Lifestyle

How To Go Back to Work After a Long Break

A little while ago, I asked on my Instagram whether you wanted to see more suggestions of how to spend a weekend in Boston or what it’s like to adjust to working after not for a while. A post about how to go back to work after a long break was an easy victory!

For those of you who don’t know, my work-life has been all over the place in the 5 years since I graduated from college. I taught high school for a year, but then my health prevented me from doing that. I took a year between when I quit my teaching job and when I started working again in an office while I went to grad school, as I had to apply to grad school, recover a bit health-wise, and have knee surgery. Then, 2 years after starting that job, my health was deteriorating again, so I quit in April 2017 to focus on my health and finish grad school. I finished school in December of 2017, right as my ankle became a huge problem. I started a work-from-home internship in January, and then had major ankle surgery in March. In June, I was finally recovered enough from that to start working again, 14 months after quitting that job.

This means that I have plenty of experience starting a new job after taking a break. I’ve learned a lot about it (and obviously really hope that this pattern has stopped), so I hope that my experience will help you if you’re in a similar boat.

Due to health issues and grad school, I didn't work in a traditional job for over a year. In this post, I break down my tips for how to go back to work after a long break so that your return is a smooth as possible.

How To Go Back to Work After a Long Break

Take some time for self-reflection before you start – This is more and more important depending on how long it has been since you worked a traditional job. What might have changed since you last worked? What did you struggle with when you last worked? What did you succeed at? What might you need help with as you start to work again? Try to be objective, as that will be the most helpful for you.

Prepare yourself as much as possible – How will being objective help you? By helping you to prepare yourself as much as possible before you start! If you know what you don’t know, you can research it ahead of time. If you have a bit of a heads up before you start your job, you can do your best to get the rest of your life in order before you start. Read career books or websites (Ask a Manager is super interesting and helpful), talk to people you trust, etc. If you’ve been out of the workforce for several years, it will be helpful to talk to someone who has stayed in the workforce during that time about things that have changed since you last worked. Going back to work after taking a long break can be really difficult, and the more preparation you do, the easier that transition will be.

Check your wardrobe (with plenty of time before you start) – In my case, when I started my current job, I hadn’t work traditional office clothes in 5 years. For my work-from-home internship, I could wear whatever. The office I worked in for 2 years had a very casual dress code, and I was only there 2 days a week. When I started my current job, I realized very quickly that I didn’t have a lot of clothes any more that fit an office job. I ended up having to do some online shopping, wearing the same 4 outfits in rotation until my purchases arrived. Take a look at your wardrobe in advance of starting your job and figure out if you’re going to need to buy more clothes. If you can’t buy more clothes, but know that you’re need to, make a list of the things you’ll need to buy so you’re prepared when you’re able to buy them. And check out second-hand stores and Poshmark for items at lower prices!

My workwear

Wake up early the day you start – Starting a new job is stressful enough without rushing out the door in a flurry! Wake up early enough so that you can have a leisurely morning, or at least one that isn’t super stressful. On days when I don’t have appointments in the morning, I wake up at 6:30 so I can spend 30 minutes in bed watching the news, drinking coffee, and adjusting to the day. Then I get ready before eating breakfast and working on this blog, and I walk out the door by 8:15. This enables me to get other things done and walk out the door with stressing too much about my life. Find the routine that works for you, but I strongly suggest getting up early the first few days so you can start your day on the right foot.

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Take care to observe your company’s workplace behaviors, cultures, etc. – This depends on the company and the environment, but sometimes what is written on paper about the company or said to you in your interview is different than the actuality. In your first few weeks, observe the environment and your new colleagues and how they interact with various elements of the company. There might be unspoken rules that you weren’t aware of. Basically, be observant.

Ask for help if you need it – This could be in your personal life or in your professional life. If you haven’t worked in years, it might help your stress levels to have a bit of help around the house or with your kids. Maybe a neighbor, friend, or family member can help as you transition. Maybe your kids can help each other. Everyone’s situation is different, so figure out what is best for you and yours, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. This also applies in your professional life. The first few weeks at a new job are the perfect time to ask for help from your supervisor and colleagues. Everyone will understand – you’re the new person! Ask questions when you meet HR for the first time. Ask questions when you’re starting a new task. It will be significantly better if you ask questions when you start than if you do 3 months from now, so take advantage of this.

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Plan the rest of your life with as little as possible as you adjust – Depending on how long you’ve been out of the workforce, it might be very difficult for you to adjust to a 9-5 life again. If you are able to, make sure not to schedule too much else while you get back in the rhythm of working. Of course, if you’re an extrovert, then you might want to schedule some other things in your life, but maybe try for weekends. You want to set yourself up to be the best version of yourself that you can be in general, but especially when making a major life change like working again after taking a break.

Cut yourself some slack – It’s going to be difficult to adjust! That’s just the way it is, so cut yourself some slack. There are going to be days when working again will be difficult, and there are going to be days when you struggle to work and manage your regular life. Again, that’s just the way it is. So be nice to yourself! Which leads me to …

Practice self-care – You need to do the things that will help you take care of you. PsychCentral says, “Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it’s a simple concept in theory, it’s something we very often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also key to a good relationship with oneself and others” (x). Self-care can include a wide-variety of things, from getting enough sleep to practicing yoga, from cutting toxic people out of your life to painting your nails. It’s going to look different for everyone, so what works for me might not work to you. But whatever practicing self-care is for you, make sure that you do it, as this adjustment could very easily be difficult for you, and self-care can make it a bit easier.

10 Simple Self-Care Methods That Will Improve Your Life

What are your tips for adjusting to work after not working for a while?

Like this post? Check out:

What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20, My Workwear, Tips for Working from Home, How To Achieve Your Goals, How To Keep Growing as a Person

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