Returning to work

Whether after parental leave, time off due to illness or a sabbatical, anyone who wants to return to work should plan and prepare well. We tell you which six questions you should ask yourself early on.

1 What do I want?

Taking time off sometimes changes your priorities and goals in life. Without knowing what you want for your professional future, it becomes difficult to look for suitable jobs. Therefore, the first question to ask is: What do you want to do? It may be possible — or even agreed — that you return to your old employer. Is this still an option for you?

If this is not the case, then find out in which direction it should go for you. What tasks do you enjoy doing? Make a list and write down everything that comes to mind. Then think about what careers appeal to you. What makes you curious? What spurs you on? You should write that down, too. Likewise, the companies in your area that you find exciting. Could you even imagine changing your place of residence? This is also an important factor when it comes to finding a new job.

A woman takes notes at her desk.

The question that remains is to what extent and at what times you would like to work. There are a few options: Do you work full-time or part-time? Is a mini-job enough for you? Or can you imagine working on a self-employed basis? Of course, this decision also affects your salary. And money is not infrequently the main reason for returning to work. So how much do you want to earn?


  • What do I enjoy doing?
  • Which professions do I find exciting?
  • Which companies appeal to me?
  • To what extent would I like to work?
  • Is self-employment an option?

2. what are my qualifications?

Next, you should take a look at your past. After all, in order to find a suitable new job, it is important to know what knowledge and skills you bring to the table. Make a note of what tasks you were involved with in your past job. What did you find particularly easy? What did colleagues come to you with when they needed help?

Also important are all the training and continuing education courses you have completed. What degree did you graduate with? Did you go to university? Did you continue your education and acquire additional qualifications? How long ago was this? Computer programs and software in particular are evolving rapidly. Are you up to date?

Last but not least: No job depends only on so-called hard skills. Therefore, you should also ask yourself what character traits make you special. Are you particularly organized, determined, fast, thorough or empathetic?


  • What training and additional qualifications do you have?
  • What tasks have you been responsible for in the past?
  • What distinguishes you as a person?

3. are my qualifications sufficient?

A woman greets a conversation partner with a handshake.

In the next step, you should compare your wishes with your qualifications. Are your knowledge and skills sufficient to get your dream job? A tip: Ask your partner, friends and acquaintances for help. Women in particular tend to have a lower opinion of their own abilities.

To get an overview of what is actually required, it is best to analyze current job advertisements. This will give you a good overview of what employers currently expect from employees. Do you meet most of the employers’ requirements? Then you can basically start applying right away. Are there any areas where you could fill gaps in the requirements profile? Find out what options are available to you on the Internet or directly from training providers.

By the way: The costs of continuing education are sometimes covered by the employment agency. It is also possible to receive unemployment benefits or money for childcare during your training. Find out more on the spot.


  • Do you bring what employers expect?
  • What do you need to brush up on or learn?

4. Do I have enough support?

Especially if your career break has lasted longer, it is likely that you are now involved in new routines and procedures. Mothers who have stayed at home because of the children should therefore ask themselves, for example: Will my children continue to be well cared for when I go back to work? Do I have enough support? This could be my partner, but also other family members or friends.

Take care to clarify these issues early on. Talk openly with your caregivers about your desire to return to work and look for solutions together. What might the division of labor in the family look like after you return to work? Can your parents provide support? Do you possibly have the financial means to finance help in the household?

If your family and friends are not behind your decision, this will of course make your re-entry more difficult. Don’t get discouraged too quickly: The step back into work is an important one. Only if you earn your own money will you be financially independent in case of doubt and provide for your own retirement pension.


  • Who is behind you and your decision?
  • How will you manage your new everyday life?
  • Who will support you and your family when you return to work?

5. which (old) contacts could be helpful?

Scouring job ads in the newspaper or on the Internet is one thing. Because, of course, it is important to know where to find open positions. The other: Talk to as many people as possible about the fact that you are looking for a new job. Because a network of acquaintances, friends, old work colleagues and superiors is worth its weight in gold.

In the working world, a lot runs through contacts and recommendations. So don’t be afraid to approach someone. For example, if you hear about a job at a company where someone you know works. Or if you find a company exciting where you know someone. Who knows if there will be a vacancy there soon. Or whether it might be worthwhile to write a speculative application.

A woman walks through a room on the phone.

A direct line into companies is priceless. This also applies if you want to start your own business. After all, potential clients first need to know that you offer something and what you offer.


  • Who have you already told about your plans?
  • Who else should know about it?
  • Are you still in contact with old colleagues and superiors?
  • Do you know anyone in exciting companies?

6. how do I approach job applications?

ou have everything sorted out: you know what you would like to do in the future and know the value of your qualifications. Everything has been settled with your partner and your environment, and you have already talked to (old) contacts about your plans. The last step is to bring your application documents up to date. First and foremost, this includes your resume. If you already have one from previous applications, check the address and contact details. Is the photo still current? Have you listed all past employment and briefly outlined your job?

If you have been at home for a longer period of time due to parental leave, this should also be included in your resume. Because potential employers will be surprised about a gap in your employment. You will make a good impression if you show that you also used your maternity leave to further your education. List any new additional qualifications. To apply, you should also gather all your work references.


  • Is your resume up to date?
  • Do you have a recent photo of yourself?
  • Do you have references from all previous employment?

You can find more tips for your return to work at Perspektive Wiedereinstieg. We wish you all the best.