Career breaks aren't what they used to be. Most of the things you may be doing to prepare for a return to work could include things like updating your LinkedIn page, freshening up your wardrobe and reconnecting with colleagues. These are all good steps to take.

However, if you’re like most “career returners,” the real questions swirling around in your head are hard to say out loud, much less answer. This might include things like:

  • Am I still talented enough to get the job I want?  
  • Are my skills too out of date?  
  • Will hiring managers use my career break against me?  
  • Why didn’t I get the job I applied for?  
  • Should I even go back to work at all? 

Rejoining the workplace can be a daunting process. But it can also be rewarding and exciting. Here’s what you really need to know.  

Returning to work: You’re not alone 

Think a career break makes you an outlier? Think again: 62% of employees worldwide have already taken a career break and 84% of millennials plan to take one in the future. As a result, today’s companies are starting to notice that breaks are a normal—and often healthy—part of life. For example, LinkedIn now has a “Career Break” feature that allows you to treat your break like a job (providing details and accomplishments), so you can avoid awkward gaps on your resume. 

Turn your career break into an advantage  

In the past, a career break might have been viewed as a red flag. But, today, a break can be a value add for employers. So, don’t be embarrassed and don’t apologize. Instead, be honest and try to make your break a positive part of your career trajectory.

Take inventory of all the things you did in your time away from work, what you learned, and how you can apply it to your next role. Then, during interviews, talk to prospective employers about the skills you gained during your break—whether you were multi-tasking as a parent or caregiver, navigating complex health issues, or learning about other cultures while traveling the world. If you were laid off, talk about things like gaining resilience or learning new things while on the job hunt. 

In the end, you might just realize that hiring managers are looking for people just like you. The LinkedIn study also found

  • 74% of people who have taken a career break believe employers valued the skills they gained while not working 
  • 50% of hiring managers believe people returning from a career break have often gained valuable soft skills
  • 46% of hiring managers feel that candidates with career breaks are an untapped talent pool

You’re in charge of your career choices 

You may not get every job you apply for, but you can control the kinds of jobs you take. Just because you had a career break, doesn’t mean you have to settle for an unfulfilling role. Define what you want and need from your next position, by thinking about these three things:  

  1. What’s motivating you to rejoin the workforce, and what’s most important for you to be happy in a job?Prioritize what’s most important: high salary, work location, prestige, security, flexibility, challenging work, work you love, etc. 
  2. What’s your idea of a “successful career” now, noting it might have changed during your time away? For example: Maybe success used to be becoming an executive, but now it’s more about making a difference. Perhaps travel wasn’t possible earlier in your career, but you’re open to it now. 
  3. What would you secretly love to do? Examine which parts of your past roles were most enjoyable and why. Then think about what kinds of work you’re most interested in today. 

When you put the answers to these three questions down on paper, you’re creating your ideal job description. When you consider a role you might take, measure it against your list. Does the job meet most of your criteria? If not, consider giving it a pass.

Take the opportunity to try something new 

Often “career returners” try to find a job similar to what they had previously because it feels safe and achievable. While that’s completely valid choice, don’t be afraid to step out of your “job comfort zone.” 

When you come back from a career break, you have an opportunity to try something new—a new industry, a new role, or a new kind of career. For example, you could ease the transition back to the workforce with a remote job, instead of an office job. The possibilities are endless. 

Activate your network 

While searching job boards online is part of any job search, getting the word out among your own contacts is key. Reach out to friends, family, former colleagues and clients to let them know not just that you’re available, but what type of roles you’re seeking. 

Personal connections are a time-tested method to finding a job, but if your community doesn’t know you’re looking—and that you’re looking for something different than before—they can’t keep an eye out for you. Your network is a force multiplier for your job search, so spread the word about your goals.

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Stay confident—job rejections are not a measure of your worth 

Nobody likes rejection but the reality is, you’ll probably get a few in your job hunt. Researchers from Joblist found that before getting hired, “successful applicants had applied for anywhere from 11 to 15 jobs and received between six and 10 rejections.” This number can be higher, depending on the kind of positions you’re seeking. 

Also according to Joblist, “The average respondent started losing confidence in themselves after the fifth rejection and about 64% ended up pivoting on the type of job they were applying for after losing their confidence."

Don’t take rejections personally. It’s a normal part of the process, and it's not really about you or your skills. There’s a good fit for you out there. 

Your career next could be better than ever 

Finding the next chapter in your career can be stressful, but it’s worth the effort. For many people, the job they get after a break often marks a new evolution in their lives—with interesting work they would have never done before. Sure, it takes some time to settle into a new job, but your career might be more rewarding than ever.   

Want a flexible, rewarding career? Consider Korn Ferry Interim 

If you want to design a career on your terms, becoming an interim professional might be right for you. With interim engagements, you have the flexibility to choose when, where, and how much you work.

Join the Interim Network or review available jobs today.