Have you taken a career break and you’re now ready to re-enter the workforce, but not sure how to navigate it all?
Many people take a career break, for various reasons:
- You’ve been a stay-at-home parent, but the kids are now old enough for you to go back to work outside the home.
- You’ve been caring for a loved one who no longer needs your help.
- You’re recently divorced and need an income, or more of one.
- You sidestepped your career for a time, while furthering your education.
- You’ve taken time off to travel.
- You’ve been self-employed but now want a steady pay check, working for someone else.
- You retired, but now find that you need to supplement your income.
- You don’t necessarily need the income, but you want to have a job, whether paid or volunteer.
Whatever your circumstances, getting back out there and landing a job is probably more difficult for you than it is for someone transitioning from one job to another.
It can come with much anxiety and confusion about how and where to even start, and how to improve your chances of landing where you want.
Whether you’re a senior executive, mid-level executive or, really at most any professional level, best practices to get back in the workforce are about the same.
Below you’ll find my advice, along with suggestions from many other job search and career experts.
Maintain your confidence as you plan to re-enter the workforce
A good place to start is with recruitment firm Flex Professionals‘ 9 very helpful tips to maintain your confidence as you re-enter the workforce:
- Believe in your professional self
- Stay current with the ever-changing world of technology
- Take time to self-explore
- Consider part-time as a transition option
- Update your resume (and LinkedIn profile) and get intimate with the details
- Connect to your professional network
- Grow your network
- Volunteer with purpose
- Use social media to engage professionally
Ease into your return to work if you’ve had a long absence
If you’ve been out of the workforce for a long time, Indeed has some good advice, including:
- Start with volunteering. Volunteer work can help you get up-to-date on skills you’ll need for your new job, and will expand your network.
- Do some freelance work. Freelancing will build your work portfolio and minimize employment gaps on your resume and LinkedIn profile.
- Ask others about their experience. If there are other people you know who transitioned back into the workplace after a long break from employment, ask how they were successful. You may find you can use their same strategies.
- Take refresher courses. If you feel your skills are outdated, consider a refresher course so you can feel more confident in your abilities and can speak about your knowledge on your resume and during an interview.
- Get a certificate. Relevant certifications can elevate you above the competition and show that you are serious about continuous education.
- Focus on your soft skills. A major differentiator between candidates are the unique attributes and soft skills they offer to any workplace, so focus on things like adaptability, communication, time-management and creativity. Explain to the hiring manager how your particular soft skills make you an ideal fit for the position.
Monster.com’s advice for re-entering the workforce includes being an “interview superstar”:
“When you land an interview, arrive ready to outshine the competition. If asked about it, discuss your time away briefly. Don’t get bogged down in the details of your year in Belize or become emotional about a loved one’s illness. Emphasize your skills and work ethic rather than your time away.
Sell yourself as a blank slate ready to jump in and work hard in a new work environment. If it makes sense, draw concrete conclusions between the job you’re interviewing for and the things you learned while coping with real-life situations (travel, illness, graduate school) that the competition may not have had to deal with.”
Job Search and Career Professionals on How To Re-Enter the Workforce If You’re a Senior Executive
“If you have successfully helped senior professionals re-enter the workforce, what advice would you offer for other senior professionals in this intimidating situation?”
I’ve highlighted a few of the contributions here, including my own.
My contribution to the discussion:
First steps when you re-enter the workforce are just the same as those that job seekers should follow when transitioning from one job to another:
- Determine the kind of work you want to do.
- Target companies that will be a mutual good fit.
- Research those companies to find out what strengths, skills and experiences of yours will help them solve current pressing problems.
- Build your personal brand around the qualifications and personal qualities you possess, that those companies need and will be looking for.
- Strategize and write your personal marketing content (resume, LinkedIn profile, bio, cover letters, etc.) based on the contributions you’ve made to past employers and the things about you that will resonate with your target employers.
- Get busy connecting/networking with people who can help you meet your career goals . . . in person/phone and on social media (LinkedIn especially).
Executive search strategist, Debra Feldman
“I agree with the recommendations that emphasize preparation, planning, realistic expectations, establishing a focus, and conducting informational meetings, acting “as if” you are in the field. In addition, become educated and aware of current industry trends and best practices and develop relationships to source new job leads that are part of the hidden job market.
I also suggest that re-entry candidates contact their alumni career services offices for counseling, faculty connections, and fellow alumni who are at their target companies or are familiar with their target role. Have a coherent elevator pitch that draws a line from where they’ve been to where they want to be in a language easily interpreted and shared with second-degree connections. Lastly, it’s worth investing in a coach, through an academic affiliation or personal recommendation, to get started on the right track as the first step rather than leaping to update a resume before having a clear search focus and identifying potential obstacles and ways to eliminate barriers to a smooth, successful landing.”
Career coach, Peter Hill
“Before writing and distributing your résumé, reconnect with your professional identity. Take the time to look in the mirror and validate your career motivators. The benefits are too many to list here, but this plays a central role in eliminating the stress and overwhelm. And failure to do this self-discovery work can prevent you from realizing your full potential.
Stop 90% of what you think is an active job search and sort out your three employment target pillars before moving forward— role, industry, geography. Strategize your targeted plans A and B (and perhaps a plan C). This alone will eliminate much of the anxiety in your search.
What we’ve found is that an accelerated, successful search is 80% mindset. The other 20% is treating your search just like you would a business project. A systematic approach to your transition will unlock new levels of confidence in the trajectory of career success you have always enjoyed.”
Job search strategist, Jenny Foss
“Select your short list of companies you’re super interested in and start reaching out to people at these companies for informational interviews.
Leverage every connection that you have – family members, friends, friends of friends, fellow alumni at the college you attended (alumni tend to take very good care of one another), etc.
Approach with genuine curiosity
Be mindful of the person’s time — 15-20 minutes max
Remember that YOU are the interviewer. Come with questions that will allow you to learn more about that person, her team, the company, etc.
At the end of the convo, ask if they can think of another person or two that you should introduce yourself to, so that you can learn more.
If you follow their advice and get a good result, loop back and let them know how useful their advice was.”
Executive career coach, Soozy G. Miller
“Demonstrating value-add and impact in the resume is crucial for the 50+ crowd, especially those who are transitioning to a new sector/specialty. Demonstrating your leadership skills and the value that your leadership brought to ANY situation or organization will make you a very desirable hire.
Also, being able to show how your soft skills (communication and interpersonal strengths) benefitted the company/team/project/process also helps!”