Returning to Work After a Hiatus: What's Ending and Way's to Prepare for New Beginnings


We all take breaks, planned or unplanned, and sometimes they can last quite some time.  The transition back into the workforce after a hiatus or time away can be thrilling, rewarding, yet challenging in new and different ways than you might expect. It can be returning to work after a multi-year period of child rearing, after some time of a traditional "retirement" or after a period of retraining and reeducation.  Understanding, preparing for, and processing in important ways will save you time, energy, and headaches down the road.  I've spent some time researching and thinking about what's unique about this transition and here are some of my results.

What's Ending

Not all "return to work" scenario's have common endings but they'll all have one or several of the following.  It's important to understand the circumstances, experiences, routines, and organizing factors in your daily life that will be changing as they will be a part of the biggest change in your mental and emotional attitudes around the transition.

  • A relatively unstructured schedule
    • While you may schedule activities, recurring tasks or meetups, etc. in the big picture you'll be changing for "your structure" to an organizations structure for the most part.
  • High autonomy circumstances
    • Similar to the structure of your schedule, you're autonomy will likely go down or at least change it's orientation. Even when reentering the workforce after child rearing or higher education experiences, which have their own unique demands, these still have at their basis (not all cases of course) a schedule and circumstances that are largely up to you and the discipline you bring to them.
  • A You focused purpose (even with dependents)
    • This is one of the biggest shocks people experience.  The "why" of the use of their time, talents, and attention shifts with the addition of a new organizations purpose in their new work.  Even if you're starting a new venture of your own, this mindset is a big transition for many.
  • Task orientation
    • Likely will change from tasks being a primary focus to goal or outcomes oriented.  Businesses and organizations, whether a retail store or a Fortune 500 manufacturer will have their resources, time, and focuses aligned to goals and outcomes that may come today or in the distant future.  This kind of ambiguity can make this shift uncomfortable if unanticipated.

How to Prepare for New Beginnings

What comes after you transition back into the work world will largely be up to the duties, responsibilities, and outcomes required for your new venture.  However, you can prepare for all of them in a few important ways:

  • Commitment 
    • The first person you'll have to convince this is the right thing to do and important is yourself.  If you're not 100% committed, as is pretty obvious, you're going to have a hard go of it
  •  Self-Improvement
    • This grey area of your new transition is a perfect time to plan ahead and work on several self-improvement goals.  These projects will help you ease into a more scheduled routine, build confidence, and potentially, if you so choose, build out marketable skills that will benefit your new venture or organization you'll work for.  Take some online courses from organizations like which are Design focused, useful in really any career, or find online or person classes in your area in skills needed in your new venture.  Read various books in the new field or to brush up on skills that may have gotten a bit rusty.
  • Clearly Define Your Desired Outcomes
    • Returning to work can be for many reason: income, stimulation of all kinds, or having a newly revived social setting, digging a little here and defining your outcomes will help you keep your eye on the prize and stay focuses through the new starts and inevitable swings that will come along with beginning your next stage.
  • Do a skills/capabilities inventory and brush up that resume
    • Even if you already have a venture planned or new job landed, doing some detailed review of your background, experiences, skills and capabilities will be extremely valuable for several reasons.  It can be a huge confidence builder and refresher on what you can accomplish as well as your value in the marketplace.  It can also give you the reference info for when you start talking to your new organization or networking in preparation for your return.  Rebooting and refreshing the key skills and capabilities will be important for your venture or jobs success but will maintain your momentum for ensuring you're prepared to start with your feet moving!
    • If you have the money, pay for some time with a career coach or consultant.  They can help you do this inventory, match it to desired job markets, and brush up that resume to a high polish.  Matt at Career Horizons comes highly recommended (if you're in the Seattle, WA area).  I haven't used him myself but I trust the source!

Getting back into working and focusing on a productive venture is an important transition but many don't plan in a holistic way.  Doing some simple preparations can be a huge help to work into it and get some great momentum for success.  Contact Me if you need help with this kind of preparation or if you'd like a big picture strategic roadmap to boost your confidence to the extreme!