3 Tips for Reentering the Workforce
There can be a myriad of reasons women find themselves taking a long hiatus from the working world. Many women take years off at a time for child-rearing, illness, or caring for a loved one. As a mother of three daughters, I found myself interested in reentering the workforce after seven years at home, but it was a little nerve-racking to think of interviewing again.
Regardless of the reason, the thought of reentering the workforce after a significant amount of time off can be daunting. Who would want me now? I will be up against so many other candidates who have recent and relevant work experience. How will I explain what I have been doing for the last “x” years? These are just some of the immediate seeds of doubt that creep into our minds and can blossom into full-blown fears that paralyze us and diminish our chances of success before we have even begun. Here are three tips to keep you on track as you begin your employment search:
1. Get your perspective on target.
Remind yourself of your strengths and skill sets. In what ways were you an asset in your former positions? What was it about your abilities that drew a distinction between yourself and your colleagues? What awards, accolades, or recognitions did you receive and why? Insecurity can make you feel dated or irrelevant, but the truth is that rusty talent is still talent. It doesn’t disappear over time. You will be surprised at how quickly you can get reaquainted with it.
Update your resume and become very familiar with its content. And when your time away comes up in an interview, don’t apologize for it. An extended period away from the workforce will prompt an explanation—but not an apology. You can validate your reasons for leaving and leave it at that.
2. Create your “5-minute sell on yourself.”
You should be able to articulate the “story” of your career progression in a natural and engaging way. Familiarize yourself with each position included in your resume as well as the reasons for transitioning from job to job. And remember that you are the only one who knows your story, so tell it in the most exciting and positive way possible. It should not be merely reading the bulleted items off of your resume; instead, infuse it with personality and always verbalize the most positive experiences from each position (promotions, awards received, etc.) Time yourself and practice it aloud until it is natural.
Finally, don’t discount your time away from the professional workforce as if were totally irrelevant. Many women do amazing things during that time—they just aren’t paid for them. These can include volunteer work, organizing events for church, sports or social clubs, etc. Companies are seeking to fill positions, but they also want to hire well-rounded people. Critically think about ways you may have contributed to your personal growth or helped other organizations or causes to grow, and then be able to articulate those experiences. If you can get someone you worked alongside during your time away to write a letter of recommendation highlighting your contributions—even better. This is valuable information that employers would love to hear!
3. Leverage your personal network.
Tell everyone you know that you are looking for a job. Seriously. Draft an email with a brief introduction of your intentions and potential positions/fields for which you would be well-suited. Send the email to anyone in your contact list with whom you have even casual contact, asking for their help in your job search. You can also use your social media accounts for a broader reach. Referrals and job leads can come from the most unexpected persons and places. I was able to obtain all of my favorite positions through a personal referral. People who know you and care about you will bend over backwards to help you if they can. And don’t just think about the people who work in the field that interests you. Everyone has a network, and if you can tap into as many of them as possible, your potential opportunities can multiply exponentially.
Following these three simple guidelines will give you a considerable boost as you begin. And as corny as it may sound, stay positive. Expect rejection and do not become deterred by it. Getting what you want is all about persistence and timing. View each “no” as one more step toward the “yes” you are seeking in your job search.