Taking a professional hiatus to care for children or ailing family is a reality for many women. But doing so doesn’t have to mean career suicide. For some women, reentering the workforce may even propel their careers to greater heights than before they left. Your ultimate success when reengaging a career depends on how you bridge the gap and the manner in which you reenter.

While You Are Away

Contribute your time, with planning and purpose, in a tangible way that can be expressed on your resume. I always recommend staying active with your industry’s leading professional association. For example, I joined my local chapter of the American Marketing Association and served on the Board of Directors for five years as the VP of Career Development. This volunteer work helped me expand and reinforce my presence as a recruiter who specializes in placing marketing executives. A number of my colleagues in the association were also able to utilize their high-profile involvement in order to bridge the gap when they were between jobs for extended periods.

By networking regularly with knowledgeable and connected industry professionals, you’re more like to have access to opportunities and to be hired when you do choose to return to work.

Using Social Media to Your Advantage

One of the main reasons women reentering the workforce struggle is that they don’t keep up with industry trends while they are on hiatus. In today’s digital world, there’s no excuse. Know the companies that are driving change and success in your industry, and key into local companies that are part of that growth. Follow those companies on LinkedIn. Stay high-profile, contribute to the comment stream, and continue to post related industry articles to your LinkedIn profile.

Employers today invariably jump to your online presence when reviewing your resume. Choose a photograph that represents you in a business environment, as a respected professional – avoid family or casual photos. Seek references on your LinkedIn profile from former employers, clients and colleagues.

When you are ready to return to work, you will be able to show prospective employers that you are still deeply involved in your industry. This commitment to remaining active in your industry, even during time away, can differentiate you from other candidates in the same position.

The Big Social Media Don’t

I’m a strong advocate of keeping your social media public profile professional. Everyone should be thoughtful about using social media at all times. But it’s even more critical for women returning to work. Review your public profile – Facebook and Twitter – before you apply for any job. Eliminate the frivolous. Take off anything you do not want a potential employer to judge you by. Just because you’re not currently at an office, doesn’t mean you’re not a professional.

Going back to work after a break can be enriching to you and your career. With the correct approach, reentering the workforce can be a very rewarding experience.

I’m interested in your thoughts. How have you successfully reentered into the workforce? What actions did you take during your hiatus to make reentry easier?