You took time off to raise a family, or care for a loved one, or for some other personal reason. Now you’re ready to go back to work. You can’t wait to be fully employed. You freshen up your resume, create a LinkedIn profile and start applying. Simple right? But the phone isn’t ringing and your inbox is empty.
Navigating your return to the workforce may be more challenging than you expected. Whether you’ve been out of work for two years, or ten, here are five things we've learned at InHerSight that you should know about getting back to work.
1. Your friends may be your best leads
Back in the day, you probably responded to job openings that you found on sites like monster.com and careerbuilder.com. But today, experts estimate that north of 70 percent of job seekers land a position through networking.
To Do: Seek out professional groups in your area that may be specific to your industry or for women. When you attend meetings be ready with a succinct ‘elevator pitch’—who you are, what skills you have, and what positions interest you.
Remember your network includes your friends, too, event parents of your kids’ friends. Let them all know you’re searching and what you’re looking for. These contacts could become referral sources that push your resume to the top of the stack.
2. There’s more than one way to talk about your career gap
There’s no avoiding it: the time you’ve spent not working will come up in interviews. It’s important that you think through and practice how you will respond.
To Do: Make a list of the transferable skills that you used during that time that would be directly applicable to the workplace. Did you utilize time management skills to wrangle a hectic family schedule? Did you manage the budget down to the last dollar? Did you manage medication schedules, translate complex medical information, and advocate for appropriate care by going to doctor visits with a sick loved one? What about any volunteer activities? Excellent active listening and communication skills were no doubt a part of your daily life if you interacted with kids! Believe me, that’s a skill you can’t underestimate in the office.
Take time to think about how to discuss these skills in the interview process, and maybe even highlight them more prominently before the interview. This brings me to the next point…
3. A skills-based resume could give you an upper hand
If you’ve never heard of a skills-based resume , you have now and you can thank us later. These resumes lead with your skills, instead of a chronological list of past employment which emphasizes work history like you’d find in a traditional experience based resume.
To do: Try your hand at creating a resume that highlights the skills from all facets of your life and paints a more rounded picture of what you have to contribute to your next workplace.
Back-up plan: If you are struggling to make your resume sing, consider working with a resume writer. A good resume writer may charge anywhere from $100-$500 to craft your resume, and many will update your LinkedIn profile, too. Given that your resume is often a first impression this may be well worth the investment.
4. It pays to be patient, but maybe not picky
Your first job after a career break may not necessarily be ideal or long-term. In fact, many women report that they re-enter the workforce in a position that checks some of the boxes on their ‘want’ list but not all. And that’s okay. In fact, it might take some of the pressure off of feeling like you have to find that perfect thing.
To do: Make a list of the must-haves and nice-to-haves from your next workplace. Then use those must-haves as a way to focus you on what’s really important.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to set up your InHerSight profile and get matched to companies that are the right fit for you. Click here to get started!
Once you have a year or two of current experience you will have more contacts, likely have more confidence, and be more attractive to employers. So, you may need to think of the first job back as a ‘for now’ position.
5. Remember, you’ve got this
Many women report a huge lack of confidence when trying to return to work. I have worked with women who were directors, senior directors, vice presidents, have masters and PhDs, and more but after taking a career break they question their own knowledge, skills, and abilities. It’s always surprising to me when I look at a woman’s accomplishments that she could feel insecure or lack confidence but it is probably the one consistent challenge that I have seen women experience both in formal return programs I have facilitated and in my coaching practice. The job search may take some time, be frustrating, and involve some rejection.
To Do: Make sure you have some support to keep you up. Rely on a friend or spouse, create a ‘brag folder’ of all of the compliments you’ve received and accomplishments throughout the years to remind yourself that you’re awesome, and/or work with a coach who can support your efforts. We all need help on our journey!
Bonus: Find female-friendly workplaces that help those looking for a career change
While re-entering the workforce after a gap or changing careers is intimidating, there are companies that help workers with this transition. Check out our list of companies that help with career change.
We connect women to jobs and companies where they will thrive. Looking for work? Do your research—thousands of women have shared their insights with us about the places they work. Already employed and want to share the inside scoop? Click here to anonymously rate your company now and help other women make informed decisions.
Catherine Robinson is a certified coach, leadership consultant, and champion of women in the workplace. Ready to find your path? Connect with her at Robinson Leadership Coaching .