Stepping away from the workplace isn’t always an easy choice. Sometimes, it’s not even an intentional one. You may have been dealing with the responsibility of looking after a family member, recovering from your own ailments, returning from maternity leave, or coming back from unemployment.
The decision to take time out is not always within your control, but how you approach your return back to work is. Check out these tips for heading back into the workforce in a proactive and positive way.
If you’re still in touch with your boss while on leave, the key is “open communication, both ways,” says SEEK HR Manager Rebecca Supierz. She recommends staying in contact with your employer and if possible, setting up a contact plan with them and discussing how much you’d like to be kept in the loop.
“Sometimes heading in for a coffee with your manager or a couple of colleagues can reduce the nerves associated with stepping back into the workplace,” Rebecca adds. It will also help you understand any changes that may have impacted your role while you’ve been away.
Whether you’ve been out of the office for a short period or a good deal longer, feelings of disconnection are bound to crop up, as well as a sense of anxiety about returning. These emotions are to be expected when you’ve been away from the employment game; so now more than ever, be kind to yourself. Be realistic about the time it will take to get back up to speed but don’t beat yourself up about it either.
“Be open with your manager about how you’re feeling and coping with the transition and discuss a transition plan – especially if you are worried about your skills being out of date or out of practice,” suggests Rebecca. It’s also worth considering whether you can return to your role part-time, before building up to full capacity.
If you’re returning to the workforce with a new employer, or are still on the lookout for a job, don’t be afraid to share why you’ve been out of action, in a simple and straightforward way. If you do get asked in an interview why you’ve been on leave, Rebecca says honesty is the best way to approach this question.
“Nearly every employer is looking for a genuine person, so there’s no point making a story up,” she stresses. “In preparation, practise explaining the reasons you’ve taken a break.”
Don’t feel like you have to share every detail, and focus on the reasons why you’re ready to work again. Sometimes, it’s the lessons learned while out of the office that give you the fresh perspectives and different skill-sets an employer is looking for.
Before you head back into the workforce, go online and see what’s been happening in your industry and if there’s a way to upskill at home before heading back to work. This will bring your knowledge back up-to-date, as well as boost your confidence along the way. Read more about how you can stay up to date in your field.
If you’re re-entering the workforce again it’s the perfect opportunity to broaden your skill set and earn a new qualification to strengthen yourself as a candidate on the job market - particularly if there’s been any major changes in technology or regulations in your industry.
Studies have shown that work helps improve your self-esteem and confidence. The best way you can actually prepare to re-enter the workforce is to stay positive about whatever challenges may come your way. Remember, your colleagues, friends and family are there to help.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, take the time to reacquaint yourself, readjust and look at your return to work as a step in the right direction.