Tips for Going Back to Work After a Long Hiatus

3 years ago

Five years ago, my Fortune 500 company "retired" me along with half its sales force.  While I had a brief period of employment in a lower-level position, I did a variety of other things. I helped my father take care of my dying mother, I volunteered at church and for a rehabilitation facility, and I took contract writing jobs.  From the age of 23 until  I lost my job, I had worked consistently in high-pressure, high-activity marketing jobs, and this five-year period was completely different.  And frankly, delightful.

Credit Image: David on Flickr

Seasons change. My mother passed away, my volunteer activities ended, and as the economy improved, my contract work declined as hiring picked up. 

In February 2014, I jumped back onto the ever-moving sidewalk of an active director-level job as a sales director with a local hospital.  Imagine finding a job four miles from home that offers almost everything I need (mostly affordable health insurance) and fits my skill set like a glove.

The job is great.  I like my boss and my co-workers, but I have found a few challenges which I offer as a cautionary tale to the person who, like me, steps out.

1.  You must master and keep up with technology.  While I worked daily on a computer and often with people globally on a VoIP phone, I was not fluent in using digital technology to manage my day. I personally owned a tablet, but I used it mostly to read and catch up with the Internet during trips.  The business world, like that moving sidewalk in an urban airport, stops for no man (or middle-aged woman).  While my previous job provided a Blackberry, when I was funding my own phone I had a flip phone.  Learning to manage life with my new smartphone has been challenging, though three months in I'm regularly using my calendar (linked to my Outlook on multiple devices), photographing business cards on a free app, counting steps, and texting employees in a group.  

2.  Stay abreast of the changes in your field. Working in health marketing for more than three decades, I've seen it all and thought I had done it all.  While I didn't quite sell a NSAID to Florence Nightengale on a Civil War battlefield, I have been around since before prospective payment.  As in many fields, the only constant in healthcare is change. I worked very hard to keep up on the business side so I could get a running start.  There are multiple good resources on the Internet for the person who is interesting and challenged to stay up-to-date.

3.  Keep yourself physically and emotionally healthy.  I swam in a heated rehab pool and lifted weights.  If you worked in a home office with only a cat and a window full of bird feeders (think Sylvester and Tweety), you will find talking to another human being between eight and five to be initially, well, repellent.  As a sales director, I have an office in front of our hospital, and I'm also out in the community often. I had to draw on my years of experience in dealing with other people and not being totally squirrely from years of being at home in an old, ratty Villanova t-shirt and fancy pants with Homer Simpson on them.  Did I mention the fluffly pink slippers?  That outfit doesn't play well in the front office or the field.  If you anticipate going back to full-time work, keep up on your community and professional organizations, and keep your people skills in check. And keep yourself healthy.

4.  Most important: keep your sense of humor.  You will go to work with one black shoe and one brown shoe.  All those Trotter pumps look alike at 7 a.m. in a darkened closet.  If you are able to laugh at yourself and recover, you've won half the battle.



Amy Abbott writes "The Raven Lunatic" column for multiple Indiana newspapers. Amy was named one of the BlogHer Voices of the Year for 2014 She's the author of two books "The Luxury of Daydreams" and "A Piece of Her Mind."  Her third book, "A Piece of Her Heart" will be published later this spring. 

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