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5 minute read

What You Can Do to Advance Your Career After a Long Break From Work

Sometimes, we need to “retreat” to “advance”. Re-joining the workforce after being away may not necessarily be disadvantageous. By being away from work for some time, we can recharge and better understand our desires and strengths, thus achieving greater results when we start work and stand a higher chance of fulfilling our goals.

According to a well-known Chinese proverb: “It is wiser to return home to prepare a net than to wait for fish by a stream.” Taking a hiatus to prepare for greater challenges can sometimes be a wise decision. It is also one of the stratagems outlined in the military treatise The Art of War by Sun Tzu, known as “advance through retreat”.

The book by the same name, Advance Through Retreat by Chinese author Lee Jia Hua explains this concept better and how we can apply it in real life. It emphasises the value of retreating to advance, even when it appears counter-intuitive, or at times, appear daunting and challenging.

Taking a step back allows us to look at creative alternatives instead of the immediate, obvious solution

Based on the book Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, Adam Grant describes Steve Jobs as a procrastinator. He would deliberately hold off making decisions that are the most conventional, the most obvious, or the most familiar. By allowing some time for his mind to process the possibilities, he allowed for more creative ideas to bubble up later.

In an office setting, most long serving staff would have conformed to standard processes and old ways of doing things. Being the new kid on the block, you can share fresh perspectives and new ideas which can help transform the business and operations. Be confident that being new to the company is your greatest advantage.

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Returning to work after a long break may appear daunting. One would fear being out of touch with working life and be intimidated by having to blend in with the office culture and new colleagues. However, it is all about perspectives.

Follow your dreams and resist following the path set by others

Everyone has different goals and the right to live however they want. Instead of blindly following the path set by others, it is better to take a step back and understand what you truly want in life, even if it goes against the conventional view of success.

It is easier to take tangible steps to achieve your goals when the social definitions of success do not distract you. By “retreating” from the tendency to fulfil the ideal life of others, you gain greater happiness when you pursue what you truly want. As a result, your goals become more precise, allowing you to focus and advance in life.

Read More: 5 Tips for Women Looking to Return to the Workforce After a Mid-career Break

Being patient and brushing up on fundamental skills will pay off in the long-run

Starting anew in the workplace allows you to work on your fundamental skills to help you succeed. You can take the chance to brush up and refresh on basic skillsets based on the reason that you have been away for a while. Superiors and colleagues will also tend to be more patient with you, giving you more time and space to pick up the pace. This is the best time to start afresh and build a strong knowledge and foundation, which will benefit you in the long-term.

The same goes for many other aspects of life. It’s easy to dismiss fundamental training that appears too basic, thinking that they do not produce any results. Only those willing to be patient and slowly work to improve themselves will succeed in the long-run.

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Being too hasty in chasing success can backfire; patience is an essential virtue in the journey to success

Sometimes “retreating” means slowing down deliberately to ensure that our efforts are not wasted. After all, the proverb “haste makes waste” recalls the value of patience in doing things to avoid wasting time, effort and money.

Lee warns against being overly eager to prove yourself in the workplace. Instead, focus on maintaining a positive attitude, working hard, and doing your best; Over time, your superiors and colleagues will be won over by your hard work.

It is also important to remember that some things in life shouldn’t be rushed. While it’s easy to be discouraged by the challenges we face on the journey to success, those same challenges were necessary for our growth. Those experiences, while tough, bring with them newfound perspectives, skills, and abilities. Take a long-term perspective and view those experiences as learning opportunities instead of being overly hasty to achieve results.

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A process that involves tenacity and hard work is necessary for true success

Success does not happen overnight, but over many days of effort. While it’s tempting to look for a shortcut, true success requires a process that incorporates tenacity and hard work into our daily lives. Doing things methodically rather than rushing through them is more likely to bring about success.

When you’ve been away from work for some time, the steep learning curve and the assimilation into a new company’s culture may take effort. Be mentally prepared and soldier on. This phase is temporary, and soon you will make new friends at work, which provides the emotional and mental support you need.

Be mentally prepared and resilient in the first few months of re-joining the workforce and try not to give up easily. Turn to your superiors, family, or friends for support whenever you need them. It may be beneficial to also share your feelings and challenges with your line manager, so that they can better guide you in your new role.

Re-joining the workforce after being away may not necessarily be disadvantageous; it is important to take a step back to achieve progress at times. By being away from work for some time, you can recharge and better understand your desires and strengths. That way, you can achieve greater results when you start work, and stand a higher chance of fulfilling your goals.

This article is co-created by NexPage, a translated book summary app, and Workipedia by MyCareersFuture.

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