How to Return to Work, Even If You've Been Gone for a Decade or More

Why It Matters:

  • Returning to work after unplugging from your career can be daunting.
  • Re-entering the workforce is an opportunity to hit the reset button on your career and retirement plan.
  • If you’re ready to rejoin the workforce, there are resources to help you get started.

Courtney Harris tkc.profilePicture Written by: Courtney Harris | Transamerica
Oct. 31, 2017

5 Min readClock Icon

Are you one of the millions of Americans considering heading back to the workforce after taking a break from your career? Maybe you’ve been raising young children or caring for an ill relative or friend.

While your time caring for your loved one was valuable, you may be wondering if the resulting gaps in your resume and retirement savings can be filled. Turns out your timing might be pretty good as more and more companies now recognize the value of employees just like you.

Thinking about returning to work might feel overwhelming. And a lot may have changed since you were last employed, but the benefits of work haven’t changed. Your time out of the workforce might mean you have some brushing up to do on your skills, career, and retirement saving. The good news is you’re not alone. According to Après, a website dedicated to helping women re-enter the job market, more than 3 million women with college degrees are trying to go back to work.

5 million

209kSome organizations, like Morgan Stanley and IBM, recognize the value of making your re-entry a little easier. In fact, Morgan Stanley developed a Return to Work program, which is similar to an internship. Instead of focusing on college students, the program is designed to help adults who have taken a career break of at least two years re-engage in their careers.

Rejoining the workforce brings with it many benefits, not the least of which is the opportunity to re-engage or possibly reinvent in your career, so you’re once again able to invest in your professional development as well as your financial security. Whether you have been out of the workforce for two years or 12 years, getting back on the professional track can require some strategy and planning. Before you throw your proverbial hat back into the ring, consider the questions below.

Three questions to ask yourself before beginning your job search

1. Do you want to return to the job or career you held before? Or in your time away have your interests changed or has a new interest emerged?

2. What are your motivations? Are you most interested in a salary, employee benefits, professional development, or maybe just professional engagement?

3. Do you want full- or part-time work? If the reason you left the workforce was to care for children, you may not be 100% done with that job, so you might want a more limited or flexible schedule.

Want more information? Here’s a more in-depth look at how to re-engage in your career.

When you’re ready to take the plunge, consider taking it one step at a time. You can think of this as your opportunity to craft the career you want now. Getting clear on the above questions is only the first step. Once you have a clearer idea of what you’re looking for, you’re ready to begin your job search and preparation.

Tips for returning to work

  • Research businesses or organizations in your area that do the type of work you’re interested in. Also, look into current skills required for the jobs you’re interested in.
  • Once you have a sense of the job market in your area and what’s required to be a part of it, outline how you can update or add skills to your resume. You may be able to update your skills online or even obtain a certification to be more marketable.
  • Speaking of resumes, make a list of all the skills you’ve acquired in your time away. Maybe you’ve spearheaded a fundraiser or run a volunteer pool. List everything first. You can edit the full list based on what you think potential employers will value most.
  • You may want to have friends or family review your resume and even practice your elevator pitch or interviewing skills with them.
  • Organizations like iRelaunch can be great resources and help guide you through your re-entry. They offer starter kits, tips, and even an annual conference on “relaunching” your career.

39 percentThe prospect of re-engaging in your career can be exciting. Depending on when you were last employed, the gaps on your resume and retirement account statement might be a blip or they might be more significant. The points below can help ensure you take steps to achieve the professional goals you’ve already outlined as well as move the needle on your retirement goals.

Fill the resume and retirement gap

  • When interviewing progresses to the point that an offer is around the corner, consider asking about company benefits. Everything from medical insurance to a gym membership and eligibility for the company 401(k) plan can be reasons to consider or accept one job offer rather than another.
  • If a company does offer a 401(k) or similar plan, be sure to ask about employer contributions. You may want to consider talking with your financial professional when reviewing your options and strategies to maximize your retirement contributions.
  • Once you’ve accepted an offer, be sure to meet with your financial professional to discuss how your new job can help fill the gap in your retirement savings. Consider discussing the benefits of contributing to your retirement accounts at the maximum amount allowed and how you can plan to increase your contributions annually.
  • Cynthia Meyer, a financial professional based in the New York City area, suggests saving at least 15% of your gross income up to the IRS limits and saving for your retirement ahead of saving for your children’s college tuition.

72 percent

Whether you decide to return to work full- or part-time or maybe even start your own business, take steps to make the most of the money you earn. You can also read our article about how to get your finances retirement ready.

Have you already gone back to work? What strategies have you used to fill the gaps in your resume and retirement savings? Share them on our Community page.



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