9 Tips for successfully returning to the workforce


Have you taken time off from work or your career to have your kids, take care of your family, recover from an illness, study or simply have a break?

Are you now considering returning to the workforce, to either pick up where you left off or forge a new career path?

But you don’t know where to start, or feel overwhelmed by the prospect?

Here are some top tips to ensure a successful transition back to the workforce.

1. Get in the right mindset

As with anything in life, having the right mindset can be the difference between success and disappointment.

  • Be confident of who you are, what it is you want, and what you can bring to a new role/business.
  • Be realistic with your expectations, particularly if this is your first time back to work after having your kids. Consider for example how much time you are prepared to commit to a new job/career balanced with time you would still like to have with your family.
  • Be clear about your objectives.
  • Be open-minded and flexible about your options.
  • Have the courage to follow your passion and instincts, and trust in your decision-making.

2. Identify your assets

Write a list of your strengths and the specific skill set you have in a job/business context. Break these down into ‘hard skills’ (such as business development, website design, business analyst) and ‘soft skills’ (such as proactive, driven, strong attention to detail).

By doing this, it not only is a great confidence booster and reminder of what you have to offer, but it also can help you to know your value.

3. Address your gaps

We all have them…. they’re what we call ‘areas needing improvement’.

Identify what these are in an objective manner. Then look at ways you can address these gaps, e.g. retraining, refreshing if you have been out of the game for some time, upskilling, how this might be of benefit in a different context.

4. Decide what you want

The career that interests you, full-time or part-time, employee or contractor or business owner, how many hours a week you would like to work, paid or voluntary work, salary expectations, the level of entry you would be prepared to accept, the size of the organisation, a back office or more hands-on people-oriented role.

These are just some of the important things to consider and decide upon.

5. Returning to a previous employer

If you are returning to your previous employer in a different capacity, e.g. part-time role or your role has changed, then make sure you are clear about your responsibilities, your expectations and their expectations regarding performance, how this may affect your career path and future promotional opportunities and any other relevant considerations. This may be a big adjustment for you as you return to new faces, new bosses, possibly a different physical environment, updated practices and policies, new responsibilities and working hours so be prepared for this and adjust your expectations and mindset accordingly. It may take time to ease back in as you balance being back at work again with family life so don’t be too hard on yourself if you find it difficult to settle back in initially.

Make sure you keep an open channel of communication with your manager or someone you trust within the organisation who you can speak to if any issues arise. Often part of the stress of returning to work after time off can be due to the uncertainty so having clarity around any changes in your role will not only help manage expectations on both sides, but also will make it easier if you need to open a dialogue around any potential issues – for example, if you feel you are treated differently, what could be done to make you feel more valued and give you the responsibilitiy you would like to have.

6. Set goals

Set S.M.A.R.T. goals – short term, medium term (the next 3 years), and long term (the next 5 years). Note what you will need to do to achieve these goals, track your progress, set mini milestones and celebrate the achievement of each of them.

By setting goals, this keeps you on track towards your objectives, enables you to be more proactive, provides accountability and minimises the chance of you ending up in a role that you don’t like or that might not be a good fit.

Click here to read more about S.M.A.R.T. goals.

7. Put together an action plan

If you are applying for a job – update your resume, research the organisations you would be interested in working for, identify the job opportunities, put together a tailored covering letter and resume for each role, send out your applications, track the progress of each and note in your schedule to follow up your application.

Or if you are setting up your own business – put together your business plan, set specific timeframes and objectives, action them, review and reassess periodically.

8. Find the right support network

Having a supportive group of successful individuals around you who motivate, inspire, encourage and even mentor and guide you is important. Draw from their experiences and learnings. Why reinvent the wheel? Your time is your money.

For some, it might be helpful to enlist the guidance of a career coach, career planner or career counsellor to only benefit from their expertise, but as someone to be accountable to.

9. Be persistent and committed

Finding the right job or career for you, and making the transition back into the workforce takes time as most significant changes do. Once you are clear on your expectations, outcomes and action plan, commit to it, be persistent and dedicate yourself to the cause, as it will be well worth it in the end.

Finally, ask yourself this –

  • How much is being in a job or career that you LOVE, ENJOY and find FULFILLING worth to you?
  • What would it mean to you and those you love around you?
  • How would you feel once you had it?
  • What difference would it make to your life?

Drawing upon her extensive coaching, business, corporate, recruitment and life experience, Mimi's passion is to help women who struggle with negativity and self-doubt to break the cycle of unhappiness, reclaim their confidence, and go from surviving to THRIVING in all areas of their life. She does this by sharing her many years of experience personally coaching and mentoring women and through her online programs. Mimi teaches these women practical strategies and techniques, and proven tools to reprogram the way that they think to feel confident, happier and in control again without feeling overwhelmed.