The Return to Work Checklist

Return to Work Checklist

After an extended break, you decide to return to work…sounds daunting, doesn’t it? It was for me. For 12 years, I had a flexible schedule which allowed my husband to concentrate on his career, our kids to stay home sick whenever necessary, and, gave me time to run our household. I hadn’t “worked” (for pay) in a long time and wondered if I could handle a set schedule or be able to contribute to anything beyond school lunches and field trips!

I might have been deterred for all these reasons from jumping back into the workforce but the Return to Work Program helped me realize I do have a lot of valuable experience (my past career, volunteering and other activities) that transfers into the corporate world better than I thought. So my advice for you is to go for it, jump in with both feet, and take advantage of this amazing opportunity!

Here are some things to consider as you transition back to the work world.

Before interviewing:

  • Think about what you want to get out of the program and determine what schedule will work best for you and your family (part time, full time, flexible). It’s important to be honest with yourself about your family commitments and fully commit to your schedule.
  • Research the companies you interview with and make sure you understand their business.
  • Ask questions about the company’s work culture. Will it be a good fit for you?
  • Ask specific questions about the work you will do as a returnee (e.g., will you fill a specific role, have defined projects, training, etc.).

Before you start:

  • Get big appointments out of the way. It’s just easier if you have all major appointments (for you, the kids, and the dog!) out of the way, so you can concentrate on the new job and not have to worry about juggling schedules.
  • Work out a rough schedule of your days and weeks when you start working. It’s good to give the whole family a say in your schedule, so they know what to expect. But, remember this is a “rough” schedule. It’s important to be flexible and make adjustments as needed—to avoid a tailspin when things change. I was surprised how well my work fit into our daily schedule. Yes, there are a few neglected “projects” at home but overall everything is still getting done!
  • If you have the opportunity, be sure to attend any meet and greets scheduled before the job starts. Our returnee cohort had lunch at the company a week before we started—seeing familiar faces and knowing the office space made our first day on the job a little easier.

After you start:

  • Get a clear understanding of what they expect you to do during the Return to Work Program. It is helpful if you can develop a detailed 30, 60, and 90-day plan with your manager that outlines training, daily tasks, and project goals.
  • Set up recurring weekly one-on-one’s with your manager/mentor. Ask for feedback on your performance and discuss successes and/or roadblocks you are facing. Having a 30/60/90-day plan facilitates these check-ins.
  • Take ownership of your goals, tracking your progress and making sure you achieve your goals. It’s okay (and encouraged!) to ask for support or guidance from your manager/mentor, but you are ultimately in charge of your success. Own It!
  • Take advantage of any training offered, including new hire training and personal development. Shadowing another co-worker is also a great way to learn.
  • Keep a journal of what you’ve learned (new software, new skills, other tools) and your successes. Include any accolades you receive from your colleagues. Keep copies of finished products (UX design, marketing collateral, etc.). You can use these to update your resume later.
  • Find a “buddy” to touch base with weekly (someone going through the program with you, or who has recently gone through the program). It’s just nice to have someone you can share experiences with, ask questions, and compare notes.

Most importantly, remember to have fun and learn as much as you can. It’s normal to be nervous on a new job. But, you have so much to offer. So try to relax, take it all in, and just go for it!

3 thoughts on “The Return to Work Checklist

  1. I love this post! I have a website I’ve put together since going back to school to better myself after having taken five years off to homeschool my son. As a single parent, this was something that needed completion after weighing out my options. Now he’s back in the swing of things his junior high year, and I’m the one struggling. I’ve graduated at the top of my class in writing with a plethora of awards, but everyone requires experience.

    I’m petrified to beg Walmart for a position with a $70k degree.

    1. Creating your own website is a great idea! And your continued education and being creative are all positive steps in the right direction!

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