Try these 12 easy steps, sure to help you transition back into the workforce after a career break.

STEP 1:  Make sure you are ready.

Why are you going back to work? Is it to do the same thing or something different, perhaps because your interests or priorities have shifted? How much do you want to work — full time, part time? Use this worksheet to be clear about how you want to work.

This is a key first step to take before focusing on your job search.

STEP 2: Give yourself plenty of time.

Unless you need to go back to work immediately for financial reasons, start your process well in advance of when you think you will be ready to work (we think six months is good). Realize it can take months to find a job (on average it takes 16 weeks).

  • Set benchmarks and goals during this period. What will you accomplish in month one, month two, etc.?
  • Giving yourself time also will help you know what you need to work on if you have been out for some time. Do you need to take a class? Does it make sense to attend a conference related to the industry you’re interested in? Should you consider hiring a career or life coach?
STEP 3: Craft your story and practice it out loud.

What will you tell someone if they ask what you have been doing “while not working” and what you are looking to do — and why? If you’ve been focused on being a mom, how will you talk about this? Be prepared to answer “why now?” is the right time to be looking for work. Craft your story, own it and be confident.

STEP 4: Work your network.

Set up casual coffees and lunches with old colleagues or friends who may have good insight, or who have made the back to work transition. Tell them you’re starting the process of going back to work and what you are interested in doing — they may have good suggestions and likely are very willing to help.

STEP 5: Tell anyone who will listen that you are ready to head back. 

You never know who is listening and can help. My mom’s career was relaunched when someone at another lunch table heard her talking about the stock market. Maybe try the soccer sidelines? Realize that the playground is the new old boy’s club, with lots of networking opportunity — you can extend that concept to the soccer, basketball (name your kid’s sport) sidelines.

STEP 6: Polish your LinkedIn profile.

Not only do you need a resume, you need a LinkedIn profile. This can be a more concise version of your resume. Here’s a good guide and also advice on handling a career break. Take the time each day to grow your connections and be active on LinkedIn, either liking other’s posts or even sharing and writing posts relevant to the areas you’re interested in.

STEP 7: Update your resume.

Resumes have changed since you worked. Trust us. Read our Resume Tips section for the latest on trends in resumes, and suggestions on making yours look great.

  • Ask a friend in the working world to send you a copy of her resume, or better yet, a copy of a resume of someone recently hired. You can also browse and download the resume templates in Google Docs and pick one that fits your industry best.
  • Find someone to review whatever you write. Everyone needs an editor.
  • Hire a professional resume writer. This might cost a few hundred dollars but is totally worth it if it brings your resume into the modern world, helps you emphasize your skills, and helps you get a job.
  • Here’s a good Forbes post on how to write a cover letter if you need one.
STEP 8: Get social — develop or clean up your online presence.

It’s key to getting a job these days and should represent the best of you. Use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram — whatever medium suits you best — to show that you are thinking about the industry you care about. Tweeting and blogging are a great force-function for something else you should do, which is to refresh yourself on what’s happening in your industry. You may also want to clean up your social accounts — use this tool.

STEP 9: Know the tech trends.

Are you familiar with popular communication tools used in corporate America? Slack, Trello, Google Docs/Drive, Microsoft Office 365, Dropbox, Box, Salesforce, Skype, just to name a few… If not, take the time to Google each and understand them.

STEP 10: Prepare for an interview.

Our career coaches offer a lot of advice in their posts that you can work with, but be sure to practice out loud with a friend or family member. You may also need to prepare for a video interview and to make sure you have the necessary tools and a good set up that presents you well.

STEP 11: Consider a returnship.

Think of this like an internship for the post-college crowd. We have some listed on our site, but you could consider calling a company that is advertising internship positions and suggesting this kind of situation. Wouldn’t it be great for them to get someone with your experience?

STEP 12: Think through your family’s transition.

Going back to work is a big change for you and likely a big change for your family. Make sure you feel comfortable about any childcare support you might need, prepping your kids for the working mom in their life, and enlisting your family’s support. Without these components in place you are likely to be distracted, worried or stretched too thin.

Additional Resources:

+ Take our Return to Work Workshop series led by career and executive coaches for a more personalized approach to navigating a return to work. You’ll get access to our monthly live Q&A’s, also hosted by career coaches.

+ Read Your Turn: Careers, Kids and Comebacks–A Working Mother’s Guide, written by US!

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