Transitioning back to work after an extended break

Christie Mims is a career coach and founder of The Revolutions Club. (Courtesy of Christie Mims)

Christie Mims, special to

WASHINGTON – A new baby. A family emergency. A bad economy.

There are many reasons why you might take a break from your job (or your career) for a period of time. Sometimes the break is planned, sometimes it’s an unexpected surprise, but either way there are always things you can do to make the transition back to work easier on you and your family.

If you take a break from your regular day job and go on extended leave:

The most important thing to remember while you are away is to keep in touch. The tendency is to vanish, returning once or twice to show off a new baby or catch up. But out of sight equals out of mind, which means not only are you out of the loop, you are off the company radar, and that can impact you on your return.

Fight the temptation to disappear, and hone in on what is important: keeping your “in-office” network warm. Quick coffees or the occasional chat with a co-worker is a great way to keep abreast of news, events and changes that might affect you when you return to work.

However, don’t hesitate to take it a step further. As the time nears for you to return, have lunch or coffee with your boss and catch up on any developments in the office that may be important. It’s also a chance to talk about your role and any changes that may be in store for you. Remind your boss of your dedication to the office, and set expectations for your work schedule if you are a new parent or have unusual circumstances.

Forewarned is forearmed!

If you have been out of work or laid-off:

When you have been out of the workforce for a while on an unplanned leave, make sure you do a few things. First, keep on top of events in your industry. Read the newspaper and relevant publications, and keep your knowledge up-to-date.

You can then refer to that time out of work as one of personal growth and development, and you will be cognizant of the latest trends, events and challenges when you are applying and interviewing for jobs. This effort will show employers that you are engaged and proactive — both great traits in any employee.

The second thing to do is keep your network warm, and don’t fall into the trap of spending too much time alone, applying to jobs from the safety of your home. Get out and talk to people.

Spend time turning online connections into in-person connections (people are more willing to help those they have a personal connection to — not just an email address), and talk not just about jobs, but about company culture. Find out what you might be walking into in a new organization so you are not surprised by policy or strict expectations (Yahoo, anyone?) when you return to work.

Finally, talk to your family, and get their support. If you are returning from a workforce break make sure your employer understands what changes may be in store, how that will impact day-to-day activities and that you have a plan in place for emergencies. Having a strong support network makes any career transition (and your life!) far far easier.

Christie Mims is a career coach and founder of the coaching service The Revolutionary Club. Find resources, support and advice from Christie on Follow her on Twitter @RevolutionsClub.

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