The Conundrum of “Re-entry”

October 8, 2023 |

I recently went to a business event for the first time in a long time. Even though it was small compared to many such events I’d been to in the past, I was nervous about being around a large group of people that I didn’t know very well.

I used to love going to these types of conferences and learning events, the energy in the room was always so uplifting. Getting the information online, as we were all doing for a couple of years, just wasn’t the same.

So what was going on? I was struggling with “re-entry” after being away from it so long. It turned out fine, and I enjoyed it very much. But I started to wonder, are other people experiencing this same sort of anxiety as they try to return to life as we used to know it?

There are other types of “re-entry” that seem to be vexing people these days too. Going back to the office is tough for some who may have relocated or who really prefer working at home. Not everyone thrives in an office environment. And the traffic!! Where I live, on the 3 days a week that are mandated right now (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday) it’s exponentially worse than it was in the “before times.” That means more time spent commuting, and less time spent working unless you’re the lucky few that have the company buses with wi-fi that pick you up and transport you so can work instead of driving. Or, just more time out of your day that you’re devoting to your job.

And what about those who were laid off during the pandemic? There was an article in our Sunday newspaper about a person who was laid off from a professional job and went to work at a lower-skilled job for awhile – less stress but also less pay. This person was trying to get back into their old career, but solely for the money. They were interviewing but so far not being offered the job, and one of the issues the potential employers had was how much time they had been away from the specialized-skill professional job.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, you may want to look at how those skills might be transferred to a different type of work altogether – something that enables you to earn more but doesn’t require the same level of stress. Unless you absolutely loved your old career (this person did not), you may be unconsciously sending out signals that you’re only seeking the job because it pays better than what you’re doing now, which is not particularly attractive to a potential employer. If you’re passionate about the work, that goes a long way toward overcoming hesitancy about the time spent away from it.

You also might consider using those skills to do freelance or contract work, where you’re hired at a higher hourly or project rate for a specific period of time. The employer gets the benefit of your skills and you get the benefit of the income (and also recent experience for future job prospects), but neither of you is committed long-term to the other. It can be a win-win if it’s properly set up, and more and more employers are using these types of arrangements to keep down costs and full-time headcount.

Whatever type of re-entry may be an issue for you, one of the best ways to resolve it is to write down your concerns or what you think might be holding you back. Try making columns, the first one is the issue/concern and in the next column the reframe – what is the benefit or how could this be turned into an asset instead of a liability. For example, if you’ve been out of the workforce for awhile, what did you learn during that time that could benefit others? What skills did you use that you could monetize?

Also, think about what really works for you versus what is giving you anxiety. If it’s something you loved before, have you perhaps evolved beyond it? Or, like my anxiety, is it simply because you haven’t done it in awhile? Is it time for a new direction instead of trying to go back to where you were before? Or do you just need to work your way into it slowly?

Challenges are almost always here to teach us something. Be honest with yourself, and see what you discover!