Perhaps you’ve decided to stay home to spend more time with your young children for several years.
Or your elderly parents are beginning to need more attention from you and it’s compromising your ability to work full-time.
Or you’ve had a major health setback, and recovery is likely to sideline you for a substantial period of time.
A career timeout, however, doesn’t have to mean career derailment. By staying professionally engaged and connected, you’ll be able to keep doors open for you when you’re ready to return.
Regardless of your reasons for stepping away from your LIS career, the following steps will keep you professionally engaged, and show others that you are, as well:
Stay professionally visible. Attend LIS conferences if you can (especially local/regional ones) and the meetings of the local chapters of your professional associations. Serve on virtual committees if possible to keep up your national visibility.
Maintain your professional memberships. These are your key to maintaining your network, staying current with issues and emerging trends in your field, and finding potential volunteer opportunities that will signal your ongoing career engagement. Check to see if your preferred associations offer discounted memberships for unemployed members.
Do occasional information-based projects if you can. Are you a “timing-out” researcher? Cataloger? Information architect? Whatever your information skill, consider undertaking occasional projects (fee-based or volunteer) that use and demonstrate your information skills. This offers multiple benefits: you’ll be able to point to professional-level work when speaking with an interviewer, you’ll keep your confidence level up, and you’ll be continuing to build your professional network and career brand.
Stay current with the LIS trends and issues relevant to your expertise. Set aside a regular time to read about what’s going on in your field. Whether print or online, there are dozens of resources available to help you stay abreast of your professional discipline and maintain your understanding of changes that impact how you’ll work when you restart your career.
Take courses to maintain the currency of your existing skills or expand your value with new skills. See Becoming a free-agent learner for ideas on how to keep your skills current or expand your knowledge into new areas. Not only with this demonstrate to potential interviewers that you’ve taken responsibility for your professional growth during your time-out, but will potentially open up additional job opportunities. (For free or inexpensive options, see Becoming a free-agent learner: 7 learning hacks to level up your LIS skills.)
Your goal is to devote just a small, but consistent, amount of time to keeping your career active so that when you do decide to return to the workplace, you haven’t lost all that professional equity you built up before you (temporarily) stepped out.