Re-Entering the Workforce by Andi B.

Many women (and an increasing number of men) decide to put their careers on hold from time to time. The most common reason for doing this is to become a full- time parent after a new baby joins the family. Other reasons include taking time off to care for an ailing parent, going back to school to pursue a degree, starting a home business, or taking an extended leave due to stress or illness.

Regardless of the reason, people who have put their careers on hold often make the decision to re-enter the workforce.

If they have been away from the workforce for a significant period of time, they may be at a disadvantage when they try to resume their career. Their values may have changed due to their nonworking lifestyle; their skills may not be as sharp due to lack of practice; technological advances may even have caused their once sought-after skills to become obsolete.

There's also the issue of lack of self-confidence, as people desiring to re- enter the workforce consider those and other roadblocks now in their path. But all is not lost. Here are six steps that will make re-entering the workforce easier.

1. Decide what's most important. People who have been away from a regular job for a while may find it difficult to get back into the rat race. It can be dissatisfying to get a job, be there a few months, and then realize it's no longer something they want to do. They should consider various options, and make sure that resuming their career is the right path before heading in that direction.

2. Be picky. This could be the perfect time to think about new career options, instead of just going back to what was done before. People re-entering the workforce might want to think about other jobs - perhaps what they always wanted to try before they got tied down to a specific job. Accepting temporary or freelance work would be a good way to experiment with new fields and opportunities.

3. Be realistic. People who have been out of the job market for a while must realize that significant changes may have occurred - in themselves, in the career field, in the competition. It may be unrealistic to think a career that has been put on hold can now be resumed without taking a step back on the career ladder. People who were once mid-managers may now need to consider entry-level positions.

4. Brush up on skills. People who have become "outdated" should do whatever is necessary to become marketable again (especially in highly technical fields). They can do this by taking classes, doing volunteer work, asking for assistance and coaching.

5. Be positive and enthusiastic. Yes, there are obstacles, but it's important to focus on the advantages. People re-entering the workforce have experience, skills and knowledge that make them more desirable candidates than those entering the workforce for the first time. To regain confidence and a positive attitude, they should focus on those strengths while updating their resumes and preparing for job interviews.

6. Use connections. Often the best way to re-enter the workforce is to contact former bosses and colleagues, and use networking to find out where the opportunities are.

Re-entering the workforce can be a challenge, but it's one that can be overcome. Having a plan and being prepared will help to make the re-entry a successful and rewarding experience.

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