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7 Steps for Reentering the Workforce

Whether you’ve been raising children, caring for family members, or simply taking some time off, it’s exciting to start dreaming about doing work you love again (plus bringing home a paycheck!).

It’s also intimidating to step back into the workforce when you feel rusty. Fear starts to creep in. Doubt whispers in your ear: Your skills aren’t relevant anymore. You don’t measure up to those kids in their 20s.

Folks, let’s bring those fears out into the light and smash them! Sure, time has passed—but that doesn’t change the fact that you were created to fulfill a unique role. It’s time to get after it.

If you’re thinking about reentering the workforce, follow these seven steps for a smooth transition:

Step 1: Clarify what you want to do.

Before you do anything else, let’s make sure you know what job you want to pursue if you’re returning to work.

This is a great opportunity to discover or rediscover your sweet spot: where your talents, your passions and your mission intersect. To start brainstorming, make a list of:

  • Your talents: What are some of your gifts or strengths that you recognize and that others point out in you?
  • Your passions: What causes, people groups or problems get you fired up?
  • Your mission: What kind of work environment is important to you? What results do you want your work to produce?

Once you’ve made those lists, share them with a few people you love and trust who will be honest with you. Ask them if there’s anything missing from the list or if there’s anything on the list that maybe shouldn’t be on it.

Finally, use those three lists to start brainstorming potential careers that involve using your talents, passions and mission. If you need help nailing those down, try my free Career Clarity Guide. It's a worksheet that will help you get clear on who you are so that you can take bold steps toward the work you were made to do.

Step 2: Figure out your timeline.

Now that you have a good idea of what you want to do, make a plan for when you’re going to do it.

It doesn’t matter if you’re ready to go back to work today or if you’re a year out. You need to have an idea of when you’ll be reentering the workforce so you can have a solid plan in place. Knowing your timeline will help you figure out how much time you have to make connections and potentially learn a new skill.

Step 3: Brush up your skills and research your industry.

Change happens quickly these days. You might need to brush up your hard skills so you can maintain a competitive edge as you head back to the career world. Here are a few practical ideas:

  • Research the professional organizations you want to be a part of.
  • Attend a workshop or community event in your field.
  • Ask former colleagues to coffee and get their insight on how things have changed.
  • Look for an online course to help you relearn a skill (or learn a new one!).
  • Read the most current books and articles about your industry.
  • Join a Facebook or LinkedIn group dedicated to your field and start getting to know the members.
  • If you need any licenses or certifications for your dream job, figure out how to apply for or renew them.

Even if you don’t go back to school, the internet offers almost infinite access to information that will help you get the education you need.

Step 4: Work your connections.

The best opportunities in life come through people. And get this—your first job back in the workforce might come through someone you haven’t even met yet! If you network the right way, you can create a strong web of connections that will open doors you didn’t even know existed. This is how it’s done:

  • Tell your inner circle (your closest friends and family) about what you want to do.
  • Ask your inner circle to think of people they know or places they have access to that they’re willing to connect you with.
  • Make a list of any other contacts you can think of, like former coworkers, classmates, neighbors and church members.
  • Finally, actually connect with these people. It doesn’t have to be formal, but it does have to be in person.

Keep working your plan—overturning one rock at a time—until you start to gain momentum that leads you to the right position.

Step 5: Craft the perfect resumé. 

If you’ve been at home for a while, you might be worried about the resumé gap—that big ole blank that represents your years at home. But here’s the good news: You can write a resumé to make your talent the main feature, not your timeline.

You deserve to win at work. Our new book and assessment will show you how.

Download my resumé guide for step-by-step instructions for the perfect resumé, which shines a spotlight on the things that matter most in the hiring process: your connections, your qualifications and your mission.

It’s time to rethink everything you know about writing a resumé. Follow this simple guide and get noticed before you even walk in the door.

Step 6: Prepare for your interviews.

If you’ve been a stay-at-home parent for a while, you might not feel super confident about getting back in the game—especially the interviews! So, how do you boost your confidence? Through relentless preparation. Here’s how to prepare to ace your interviews (and calm those feelings of anxiety):

Before the Interview

Take some time to write out your answers to the most common interview questions. And write some of your own questions down too! Make sure to choose an interview outfit that’s appropriate for the company and position.

During the Interview

Take a deep breath. It’s game time! During the interview, be honest and confident about what you bring to the table. Make it clear that you’re ready to learn and to do what it takes to catch up on what you might have missed over the past few years.

After the Interview       

Set yourself apart from other candidates by following up after the interview and thanking them for their time. This small act can leave a big impression. Check out my interview follow-up guide for a specific timeline on when and how to communicate.

Step 7: Be persistent.

Landing your dream job takes time, perseverance and patience—especially as you reenter the workforce. It won’t happen overnight. Be prepared to hear “no” a few times. But those closed doors are just signposts on your journey to your calling. When you need encouragement, surround yourself with the friends and family who mean the most to you and can help you stay focused and energized.

You were created to fulfill a unique role. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. And you have what it takes. Keep pushing, press on, and you will figure things out.

From Paycheck to Purpose

Whether you’re stuck somewhere along the ladder, or you’re stuck in a nine-to-five that just pays the bills, it’s time to stop settling for another paycheck and find real purpose in the work you love. This brand-new book from America’s Career Coach and #1 national bestselling author Ken Coleman gives you the game plan to reach your career goals.

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Ken Coleman

About the author

Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman is the author of the national bestselling book From Paycheck to Purpose and the #1 national bestseller The Proximity Principle. He hosts The Ken Coleman Show, a caller-driven show that helps listeners find the work they’re wired to do. Ken also co-hosts The Ramsey Show, the second-largest talk radio show in America, and makes regular appearances on Fox News and Fox Business. Through his speaking, broadcasting and syndicated columns, Ken gives people expert advice, providing strategic steps to get clear on their unique purpose and grow professionally. Learn More.

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