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The thought of returning to work can be challenging, not to mention the many steps it takes to get there. While returning to work does have its unique challenges, it’s also an exciting time to recognize newly acquired skills and strengths, and possibly even enjoy an entirely different career from the one you left.

If you find fear holding you back, know that employers of all shapes and sizes need your skills and what you have to offer. Putting one foot in front of the other is the way to find that exciting new opportunity.

If you are pondering returning to work, but don't know where to begin, here are five great ways to get started!

  1. Assess what you want to do. Do you want to return to the profession or industry you left, or does the thought of that make you cringe? Do you want something part-time that is flexible enough to sync with your kids' schedules? Maybe you want a position where you can contribute your newly developed fundraising and people management skills from all those years leading 5K’s and silent auctions at your child's preschool. All of this is important to assess and collect before beginning your search.
  2. Assess what you DON'T want to do. Remember that cringeworthy feeling associated with going back to the same profession or industry you left? That feeling is ultra important in setting the stage for a successful job search. Lots of people will have advice for you. The more people you ask, the more advice you will get: Go back to work full-time! Get your degree in microbiology! You will have to start all over in an entry level position and prove yourself and work day and night and THEN you can get the job you want!  Bottom line: Pay attention to what you want - and don't want - to do.
  3. Gather your strengths. This is part psychology and part practical. Focusing on your strengths will give you more strength. Focusing on your strengths will help you move your job search forward more quickly. Let's revisit #2 above to illustrate this more clearly. For example, you asked a friend for career advice and she tells you must get a technology job in healthcare. The healthcare industry is booming and she can help you get in. It’s absolutely perfect for you, she says. Except…. you are not interested in healthcare, the thought of hospitals (because that is where your mind goes when you hear "healthcare") makes you feel faint, and now you are cringing. Instead of relying on someone else to guide you, take out a piece of paper and start writing down your own strengths. Decide you know yourself best.
  4. Review your resume. Can't find it? On an old computer you got rid of? Stuffed in a manila file folder circa 2000 and who knows where that is anyway? It’s easy to abandon the quest of finding your resume since you more than likely don’t want to LOOK at it. If you find your old resume, however, it will show you where you left off, and how you illustrated your employment history. If you find yourself panicking at what you see and asking yourself how in the world you can possibly update this thing after so many years… just breathe. It’s only one piece of the process, and taking a look at what you have written down IS important. So is updating it. If you find yourself at a loss, start listing out ALL you have done as a volunteer, community leader, soccer coach, board member, 5K organizer, parent spring fling team lead, committees you were a member of, and part-time positions you may have held. This is all great information to work with when it comes to building out a resume that WILL fill the gaps in your work history, demonstrate your unique skill set, and illustrate your story.
  5. Put a plan together. When will you get your resume done? Give yourself a deadline. When will you start networking with others to share your background or ask for help with your search, or ask to make an introduction to someone who can help you? Pick one person. What is your goal for when you would like to have a job? If you need to, keep it loose, but have a timeframe thought through. What is the one thing you will do FIRST? Pick a place to start. And do it.

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