Re-entering the Workforce
At some point in your life, you might find yourself re-entering the job market after an extended absence. This does not mean that you can’t compete. This means that you might need to be more diligent in your search and have a solid plan in place.
Below are several suggestions to support your re-entry into the corporate arena:
Evaluate What You Bring to the Table
As you begin the job-search process, it is essential that you have a solid understanding of your skills, abilities, and accomplishments. Rather than emphasize your employment history (or lack thereof), it will be imperative for you to leverage this self-awareness to articulate the connections between your qualifications and your contributions to today’s [job] market. Your job-search strategy will be to focus on your overall marketable qualities.
You might want to consider obtaining additional credentials or training through courses at a local community college or a continuing education center. These courses might be rewarding as well as help you learn new skills or hone specific skills, which you can, in turn, market to employers.
You will need to create or revise your résumé. Rather than focusing on the gap(s) in your employment, think of what you have accomplished during this extended leave that might be relevant to the work you seek, e.g. community involvement or volunteer work. Experience does not have to be paid to count! When you are including previous work experience in your résumé, highlight skills and responsibilities that are relevant to today’s work environment. Think of how your skills will transfer into a new job.
While you update your résumé, update your hair, glasses, and wardrobe if needed. Self-presentation also is an important consideration.
It really is about who you know. Get back into the networking loop and make or re-establish connections. Join or rejoin professional organizations in your field and start to network and develop contacts. Subscribe to professional journals and reacquaint yourself with trends in the industry. Don’t be afraid to let people know that you are looking for a job and what you are interested in pursing. Consider contacting your former employer if you liked the company or organization and your job. If you worked well for them years ago, chances are they will still value your work today.
During the Interview
Consider how you want to portray your nonemployed status. At some point, you will be asked to answer the question, “What have you been doing?” Your goal here is not to defend your absence, but rather to frame it in such a way that it is a nonissue. Your answer should provide some perspective with where you are today and what you have to offer for the future. A “that was then, and this is now” type of approach (without being offensive) will incorporate what you have learned while you were absent and communicate what you have to offer and what you plan to do with your future.
Be patient and stay committed; the job search will not happen overnight. One suggestion is to make a task list and incorporate job-search activities into your daily tasks.
Should you step backward? There is no straightforward answer to this question. It is situational in that the answer will depend upon your particular circumstances. If you maintained a solid network, have done your research, and are staying in the same industry/field that you once worked in, it might be easier for you to just pick up where you left off. But you will need to have a strategy, a good understanding of the market, and strong self-marketing skills to re-enter the work force if you wish to avoid an entry-level position. Many who are re-entering the work force seek a lower-level job as it might offer an easier transition or a more flexible work schedule. A lower-level job also might be an ideal scenario for individuals who seek to change career fields.
Overall, stay optimistic that you will have a successful job search. Use selective searching and apply to positions that you have a genuine interest in pursing or for which you are qualified. Craft a cover letter specifically for each job that you are seeking that will show an employer you value the company and position. Challenge yourself to be your best self and put on a smile!
Resources for Women
Women who are re-entering the work force also might want to explore the resources available through Babson’s Center for Women’s Leadership.