Work After Leave


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Returning to Your Career After an Extended Leave of Absence

For many people in the New York workforce, there is need for a leave of absence for personal reasons. Perhaps you need to take a pregnancy leave or time off after your child is born. Others might need time off to care for an aging or ill family member or to care for their own mental or physical illness or burnout.

This kind of break from one’s career is not easy to do but it has been the legal right of both men and women in the United States since the 1980’s. This right is protected by the Family Medical Leave Act or FMLA as most Human Resources personnel call it.

Under this law we are all entitled to up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave.

“The most common serious health conditions that qualify for FMLA

leave are:

1) conditions requiring an overnight stay in a hospital or other

medical care facility;

2) conditions that incapacitate you or your family member (for

example, unable to work or attend school) for more than three

consecutive days and require ongoing medical treatment

(either multiple appointments with a health care provider, or

a single appointment and follow-up care such as prescription


3) chronic conditions that cause occasional periods when you or

your family member are incapacitated and require treatment

by a health care provider at least twice a year; and

4) pregnancy (including prenatal medical appointments,

incapacity due to morning sickness, and medically required

bed rest).” *from The Family and Medical Leave Act

Although this is a great benefit, it can be difficult to come back from it, especially if your leave is extended well beyond 12 weeks and into months or perhaps years beyond the FMLA timelines. Here are some ways to get yourself back into your career or move on to another.

  • Assess where you are now and what you want to do now. Whether you know it or not you are not the same person you were before the leave of absence. You have new perspectives, new skills, and new experiences. You want to evaluate what you want in your career now with personality, aptitude and career choice tests. Be clear before you start looking again.
  • You HAVE learned new skills whether they be soft skills like communication, interpersonal relationships, and management. You have likely learned some new hard skills as well such as budgeting, delegating and supervising. Add these to your resume. Use them in your interviews. This is invaluable experience.
  • Do your homework. Your industry has probably changed in your absence. The overall employment environment in the country has changed and certainly you have changed. Be in touch with all of these changes and what they mean to your career.


Most importantly never make excuses for why you were on leave. Talk about the positives of what you learned on leave that pertains to the job you want. Follow these tips and you should be alright.

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