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2024 Virtual Return to Work Conference, May 14-16

6 Ways to Refresh Your Return-To-Work Strategy

For relaunchers, spring can be an opportunity to refresh, reset and refocus your return-to-work strategy. Here are six ways to renew your commitment to your job search, and to help you plan, prepare, and execute effectively on your next steps.

By Bryn Panee Burkhart

Bryn is the Founder & Principal of Next Evolution Leadership Coaching & Career Management and a member of the iRelaunch coaching team. She guides her clients to move forward in their careers with clarity and confidence and has worked successfully with dozens of relaunchers on their return-to-work strategies.

Know your priorities. When you know what is most important to you at this age and stage of your life as you’re returning to work, you will have more clarity and agency in your job search. Consider putting some parameters around areas that will affect your work-life flow, such as: commute, compensation, other benefits/incentives, company culture, company size, mission/impact of role or company, career trajectory, autonomy, work travel, flexibility, and any other lifestyle considerations. As you set your terms for each category, carefully consider what is non-negotiable versus something that would be preferred. (For example, perhaps you are non-negotiable on the working hours/schedule you require; whereas while you’d prefer to have autonomy over your work, it’s more of a desire than a requirement.) Once you do that, prioritize each of these things in terms of what is most important, less important, and least important. These priorities should serve as touchstones as you’re assessing and considering different options. Aligning your priorities helps you move forward with intention and get you closer to an optimal professional situation.

Pro-tip: Leverage Steps 7-9 of the iRelaunch Return to Work Roadmap to help you with this evaluation!

Get clear on the skills and knowledge you bring to a return-to-work role. A successful relaunch can’t solely focus on opportunities that meet your priorities; it must also be couched in the value you bring to a potential employer. What are the 3 -5 core competencies (skills, attributes, and knowledge areas) that you possess and can provide evidence of when you’re talking about yourself with a potential employer or networking contact? It’s essential to be able to articulate the ways you have successfully contributed in the past. Think about the results, accomplishments, or value you’ve brought to professional roles, volunteer roles or within your own family and friend group over the years. What are you known for and what do you do uniquely well? Clearly defining these things helps you home in on possible roles and builds your confidence.

Try something new. Human beings are meant to continually grow and learn to stay agile and resilient. So stretch yourself! Shake up a comfortable routine and do things differently. Drive a new route, try a different type of exercise, use a new app or call someone instead of defaulting to text or email. Doing something new is initially uncomfortable because our brains are wired to maintain the status quo (under the guise of keeping us safe). That’s why relaunching can be daunting – you’re doing something new. So push yourself to change up predictable behaviors in other areas of your life, and it will prepare you to conduct a job search more easily.

Curate your professional network on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the strongest professional networking platform available and will act as your virtual rolodex in the job search. Look at who you’re connected to and thoughtfully curate your network. Keep those first-degree connections you know and trust – these are the people you can start having initial job-related conversations with, and the people you can ask for introductions to their own professional connections. It’s okay to remove a first-degree connection that you don’t recognize or feel comfortable asking for help or for an introduction – you want integrity in your network. As you remove people, think about those people you could add to your network, and invite them to connect with a personal note. Your most powerful connections typically come from friends and family, shared work experiences, alumni networks and volunteer or community connections (neighbors, parents of your kid’s friends, or those you worship with, for example). Take each of these categories and be intentional about who you are keeping and adding as first-degree connections. This will smooth the wheels for your outreach and make it easier for you to see who can be helpful to you (and to whom you can be helpful to as well, as networking should be reciprocal) when you’re ready to seek advice, information and do research on return-to-work options.

Pro-tip: Leverage Steps 15-18 of the iRelaunch Return to Work Roadmap to help you with curating your network!

Invest in your physical well-being. Taking great care of your body and mind is key to managing your life and career from a place of confidence. Do something physical on a regular basis to get your blood moving and you will feel better afterwards. Make self-care a priority by doing an activity that benefits your well-being, and you will show up more grounded and calmer in your job search. Implementing real changes, whether it is the food you eat, the amount of exercise you get or saying “no” to stressful people or situations, will enable you to show up stronger, mentally and physically, in all areas of your life.

Keep going, step by step. As you begin your return-to-work strategy or make changes in the other areas I’ve suggested here, commit to small, incremental actions or improvements each day to work towards your goal. A job search will take time. Let the mantra “small strokes fell great oaks” guide you and relieve the pressure of quick results or doing everything all at once. Research has shown that it takes an average of 66 days for new habits to become permanent changes (forget the 21-day rule, that’s a myth). Knowing this helps you manage your expectations and should also allow you to give yourself some grace when things don’t go as planned. We are imperfect human beings, so strive for progress rather than perfection. Do something everyday and keep it up – you’ll see the positive results by the time spring turns into summer.

Don't relaunch alone!

Join our growing relauncher communities on Facebook and LinkedIn. For more great guidance on your relaunch and updates on when return to work programs are accepting applications, events for relaunchers and more, be sure to sign up for our Return to Work Report and follow us on social media to stay informed!

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