Opting out of the workplace with the intent of returning to work later is a common choice made by many who want or need to take time off during their careers. But opting out should not mean completely disconnecting yourself from your career; doing this will make the transition back to the workplace much more challenging than it has to be. At Mom Corps, we know that it is essential to have a plan in place to keep your foot in the door during those gap years. No matter how little or how much time you take off, there are ways you can prepare yourself now for your return to work later. Here are three key steps to help you on your journey.
Do Your Due Diligence
While you are away from the workplace, it is important to make every effort to keep on top of the latest news and trends in your field. Explore the internet to identify and list companies that interest you; then browse positions of interest and note the types of experience and skills companies are seeking. If you need to get more training to keep up with the trends, take advantage of free online learning sources such as iTunes, TED and YouTube, or participate in an online course (many of which are free) offered by coursera.com, lynda.com, iTunes U and EdX. The better informed you are, the more confident you will be in your abilities.
Tap Into Your Network
Your network of friends and colleagues, past and present, is an indispensable source of information and support. Stay connected with everyone you know by keeping your LinkedIn account updated. Don’t be shy to reach out to your network. Focus on those who have made the transition back to work to find out how they did it, what worked for them and how the transition has been. Former colleagues may have gone elsewhere and could be great sources for new job opportunities when the time is right. Make a habit of scheduling lunch meetings with individuals from your network and consider meeting someone outside your typical circles for coffee. Maintaining and expanding your network is crucial to staying in the loop.
Use your time wisely by considering strategic volunteering, which is work that would be included on a resume, you would talk about in an interview, and is an opportunity to expand your network. Whether it is chairing a school auction or managing a project for a charity, upon completing the project, make sure to show the results of your volunteering on your resume by identifying what the project accomplished and what your contribution was. Doing at least one strategic project a year will keep your skills fresh and will enhance your resume.
By adopting these practices, setting goals and dedicating time each month toward developing your future professional self, you will be in a much better position when the time comes to return to the workplace, even if that is still a few years out.