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Tips for restarting your career

By Carol Camerino

A job applicant interviews for a job

When it comes to relaunching your career, failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

Ugh. I know this is true, but it feels a bit harsh and possibly even de-motivating. What if we instead said: Spending time preparing helps you to step more confidently forward?

While the rephrase is decidedly more upbeat and positive, it’s not as catchy as the first and is way too long to become a catchphrase. But the sentiment is worthwhile, especially when planning a return to work following a career break.

When relaunching your career, sometimes people want to head straight to their resumé and applications as a first step. However, some initial planning creates an excellent 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. Simply 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.

The following planning tips for relaunching your career are like working on the puzzle’s edge and organizing the pieces. They provide order and organization to help you move forward, prepared and ready to create and execute your strategic job search.

1) Assess your calendar

Like all job searches, returning to paid employment after a pause takes planned, focused and consistent time. My experience is that job seekers underestimate the time needed. 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 progress.

Begin building time management muscles by blocking off 30-to-45-minute chunks of time three or four days a week to dedicate to career planning and job searching. The more specific we are with something, the more likely it is to happen. 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. Since no one has figured out a way to produce more hours in a day, using time effectively and intentionally is key to honoring the commitment to yourself around your employment goals. You may find yourself saying "no" to things as conflicts arise so you can preserve these designated times.

2) 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 your career relaunch to-do items.

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, here are some materials to keep on hand to help you avoid losing time on repeatedly searching for and gathering what you need: paper/notebooks, pens/pencils, a highlighter, good lighting, a pair of glasses, folders, a comfortable chair, a work surface, your chargers, an extension cord and a way to store these items in between work sessions.

If you’re thinking, "Uh, hello, isn’t this obvious?" I understand. Sometimes, though, there is a gap between knowing what to do and taking the time to do it. I know this to be true from my own life as well as my experience with others. Confession: If I had a penny for every time I lamented wasting precious time on this scenario as well as for when I’ve heard others do the same, I’d be on a fully staffed yacht sailing somewhere on the Mediterranean.

For people who prefer working paperless, make sure you 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. I recently discovered OneNote, thanks to a colleague. I’d used other Office products but never even glanced at OneNote before. It is now my organizing go-to! Find what works for you and use it to save time.

3) Create a personal board of directors

Just as corporations and nonprofits have a team of advisors who help set course, inform strategy and provide subject matter expertise, so too can you!

For someone in career relaunch mode, having a dedicated group can be especially helpful when navigating the 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 (those who can speak to your abilities and contributions and remind you of these in case you’ve forgotten).

4) Explore the possibilities

In addition to academic advisors who work closely with students to explore and develop individualized plans for relaunching your career that align coursework with future goals, University of Phoenix has a dedicated team of career advisors who are skilled in supporting students as they pursue career goals.

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

Helping prepare you for your career is important to us. That’s why we’ve committed to offering Career Services for Life®. To learn more about career tools, resources and support — including access to career advisors — visit

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