There are many reasons someone may have been out of the workforce for an extended period of time but the most common is to raise a family. You may also have left to care for a family member or to recover from an illness. None of these situations invalidate your potential for new employer. If you plan on returning to the workforce at some point the best thing you can do for yourself is stay current with technology and your industry if you will be returning to that. If you have been away from work for more than a year there are a number of things you can do to make the transition back to working easier.
Technology moves rapidly and this makes it easy to let your skills degrade over time. You can get some current experience by volunteering. You can volunteer to help an organization with newsletters, website or other tasks that provide hands on computer experience. Look for organizations that are using the type of software you expect to be working with upon your return to the workforce. Volunteering can also get you in the habit of working outside the home. This might be more valuable to your family if they are used to having you around.
If you can’t find the right volunteer opportunities then take a class. Many professional organizations have ongoing training opportunities. Some courses are short others can take many weeks to complete. Keep this in mind as you plan your timeline for re-entry into the workforce. You can find training opportunities in trade publications.
Trade publications are also a good source for general industry knowledge. You may have to contact a former colleague to source copies of the publications you are interested in. Vendors to these industries often receive free copies of these publications when they advertise. You might be able to source publications from local vendors to your industry. Being able to discuss the current environment of your chosen industry will impress potential employers and reduced the perceived duration of your absence.
If you are looking for a quick way to get caught up on your preferred industry then you can attend a conference. Smaller regional conferences tend to be lower in cost and in some cases free to attend. Look for local chapter meetings as these tend to be the lowest cost. Large conferences typically cost $1500 or more just to attend whereas a chapter meeting might only be $50-100. In either case you make industry contacts that can help you network. Be sure and check your calendar. Large events tend to happen annually so some advanced planning might be required, especially if you have travel.
Even if you are changing industries your prior experience can be valuable. Critical thinking never goes out of style. Being able to demonstrate your ability to think on your feet and find creative solutions, regardless of the industry, will help you transition back into the workforce.
There is no substitute for planning and preparation. With the right approach you can expect to renter the workforce sooner rather than later.