10 Expert Tips on Going Back to Work

You used to be so confident, successful in your career, juggling life responsibilities and bringing home a paycheck. But then came a career break, an extended period of time where, for family or other reasons, you left the full-time workforce. Now there is a gap in your resume and a sense of professional unease has crept into that opening but you want to go back to work.

How to restart your career

Carol Fishman Cohen and Vivian Steir Rabin, the founders of IRelaunch,  the back-to-work organization, have been there.  It is easy to forget when watching these two high-energy, confident professionals lay out a step by step plan of how to return to work, that as the mothers of a combined nine children they have walked the walk.How to restart your career

Cohen and Rabin have researched and written a smart book on the subject Back on the Career Track: A Guide for Stay-at-Home Moms Who Want to Return to Work but far more than that, they are two moms who each took extended career breaks and came back roaring. Rabin refers to her time off as “reproductive hibernation” and admits that during her cave years she lost all touch with her professional life and contacts.  She and Cohen realized that they were pioneers in a growing demographic, parents who had left the workforce only to return in midlife, their skills out of date and their confidence dented.

The professional return to work cohort is huge, by iRelaunch’s estimate nearly two million strong, and from an employer’s perspective relaunchers are an attractive hire with maternity leave behind them, fewer spousal relocations, a mature perspective and an abundance of energy and enthusiasm.

Here are ten tips from the IRelaunch experts that we gleaned after attending their recent NYC conference:

1. Don’t apologize for your time away.  Rather, show how you have recently honed your skills and taken leadership roles outside of the paid workplace.

2. You were smart and capable before your career break and you still are.  No matter how hard or daunting this may seem, it is easier than some of the really hard things you have done in your life.

3. Treat getting a job as a job. Get up early, get dressed in something that says purpose, spend seven hours a day on constructive job seeking activity.

How to restart your career

4. You may be working with people who are much younger than you or who never took time away from the workforce. Get over it.

5. Do not underestimate the value of your core skills.  Your value to an employer before you left was not simply a body of knowledge or a list of clients. Your core competencies, be they analytic skills, leadership, sales ability, are all still there and remain an asset.  Remind yourself of that and then make it sure it appears on your resume.

6. Get talking.  Practice what you are going to say to interviewers with people who like you, will be nice to you and will give you realistic feedback.

7. Get out of the sweatpants, tee shirts and anything else that makes you look like someone who is not serious about work.  You need to get out of the house and meet people and when an opportunity arises, even if it at the grocery store, you need to look like you are ready for it.

8. Interviewing may require new clothing and, for once, you can justify shopping as an investment. Enjoy.

9. Jobs do not come to people sitting behind a computer screen simply filling out forms.  Jobs come from informational interviews, from talking to friends and acquaintances about their companies and from volunteering in organizations that soon realize that they cannot live without you.

10. Look for jobs in unexpected places and remain open to where your skills stack up. The world has changed even in the short time that you may have been out of the job market, keep your mind open to opportunities you might never have thought of before.

IRelaunch is a multi platform back-to-work strategy organization.  Through years of study and interviews, Cohen and Rabin have co-authored a book and developed a website, webinars, coaching circles and a series of highly successful conferences.  The founders and their staff are passionate about helping women return to the right job.

Over half of the iRelaunch conference participants returned to work within a year of attending the conference and attributed their success to strategies learned at the iRelaunch conference.  Cohen and Rabin have run the conference fourteen times. At each conference there are  nearly three hundred women who all look like they are on a client visit for JP Morgan or McKinsey.  Even if you’re not walking into, or out of one of those places, it is a real shot in the arm to be in this sophisticated, engaged and insanely smart group and to hear that their stories are just like yours.

iRelaunch has just published a comprehensive list of back to work programs that is a great place to start.



  1. happyoutlook says

    This post gives me lots to think about. I especially love the suggestion to: Get out of the sweatpants, tee shirts and anything else that makes you look like someone who is not serious about work. Thanks for all the great info on iReLaunch!

    • says

      iRelaunch is such a rich resource for anyone looking to reenter the workforce that we were thrilled to attend the conference and write about what we observed.

    • says

      Opportunity knocks in the strangest places and if your are looking for a job, best to probably ditch the sweat pants and tee shirts. They were not suggesting running around the neighborhood in a dress and heels, just taking it up a notch from the sweatpants.

  2. Jennifer Comet Wagner says

    Great advice. I went through this years ago and it was scary.

    • says

      Think it can be really scary. But by listening to others, webinars, a book, and a conference there are resources to provide guidance. I bet you were great!

  3. says

    Yes, it’s absolutely easy to stay in the jammies all day!! I’m back at work and long for the old days, though.;-)))) well …sometimes. Not always!

  4. says

    I like the suggestion about looking for jobs in unexpected places. I am found many opportunities in life that way.

    • says

      It is so important to keep in mind. SO many people find job opportunities through a friend of a friend or something similar.

  5. says

    Great advice. Just plain getting away from the computer and out there is important. I found that volunteering can make a big difference, not only because it adds to your skill set, volunteers are often offered the permanent positions within an organization. My most recent position came that way.

    • says

      And the benefits of volunteering go both ways. The organization gets a good look at you and vice versa.

  6. says

    Great tips. Talking to everyone you know really helps. So many jobs are found this way of casual networking.

  7. says

    It is scary thinking about entering the work force as a middle aged woman. It’s nice to know there are others facing the same fears, and resources to help them.

    • says

      Really scary, that is why we found this conference so compelling. So many women in the same position and so many amazing success stories for inspiration and guidance.

  8. says

    I thought that this was a really great post. After 9/11 rocked my world (I had worked at the WTC for 16 years and we lived downtown with our two little ones prior to the attack), I decided that I was done with the corporate world, dinners out and too much travel. It took me a while to get settled in another career closer to home, but I can honestly say that this one is even more satifsying that my previous. It can be done, even if you are not a 30 something…

    • says

      Great encouragement. So many of us feel that by taking time off or changing career paths that we have slammed doors shut. But iRelaunch’s studies and data and experiences, show that simply is not true. Thanks for your story.

  9. Carpool Goddess says

    I definitively need to take it up a notch too. Mini-Me (19) has been saying this for years. I just needed the push. Thanks!

  10. Jane de Beneducci says

    My advice about going back to work is, don’t worry about the details. The kids and husband, the house, the dog, the cleaning/ironing/shopping, social life etc, will sort itself out. Be prepared for some chaos to begin with (but anyone with children will be used to that), and then be proud that you are out there!

    • says

      Great point because if yoyo think too much about all of the obsticles you have mentioned, you will never get back on track.

  11. says

    I actually came across this book a couple of months ago at the library. After reading a few pages I knew this book was going home with me for a couple of weeks. I was thrilled to see that you are recommending it on your blog . I thought Cohen and Rabin did an excellent job of arming SAHM with doable, realistic steps on how to reenter the job market. I also liked that after reading this book I felt less alone in being a SAHM and that many mothers reentering the workforce also have the same insecurities and questions that I have been struggling with myself. Again, excellent post and excellent book.

  12. says

    Taking a break from anything for too long produces the same effect. Failing to exercise a skill leads to lack of confidence.

    Simple solution: Practice, practice, practice.

    Need to brush up on presentation skills? Make YouTube tutorials.

    Need to brush up on writing skills? Write a few guest blog posts on related niche blogs.

    Need to revamp your resume? Take a continuing education/certification course.

    It’s a lot easier when you slowly re-immerse yourself into your career field.


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