A little over five years ago, after spending seven years as an at-home parent to two lovely children, I began thinking about getting back to work as soon as possible. Both my children, Julia and Charles, were at an age where they didn’t require constant care and attention. So, I was looking for ways to get back to the workforce and start focusing on my career.
But, most of my thinking drove me to conclude that it was not possible to get back to work in a realistic way. Fortunately, I discussed my ‘career comeback’ woes with my best friend. She slapped some metaphorical sense into me about the very achievable world of work after a long career gap. She gave me certain words of advice, and within a couple of months after our first conversation, I got placed in a company as the ‘Sales Team Lead.’ At the age of 42, I have a new career, new purpose, new skills set, new group of coworkers, and a whole new dimension to my life that I never thought was possible.
Undoubtedly, there were challenges and an adjustment period while going back to work. But let me tell you, if I can do so, can you!
You may have taken a respite to take care of a loved one, travel the world, rediscover yourself, or be a stay-at-home parent like me. Whatever be the reason, it can feel incredibly overwhelming to get back in the swing of things. But, it doesn’t have to be a grueling process. Here are certain salient tips that would surely take you from being unemployed to signing a lucrative offer letter.
1. Frame Your Story
Before you plunge deep into reading the tips of navigating your return to the workforce and landing a successful job, I suggest you read the statistics first. It would surely chuck all your worries away and offer you renewed confidence.
As per the Australian Bureau of Statistics survey, around 4% of employees have taken a career break of six months or more. The survey also demonstrates that 73% of women took a career break for ‘family reasons’ whereas 47% of males took a break for personal reasons. Again, another recent survey exhibits that 32% of the working-age population has taken some form of hiatus during their career.
If you have a sizeable gap like me between jobs on your resume, the chances are that you would be asked why your time away from work. Thus, it is always wise to have a strong answer prepared beforehand so you aren’t caught off guard while answering.
The key to answering such kinds of questions is to speak about your break with confidence and not apologetically. Everyone has their own reasons for being on their career break. Be honest and to the point, irrespective of what your reasons were. A few sentences explaining your situation would suffice. Frame your absence as a learning experience that’s made you the way you are amazing today. Know that any employer who would be hostile to your story is perhaps someone you wouldn’t want to work for anyway.
2. Take One Step At A Time
It is estimated that about 90,000 people in the UK take a career break every year. In Australia, the ABS statistics claim that of the 6,736,500 employees who had worked with their current employer for six months or more, 268,400 (about 4%) had taken a break of six months or more.
Whether you feel all set to get back into the swing of things with work or are a bit nervous about how everything would go, trust me, it doesn’t hurt to try dipping in your toe before taking the dive. If it’s all possible seek out hourly work or part-time work, at least for a couple of months while you are getting adjusted and learning the ropes.
That’s what I did! It helped me hugely to ease back into the usually stressful and fast-paced workforce.
3. Get Clear On Your Goals And Objectives
While you may think what you need to ‘take simply what you can get on your hands’, you likely have much more options than you believe. Do not just consider the job you want today. Think about the job and the position you want 5 years from now. Try to understand exactly where you stand in your career.
If you are unclear before applying to a position, list down the answers to the following questions-
- How much do I want to make?
- Is this a workload I can manage at this point in my life?
- Do I already have some or all of the crucial skills required for this position?
- Can this position take me to the next level of my career?
- What kind of job would make me fulfilled and gratified?
The clearer you are about your objectives, the more chances are to find something that would fit the best for you and make you happy.
4. Rethink Your Resume
According to a TopResume.com study, a professionally written resume boosts the earning potential by 7 percent. Again, on average, each corporate job offer attracts 250 resumes. Of those candidates, 4 to 6 would be called for an interview, and only one would get the job. (Glassdoor.com)
Rethink your resume to ensure it conveys the information that you believe in yourself. Also, make it a point to use the present industry technologies and emphasize any previous skill sets that are still in demand. To accomplish so, carefully take a look at job qualifications job listing sites like Glassdoor.com and LinkedIn to get a comprehensive idea of what the employers are looking for today.
It is also significant to make sure that your resume reflects the current time and looks the part. Attractive visuals and formatting can get your foot in the door successfully. Stay away from a chronological resume if you have been out of work for over a year and go with a functional or hybrid resume to highlight your applicable skills in the most remarkable ways. Customize your resume for each job you apply to increase your chances of scoring an interview.
5. Stay In Touch With The Industry
It is vital to know the pulse of the career field you plan to get back to. Suppose you were in the field of custom writing services before you took the break. Researching the latest trends of your custom writing industry, recent job vacancies, new technology disruptions, and the likes can help you target the right company and the roles effectively.
It’s estimated around 60-70% of jobs are not advertised, thus it only makes sense to enlist the help of people- your outstanding careers resource. Set up some coffee dates and start following what people are currently doing on LinkedIn. Update your profile on LinkedIn, join professional groups and attend industry events. Apart from that, tap into your existing support group too. Tell them that you are looking forward to jumping back on the career bandwagon and ask them to refer you whenever they come across anything that suits you.
6. Hone Your Professional Skills
During your industry research, you might unearth that there exists a whole new world of jargon. Or, maybe the tools are the same, but it’s just been a while since you have used them, so your professional muscles have become all stiff.
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If this situation sounds similar to you, then here are certain remarkable steps you can take-
- Volunteer- Even if it’s completely unrelated to your field of work, volunteering daily can get you re-accustomed to a structured environment that employers usually like to see. It’s a bonus if volunteering develops or maintains skill sets that potential employers would want to see in their future candidates.
- Classes-If there are new products or programs available that you are not well-acquainted with, consider taking a class (whether it’s online or in-person). There exist different courses online on reputed websites like com or Coursera.org. Once you have mastered the new skill, you can incorporate it in the skills section on your resume.
- Newsletters, Podcasts, and the likes- There exist certain fields that do not transform rapidly. It may be as simple as that you need to remind yourself of how your industry operates, whether that signifies thumbing through your old textbooks, attending conferences, beginning to read industry news, subscribe to newsletters, listening to audible books and podcasts, etc.
Exemplary preparation like this would look outstanding on your resume, and might even seem more desirable to the recruiters and hiring managers.
7. Update your job search strategy
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It is essential to fish where the fishes are in the water. Investigate important online job boards to include specialist employment sites that aim at flexible work arrangements. Establish contacts with specialist recruiters. Never be afraid to approach the organizations directly. Strategically, your precious time is better spent targeting companies where you would be viewed as a valuable addition- not those where you would have to apologize for the time you spent raising your kids.
8. Be Prepared To Ace Your Interview
A recent survey claims that a typical employer would interview 6-10 candidates for a job and the candidates need to go through at least 2-3 rounds of an interview before they receive an offer.
Thus, before you go for your first interview, make sure you are well prepared to answer vital questions about your career break. Do not waste your mental energy rushing around right before you head out the door to your interview. Remember first impressions matter, so plan your outfit the night before. Keep the resume in your bag and throw in the portfolio (if you have one).
Remember to specify the work you did before your break as it is still relevant. Explain to them why you think you are ready to make a comeback. Discuss how can stay focused on where you stand today and how you can contribute to the wellness of the organization.
9. Search For Career Returner Programs
While I was searching for a job, my friend suggested me to research various career returner programs that are available online apart from making use of the job boards. I came to know that Deloitte is just one example of an organization that runs these kinds of programs. Their return to work programs is specifically designed for men and women who have taken a career break and last for about 20 weeks.
Image Source: https://career-advice.jobs.ac.uk/
JP Morgan is another business firm offering a similar kind of scheme. Their amazing global ReEntry Program offers networking and mentorship opportunities to senior executives who are on the lookout for unique opportunities to rejoin corporate life after taking a long career break.
10. Stay Strong And Confident
Whether you have taken a break for 6 months or 3 years, the task of restarting your career is going to be both physically and mentally taxing for you. It may happen that you might have to deal with multiple rejections and understandably fall to a depressing state Make a note that every rejection is a learning possibility and failures would stimulate you more.
Remember, it takes only one opportunity to break back into the workforce. With a little persistence and an upbeat attitude, I am sure that you would find your right fit soon.
About 84% of the millennial are in favor of taking career breaks at different facets of life for various reasons. It’s quite normal to take a break in one’s career and it is more usual than you may think, despite the stigma that surrounds it. Everyone has different life goals which they should try to accomplish at their own pace.
Thus, if you are concerned about jumping back into the career bandwagon after a long career gap, always remember to implement these tips in your life. It would help you dip your toes back in that water, find the perfect new role, and make your career back a glorious success. Good Luck and Persevere!