will help you get your feet back under you, and even undergoing some educational training in order to get up to speed.
Even so, if you are looking for software engineering jobs and your interviewer found out that you have the skill set of a pro, they might consider taking you to a higher position.
When people get back to work, there are often financial concerns that crop up during that time away. Especially if you had health concerns or a major life event happen, you might be in over your head a little bit with financial considerations. If you’re in debt, or having a hard time making ends meet, you need to make sure that you get your financial situation well in hand during the job searching process. You might need to work a couple jobs in order to get ahead. Financial troubles can put a lot of extra stress on you while you start a new job. Have a plan set forth with any creditors you might have, and avoid, whenever possible, unwise financial moves like payday loans and appliance rentals with exorbitant interest rates. This link has some useful tips for getting finances under control after a majorly up-ending life event.
Utilize References and Inside Tips
If you have friends and connections that give you an in into the job that you want, then you should do whatever you can to leverage them. Having a gap in employment might mean that people are less likely to trust you and your work ethic. However, you can neutralize this risk by having someone close by who can vouch for you. Knowing people who are already inside of the company really can be what makes the difference between unemployment and a job that you love. So, when you’re ready to search for jobs, send out a call and ask your contacts what they can do to help. Have people that you can call on for written references, or background check calls.