Are You Returning to the Workforce?
I sometimes come across resumes of women looking to re-enter the workforce after an extended absence due to raising a family. Their reasons for coming back to the workforce can range from self-improvement to providing additional financial support to the household. Some of the concerns they have about their job search include lacking current skills that are relevant to today’s workplace, a lack of self-confidence, and the anxiety about finding a job that will offer flexibility for them to maintain a family-work balance. This scenario doesn’t just apply to women, this group of re-entry workers can include the military, the unemployed, current job-seekers, and everyone in between who needs to find a job after an extended absence from the workforce. What is an experienced, mature, and dedicated job-seeker to do?
First, a hard reality that you have to face – there are potentially two hundred other people vying for the same job that you are, and they have more current experience. The important things to focus on are the things that set you apart, and learning how to market yourself in a way that speaks to your strengths and piques an employer’s interest.
Here are some tips and guidelines to start you off on the right foot, and hopefully, to empower you along your job search:
Technology is a ubiquitous part of our lives now. This reality can be overwhelming, especially for older workers. Nearly every job now requires at least a working knowledge of technology. Most businesses use Microsoft Office Suite, which at a bare minimum requires experience with Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Learn, or take time to brush up on your computer skills with these programs, as well as any programs necessary in your industry. Look for local adult continuing education classes in your area; sometimes there are even free classes offered. That way, when you do land a job, your transition back into the working world will be much smoother.
Leverage Your Skills/Strengths
You may have had industry experience and the appropriate skill set when you left the workforce, so now that you’re toeing the waters again, take inventory of your past experiences and education and focus on integrating those experiences with the new skills you’ve picked up while you were away from the office. Did you volunteer in your community? Did you pick up any new interests, or join any clubs or associations? Did you attend any professional development conferences or workshops? What did you learn about raising a child or being part of a military unit? Narrow in on what sets you apart as a job candidate, and determine why your work history, maturity, and skill sets make you a better choice than other job seekers.
Your Resume and Marketing
Are you looking to re-enter the same field? Or do you want to start a career in something completely new? Knowing the answer to this question will help you determine how you conduct your job search. A resume is an important area that ties in with my other tip about looking within and sourcing your strengths. The biggest question is how to address a work gap on your resume. There is a mixed bag of answers out there but the best thing you can do for yourself, and your resume, is to focus on what skills you did acquire during your time away from the job market, and marketing them in the best light. While the situation can be challenging, don’t get discouraged, and don’t apologize for choosing to be a parent or serving your country. After you take inventory of your work history and how your skill set can benefit your future employer, engage an employers’ attention with information such as your volunteer/community activities, professional development activities, travel, and any new skills. After you’ve done a revision, have another person that you trust review your resume and make suggestions.
Perhaps you’ve dedicated the last 8 years of your life to your children or to your country; now it’s time to refocus on you. Make sure your appearance reflects the experienced professional that you are. In psychology, it’s a behavioral technique referred to as “acting as if.” Simply looking the part of a working professional again, even if you feel uncertain, can help boost self-confidence. This part requires a little time and money, but you don’t need to be extravagant. A good haircut may do the job, or a stylish interview outfit will help if your wardrobe is a bit dated from your previous life. Whatever you choose, be sure you feel good in it.
In closing, remember that, as with any job search, patience, practice, and a willingness to put some elbow work into marketing yourself will help you build the confidence you’ll need as you re-enter the workforce as a more mature professional. While it can be difficult, it absolutely can be done!