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9 Ways to Keep Your Career Momentum During an Extended Leave of Absence

Aha moment: An extended leave of absence won’t equal a lull in your career when you take the right steps to remain relevant.

Sometimes taking an extended leave of absence from work is a necessity.

You may experience an unexpected crisis, have children to raise, a sick family member to care for, or a health issue, or maybe you just need a sabbatical.

The length could range from a month to a year or even more.

Whatever the reason for or the length of your leave, you may face some challenges when it’s time to re-emerge into the workforce.

Your skills may not be as sharp as they once were or they may be less relevant than they were when you left.

You’re at a disadvantage.

There are some steps you can take – whether you’re preparing for a leave of absence or you’re at the end of one – to make your return to the workplace less stressful and have a smoother transition.

1. Stay active in your network.

While you’re at work before your extended leave, as well as while you’re off work, remain connected to professional associations, your professional network, colleagues and your former bosses. Keep yourself current and fresh.

2. Work with a career coach.

You may need some help navigating your re-emergence into the workforce.

Get the help of a professional career coach who can give you solid advice and guidance as you make your way back to work.

3. Diagnose yourself.

Take an assessment of your skills before you start applying for jobs. Know what skills you need to sharpen and have an understanding of what you bring to the table.

4. Manage your brand.

It’s important that you keep your resume, LinkedIn and other professional profiles up-to-date.

Your personal brand should always be the reflection of you that you want others to notice.

5. Assess your relationships.

If you left your workplace on good terms, that might be the ideal spot for you to return.

The people there know you, they can vouch for you and they know what your strengths are.

On the other hand, if your absence from your former employer was less-than-friendly, you have to explore other options.

Perhaps a competitor of your former organization – where your skills and knowledge would translate well – is a good option.

6. Build LinkedIn connections.

About six months prior to your return to work, start to network with people on LinkedIn who work at companies to which you would be interested in applying.

This provides you with people who can vouch for you when your leave of absence is over.

7. Deal with the gap left by your leave of absence.

When you take an extended time off of work, you’re going to have a “blank” on your resume.

Be proactive about dealing with it.

A career coach will come in handy to provide ideas as to how you can explain it professionally.

Have an elevator speech, shed a favorable light on the leave of absence and connect it to your character.

8. Keep your skills sharp.

Find a way to keep up with your job skills while you’re on your leave of absence.

Be proactive and get creative. There’s nothing wrong with a good side hustle.

9. Leverage your references.

Any time you’re looking for a job, you need to have good references.

It’s no different when you’re re-emerging into the workforce after an extended leave of absence.

Have people already lined up to be a reference for you.

A leave of absence doesn’t have to stall your career

Life can be unpredictable and may require you to take an extended leave of absence from your job.

It doesn’t have to equal a halt in your career, however.

Be intentional about staying connected to your network and find ways to keep your skills sharp.

Working with an expert career coach to help you manage all the ins and outs of re-emerging into the workplace.

Follow the right steps to stay relevant and you can jump back in when the time is right without missing a beat.

Have you experienced returning to the workplace after a leave of absence? What helped you to get back on the horse?