Returning to the Workforce

Women Starting Over, by Natalie R. Huston, LPC


I’ve Been Out of the Workforce for Years, Who Will Hire Me Now?

If you’re asking this question, a transition has occurred that is leading you to seek a new path.  Either life circumstances are requiring you to return to work, or you are longing for something more.  Questions of worth and value in the workforce creep in.  Overwhelm sets in.  Where do I start?  How am I going to make it financially?  Who will want me when I haven’t worked for so long?  I don’t even know how to put together a current résumé.  You are not alone.

Reasons women find themselves exploring a new path:

  • Family financial needs requiring that you return to work
  • Divorce created need to return to work
  • Desiring to return to work now that your kids are older
  • Life transitions leading you to explore a new direction in your life journey

Let’s bring into focus some important considerations as you embark on this new journey.  There are some useful questions to ask when pursuing new work or careers.  Perhaps your situation is urgent and you have to find a job like, yesterday.  Evaluate as much as you can in the time you have.


Questions to Evaluate

What do I already know how to do?  Begin listing some skills you developed in previous work, even if your last work was in high school or college.  If you have been keeping the home, that requires all kinds of skills—management, child care, planning, organization, cleaning, scheduling, program development, helping with homework—skills that are transferable to many occupations.  What volunteer work have you done?  Have you helped in your child’s classroom, with the PTA, the HOA, or animal rescue?  Do not underestimate the value of what a hard-working mom or homemaker brings to the workplace.

What do I love?  You are passionate about something.  Careers can be developed out of many hobbies, especially with so much business being operated online now.  You can also seek opportunities through starting as a volunteer.

A great way to get a job is by interviewing an administrator or CEO from a company who does something you are passionate about, and then ask how they recommend you get started in a field like theirs.  Job offers can result when you do this because they want people working for them who love what they do.

Who am I?  You are unique, and your personality is important to consider when job searching.  Working outside of a good fit will lead you to frustration, burnout, and looking for another job too soon.  Being aware of your personal strengths, growth areas, and needs will be helpful in narrowing what kind of job to look for, how to respond in interviews, and decision-making when offered a job.  Also consider your character traits.  Dependable, trustworthy, ethical, hard-working, self-starting… What do you bring by being you that companies need?  Companies often want a quality employee more than they want a skilled employee.  They can train someone on tasks quickly, but character traits they are looking for are already rooted in who you are.

What would I do if I could do anythingYou are at a crossroads of life.  This is a great opportunity for big life shifts.  Brainstorm answers to that question.  Perhaps you come up with a pie-in-the-sky idea, and it really turns into something.  Even if that idea is not possible, it can yield some creative ideas and possibilities you never would have thought of, and guides what direction you pursue.

What could stand in my way?  The battle in the mind and emotions can really hinder you from reaching out and achieving your potential.  Fear, doubt, the battle with self-worth, and confusion can keep you stuck.  Be aware of those whispers in your mind like, “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not worthy,”  “What if they don’t like me?”  “I can’t.” These sneaky thoughts will affect what kinds of jobs you seek or settle for, how well you interview, and how well you perform in your new job.   Don’t listen to the lies that creep in and start a cycle of shame.  You are way more valuable than you know.  No one else is like you.  You have something to offer.  Focus on the true good in you.  I don’t mean to be in denial of your growth areas, but don’t allow shame you to keep you down.

What are my resources?  You have a lot of resources to help you in this process, and some are right under your nose.  Consider these resources:

  • Your trusted relationships: Ask your friends, kids, neighbors, or anyone close to you the questions above.  Even if you ask your 5-year-old “What am I good at?” you might be surprised what they highlight that you wouldn’t have thought of.  And how does that skill translate in the work world?
  • Networking:  Talk to people who know people (so, everyone).  Friends, teachers, leaders, and people in influential positions who know you can be on the lookout or connect you to someone or knows someone who knows someone else who has a job.  And again, interview companies who fit your passion.  They may not be hiring, but maybe they know someone in the same industry who is.  This is also another reason to volunteer until you find a job. It will help you get to know others who share your passion.
  • Temp agencies can help you find a temporary job that ends up as a full time job, gets your foot in the door, or connects you with others in your pursued occupation.
  • Contract and Consulting work can also be a natural network for you to land something full time.
  • Career Coaching:  There are a wide range of resources here, and some of them are free and some you can access in the comfort of your own home.  Below are some resources for coaching:
  • Career assessments: These can assess personality styles, skills, and suiting careers.  Many can be found online, and can range from free to $40 or so.  Start with the free ones, then you can evaluate which ones may be worth a small fee.
  • Unemployment office: The office in your county/city will have free or low-fee resources, including faxing, career coaches, copying, computer use, and more.
  • Career Crossroads: This organization wants to help you find the career or job for which you are most suited.  They offer career coaches, resume help, free resources, a specific workbook and career-seeking process, and there may be a local networking or career support group in your area.
  • Career or Life Coach: A coach can help you save time, keep focus, provide accountability, and give you resources.
  • Counseling: A professional counselor may have some career resources and assessments, but can also help with emotional frustrations, roadblocks, or adjustments you are dealing with in the process of job seeking.
  • Career Direct: An assessment that covers your unique makeup and skill set.
  • Check out, the website of an organization specifically for women who are returning to the workforce.
  • Search for a re-entry or “returnship” program within your industry:  Small and large companies are offering training and orientation programs to help you get your feet in the door and get you going in the career.
  • Certificates and Trainings: Whether you need to brush up on skills or just want to show you have current knowledge in your field, taking a certificate program, getting continuing education, or going to specific trainings can be a great addition to your resume or even provide some networking opportunities.  Community colleges or online programs are good places to look for this.
  • LinkedIn: This resource can broaden your network to people you never would have come in contact with otherwise.  You can post your résumé, present your character, share articles, and more.  It can reflect who you are and show potential employers what you have to offer.

Moving Forward

You are at a crossroads where you can reshape and write the future of your story.  Focus on who you are becoming and where you are going.  This exploratory process leads you to get to know yourself more deeply.  It may involve taking some risks.  The road may be bumpy at times, but those bumps teach us.  We grow, we discover, we persevere, we overcome, and we blossom.  You are worth this journey!


Natalie R. Huston, MA, NCC, LPC

Natalie is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor with a private practice in Matthews, NC.  She is passionate about people becoming more of who they were meant to be.  Questions or comments can be directed to