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7 tips for restarting your career 

This article was updated on May 31, 2024.

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By Carol Camerino

Kathryn Uhles, MIS, MSP, Dean, College of Business and IT

Reviewed by Jessica Roper, MBA, Director of Career Services

Outheld hands holding a growing tree to symbolize career growth

When figuring out how to restart your career, failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

That might feel harsh and potentially lower your motivation, but it’s the truth. So, what if we put a positive spin on it? Spending time preparing helps you to step more confidently forward.

We spoke with Heather Livingston, senior career advisor at UOPX, about an alumna who reentered the workforce after time away and how UOPX helped her prepare for a new role.

“One of our students had worked in a warehouse for 18 years and then left the workforce to go back to school for medical billing and coding,” says Livingston. “She worked with one of our career advisors, who helped this client identify her transferable skills and recognize knowledge this client didn’t realize she had. Together they updated the client’s resumé to show transferable skills, along with her newly acquired skills and education. The advisor helped the client speak of herself and her abilities with confidence. The client had a shift in perception of herself and what she could do with her career moving forward and landed a position with a pharmaceutical care company as a medical billing specialist.”

When relaunching your career after a break (maybe to raise your kids or care for an parent), you may feel the urge to head straight to your resumé and applications. However, initial planning before applying creates a good foundation for relaunching and sets the stage for stepping forward more confidently and purposefully.

If you’ve worked on jigsaw puzzles, you know there is a method to tackling them. Dumping the pieces onto a table and hoping to find a match here or there makes for an extended and frustrating experience. The more strategic approach is to first separate edge pieces from inside ones. The next step is to tackle the border and then focus on the center, organizing pieces by colors and patterns to make it easier to work on different sections.

When you create a career development plan, you build an organized structure for exploring new career opportunities. The following planning tips for relaunching your career are like working on the puzzle’s edge and organizing the pieces. They can help provide order and organization to propel you forward on a strategic job search.

1. Assess your calendar 

Like most job searches, returning to paid employment after a pause takes planned, focused and consistent time. Many job seekers underestimate how much time to spend on this phase. Starting and stopping the process or doing it in sporadic bursts (e.g., spending lots of time one week and then no time for the next two weeks) can undermine your progress.

Instead, build your time management muscles by blocking off 30- to 45-minute chunks of time three or four days a week that you dedicate to career planning and job searching. Officially declaring the time on your calendar is a tangible and concrete way to incorporate it into your week.

Time is a precious job search commodity. Using it effectively and intentionally is key to honoring the commitment to your employment goals. You may find yourself saying no to things as conflicts arise so you can preserve these designated times.

2. Revamp your resumé 

If you’re restarting your career after a gap of time, you’ll need to carefully review your resumé. Writing an effective resumé often means pleasing two audiences: applicant tracking systems and the people (recruiters) who use them.

An effective resumé uses verbs and an active voice to showcase skills and accomplishments. Use bullet points to summarize what you’ve done in previous roles and be sure to incorporate applicable keywords in both the bullet points and the summary. If you have experience with a role’s outlined responsibilities, be sure to include that in the resumé as well.

Need additional support? Download a step-by-step resumé guide.

3. Organize your space 

Minimalism and decluttering are popular buzzwords that also apply to job searching. Organizing and editing your space clears the decks for you to be creative, energized and ready to tackle the to-do items of your career relaunch.

Your space needn’t be an Instagram-worthy design mecca. Whether you’re working at a kitchen table, a coffee table or a shared desk, consider prioritizing the following items to stay organized and comfortable:

  • Paper/notebooks
  • Pens/pencils
  • A highlighter
  • Good lighting
  • A pair of glasses, if necessary
  • Folders
  • A comfortable chair
  • Chargers
  • An extension cord
  • Storage for the above items

If you prefer working paperless, organize your virtual space. Create dedicated, clearly labeled job search folders. Develop digital to-do lists and take time to leverage software and app functionality to support efficiency. 

4. Create a personal board of directors 

For someone in career relaunch mode, having a dedicated group of advisors can be helpful when navigating a job search journey. Think about people you know who might serve as an encourager or a connector.

Other important people to think about are knowledge holders (people with insight into your targeted field) and former colleagues who can speak to your abilities and contributions and remind you of these in case you’ve forgotten.

Finally, consider connecting with a mentor. These experienced professionals can provide not just moral support but also targeted advice for your job search. 

5. Explore the possibilities 

In addition to academic advisors who work closely with students to develop individualized plans for coursework that aligns with future goals, University of Phoenix offers a dedicated team of career advisors who support students as they pursue career goals.

Providing a full array of career services, advisors help students with everything from assessments and career exploration to job search preparation and strategy. (Think resumé feedback, interview preparation, search strategy, networking insight, LinkedIn® optimization, professional branding and more.) Working with someone who can shine a light on the path ahead and serve as a guide can be powerful — and career advisors are here to do that for you.

6. Network 

The importance of networking can never be overstated, and that’s especially true if you’ve been out of the workforce. Even when you’re not employed, you can reap the benefits of building your network.

Taking the time to connect with others at volunteer events, for example, can lead to fruitful conversations down the road. Or try spending a few hours each week engaging with content on professional social media platforms like LinkedIn Network.

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of nontraditional networking opportunities, such as parent-teacher organization events or fundraisers. If you have applicable skills that can benefit nonprofit organizations, list those experiences on your resumé too.

7. Take the risk 

Have you heard the phrase “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”? Sometimes it’s worth it to apply for jobs where your qualifications may not completely match. Why? Because you may bring more to the role than you expect. Or your approach to the work may matter more than the professional certifications and hard skills you possess. You might even be able to get on-the-job training to learn the required skills.

Livingston shares another anecdote about a student’s journey: the power and potential of taking a calculated risk in a job search:

One of our career advisors worked with an alumnus with a Bachelor of Science in Health Administration [and a] Master of Science in Psychology, and who was actively pursuing a Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling (all from UOPX). While she had some health administration experience, she was struggling to land a role in mental health. The advisor recommended that she write a compelling summary statement and emphasize her academic experience by moving it to the top of her resumé along with listing relevant coursework. [She] updated [her] resumé as an employment specialist with a county department of mental health, providing workforce development services to individuals with mental health challenges. In addition to updating her resumé, this alumnus took a risk by sharing her life experience and personal story of helping a family member who struggles with mental health issues. She explained how she had helped this family member navigate finding work and housing after previously being homeless. This story is extremely powerful and demonstrates that it is not only paid work experience that matters, but also life experience.

Get more career insight 

Whether you’re going back to school after age 30 to change careers or simply want to reenter the workforce after a period away, you have value to bring to employers. It’s just a matter of framing your unique experiences and skills in a way that can help them.

If you’re unsure of what you need to know to grow your career, University of Phoenix’s online degree programs and career services department can help students and graduates earn and identify skills to relaunch their careers, no matter their stage of life.

Explore more than 100 online programs aligned to 300+ real-world careers.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 Carol Camerino is a former writer for UOPX.

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ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Jessica Roper, University of Phoenix director of Career Services, is a seasoned leader with over 15 years of experience in leadership within higher education. She has honed her expertise in student services and career development and is passionate about helping others discover and refine their skills.

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This article has been vetted by University of Phoenix's editorial advisory committee. 
Read more about our editorial process.

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