Preparation for heading back to work after a long absence begins the day after you take that absence. In order to facilitate your eventual move back into the workforce, you should take extra care to keep in touch with your boss and co-workers. Don’t be afraid to make a date for lunch every once in a while. This not only keeps your profile high, you can keep up with the skinny on any changes taking place inside the office so that you don’t fall too far out of the loop.
Networking also extends to the internet no matter what your age. The 60-somethings among us trying to get back into the workforce need to be as quick and clever using social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and what will have come along to replace those two current behemoths by the time you read this as the 20-something current looking to get their foot in the door. Keep in touch with the office by friending yourself up on Facebook, tweeting on Twitter and, especially, making contacts on LinkedIn. This is a very good way to keep your name from being forgotten during your sabbatical.
Visit web sites that deal with your particular industry. You want to stay up on changes taking place within the industry at large as well as how those changes are affecting your old position. This might well be the best advice you can get because depending on how long you are away from work, the job you expect to come back to may look very little like the job you left. In a worst case scenario, of course, your job may no longer exist. Just consider what someone who worked as an inner-city courier in the 80s would find if they came back to work in the late today. The introduction of first faxes and then email and then text messaging into the workplace almost made the job of inner city courier obsolete. Stay up to date on the changes taking place in your industry as well as your specific position and do what it necessary to keep up with the changing skills that are going to be necessary to have when you do re-enter the workplace.
If you’ve got the time, consider taking a course or additional training to keep up with the changes taking place. Every business in America has a computer now. A person who left the workforce in the early 90s and came back today would be pretty much dispensable if they couldn’t type fast and accurately and didn’t know their way around an operating system. That’s a pretty extreme example unlikely to occur very often, but then again how many workers who left the job in 1990 thought they could easily come back ten years later to a job without knowing how to operate a computer? The point is that every job changes over time and the longer you are away from your job, the less it is likely to seem familiar when you head back to work.
If your position is simply no longer available when you decide to head back to the workplace, refashion your resume. A functional resume downplays the chronology of your work experience by taking attention away from all that time spent out of the workplace and resets the focus on skills. Highlight the skills you had when you left as well as any type of training you have engaged in while on sabbatical. A functional resume is less about dates than it is about skills. Show off your mad skills before the Human Resource Director gets a chance to focus on the fact that you left the workplace back when Mel Gibson was cool.