Career

How an Introvert Can Return to Work After a Long Absence with Confidence

May 20, 2024

HEY THERE, FRIEND
I'm Jess. This blog is a collection of everything I've learned as I rebuilt my self-image from a burned-out-extrovert-wannabe to an at-ease-introvert-bookworm.
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Return to work after a long absence can feel like stepping into a whole new world. Technologies, protocols, and even workplace jargon change so rapidly these days that it’s difficult to keep up.

Add on the prospect of navigating bustling office environments, networking events, and social interactions – all of it can seem daunting, especially when you’re an introvert.

I myself have recently undergone such a journey, and I want to share some of my insights.

I hope this blog accomplishes a few things. First, I hope it’s an affirmation that you’re not alone in this. The feelings you are feeling are valid, and this experience is a shared one. Second, I hope I can share some of what I learned along the way so that you do not have to struggle as much!

Embrace Your Introvert Strengths

Before diving into the deep end of return to work, take the time to reflect on your introverted strengths.

Recognize that, while you may prefer solitary activities and recharge through alone time, you also bring valuable qualities such as deep thinking, creative problem-solving, and empathy to the table.

Don’t shy away from speaking to your introvert strengths in your resume, LinkedIn posts, and even interviews.

Embrace your introversion as an asset rather than a limitation. Understand that it can enhance your effectiveness in certain roles and professional situations.

Be mindful as well of your work preferences and boundaries. What environments, tasks, and schedules align best with your natural inclinations?

Remember: self-awareness is the foundation upon which you can confidently navigate the challenges and opportunities of reentering the workforce as an introvert.

Return to work after a long absence as an introvert can feel overwhelming. In this article, we’ll go over how to build a supportive network, boost confidence, and thrive in the workforce with purpose.

Build Your Confidence and Overcome Self-Doubt

It’s natural to feel apprehensive about returning to a job after a career break, especially as an introvert. 

Whether you took time off to care for loved ones, to take a chance on a dream, or for your mental health, I’m sure you grew comfortable with your daily routine outside of the workplace.

Going to the office may seem like a distant memory (even if it’s not). And the idea of being committed to an 8-hour work day can feel downright overwhelming. Suddenly you have to rearrange your life to accomplish everything you normally did during business hours (groceries, errands, meal prep, laundry, etc.).

Begin by addressing some of your fears or concerns head-on. Make a list of the specific thoughts or beliefs that are holding you back. Then, challenge those doubts with evidence-based solutions, including examples of your past successes. 

Remember: you have valuable skills and experiences to offer, and there are more helpful tools and services to support your return to work than ever.

Cultivate self-compassion by treating yourself with kindness and understanding, especially during moments of doubt or setback. After all, to err is human. Making a mistake means you have something in common with the rest of humanity. 

Practice positive self-talk and affirmations to counteract negative thinking patterns. Remind yourself of your strengths, accomplishments, and the unique perspective you provide.

Try to set realistic expectations for yourself and celebrate your successes along the way. Remember that progress is rarely linear, and that there will be more challenges ahead but you are capable of success. 

Seek support from trusted friends, family members, or mentors who can offer additional encouragement and perspective. Surround yourself with people who believe in your abilities: people who are willing to provide constructive feedback when you need it, or a guiding gesture at a crucial juncture. 

Keep in mind that confidence is a skill that is developed over time through practice and lived experience. Embrace opportunities to step outside of your comfort zone, take on new challenges, and showcase your talents. Your confidence will grow, and you will become more resilient in the face of uncertainty. 

How to Identify and Leverage Your Network

Being introverted doesn’t mean always going it alone. By identifying and leveraging the support systems in your life, you can gain the encouragement, guidance, and resources you need to succeed in your return to work journey. Here’s what I did:

1. Tap into existing professional networks

Reach out to former colleagues, mentors, or industry contacts who may be able to offer guidance, advice, or even job leads. Don’t hesitate to reconnect with old connections; oftentimes, these people are eager to support you in your return to the workforce. 

2. Seek out your mentors

Find experienced professionals who can serve as mentors or advisors as you navigate your career transition. Look for individuals who have successfully returned to work after a break, or someone who understands the unique challenges faced by introverts in conventional workplaces. 

3. Establish accountability partnerships

Don’t be afraid to partner with a friend, family member, or fellow introvert who is also on a career journey, even if it differs from yours. Set regular check-ins to support each other’s progress, share resources, and hold each other accountable for achieving goals. 

4. Join online communities for your industry

It’s very likely that there are online groups specifically for your industry or job function. Here’s an example for those in marketing. These communities can provide valuable advice, affirmation, and camaraderie as you navigate the challenges of reintegration.

5. Utilize professional development resources

Take advantage of workshops, seminars, webinars, or online courses designed to help individuals transition back into the workforce. These resources can offer helpful skills training, resume assistance, and networking opportunities tailored to your specific skill set. 

Nurturing and leveraging your support network is a great way to enhance your journey back into the workforce. And a tight-knit community that’s got your back is a great thing to have when you’re making career moves.

Taking Advantage of Networking Events or Social Situations

With a purposeful (and introvert-friendly) approach, networking events and social gatherings can be valuable opportunities to connect with others and potentially advance your career. 

Start with a plan or a simple goal for each event. Then, once you’re there, remember to pace yourself and prioritize your self-care. This way, you can prevent overwhelm while building authentic, genuine connections. 

Personally, I like to journal before a networking event as a way of clearing my mind or organizing thoughts on paper. 

By focusing on quality over quantity, introverted women can thrive in these social situations and leverage these opportunities as stepping stones toward professional goals. 

When you take the time to acknowledge and honor your introverted nature, you can return to work on a career path that aligns with your authentic self.

How To Get a Grip On New Technology

Technology continues to evolve and advance at unprecedented rates – no one is ever going to be able to keep up with everything. Even trying can be overwhelming, especially when you’re easing back into the workforce. 

Instead of being pressured to keep up with every latest trend, focus on one or two technology tools that align with your strengths and objectives. 

Identify industry-specific tools and software relevant to your field or desired career path by reviewing several job listings.

Prioritize learning the basics of these technologies and then gradually explore more advanced features as needed. It’s okay to start small like this and steadily build your proficiency over time. 

Take advantage of online resources including tutorials, forums, and webinars to enhance your understanding of new platforms. Consider joining an online community or professional group where you can ask questions, share experiences, and learn from others within your industry.

Additionally, don’t underestimate the power of hands-on practice (and the value of free trials!). Experiment with different tools and software in a low-pressure environment, like a personal project or volunteer work. 

Taking a proactive and strategic approach to learning new technologies (like ChatGPT, for instance), introverts can leverage these tools to enhance productivity, communication, and success in the workplace. 

If you’re feeling behind on things, perhaps technology can be the tool you need to amplify your abilities. 

Reentering the Workforce with Purpose

After a career break, reentering the workforce can feel like embarking on a new chapter of life. 

For introverts, this transition presents a unique opportunity to reconnect with a professional identity and pursue passions with renewed purpose.

Consider what motivates you and what type of work aligns best with your strengths and interests. This self-reflective process will help you clarify your direction and set meaningful goals for your return to work journey.

Next, take proactive steps to update your skills and knowledge to meet the demands of your desired field. You could enroll in relevant courses, attend workshops, or seek out mentorship opportunities to enhance your expertise and confidence levels. 

And perhaps this sounds strange, but I think it’s good to approach your reentry into the workforce with a sense of curiosity. An openness to new experiences can allow you to embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and learning. 

When you have a purpose or general direction in mind, your journey can be one of self-discovery, professional growth, and self-actualization. 

Additional Resources and Further Reading

At the end of the day, there’s no one right way to transition back to work. Just know that you possess unique strengths and abilities. You are capable of finding success. 

You can thrive in any contemporary professional environment by building a supportive network, nurturing your confidence, and embracing new opportunities with purpose. 

And if you found this blog post helpful, be sure to explore other Introverts Can blog posts for more inspiration, tips, and resources tailored to introverted women. 

Together, we can embrace our introversion and empower ourselves to confidently achieve our career goals.

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