Overcoming Hurdles in Re-Entering the Workforce: By Natalie Pagsuberon Mean
Over the past few years, I’ve encountered many people who have taken an extended break in their work history. I have rarely seen a resume that has ten or more years of work experience without any gaps in between jobs. Just a few of the reasons why careers can be put on hold, and there can be many include the following:
· Being laid off
· Having to be caretakers of their family or recovering from injury or illness
· Starting a family
· Performing military duty
These circumstances aren’t always predictable or planned and sometimes it’s hard to tell how long the situation will last. Many people fail to plan or strategize what they need to do to re-enter the workforce until a few weeks before they decide to actively embark on a job search again. When in reality, in a tough job market, they really should start strategizing a work re-entry plan in the early stages of being unemployed. Some of the most difficult hurdles of re-entering the workforce are:
· Lack of current work experience
· Unexplained gaps in the resume
· Loss of current skills or industry knowledge
· Not having a solid network of professional contacts and references
· Transitioning back into a set work schedule or a more structured routine
· Transitioning careers due to circumstances such as needing more family time, more flexible hours and new career interests
The best strategy in overcoming these hurdles is to start planning early so you have a strategic plan to follow. Not having a plan can delay the search in many ways and the end result is a very lengthy job search with little direction.
Here are a few tips that can help:
· Do not be afraid to discuss your time off in the interview or networking meetings. Losing your job, taking time off due to a family illness, military service and many other reasons are all part of life and most, if not all contacts you develop probably have gone through similar situations. In many cases such as military service, that can easily be positioned as a positive, not a negative in re-entering the public and private sectors. This is not to say that you have to give all the details in a situation such as a family illness or raising a family, but just a brief statement on taking time off due to a family situation, illness or having to spend more time with the family is enough. Many networking contacts will have been in that situation, or know people that have been in that situation and will understand. Fill in gaps and gain work experience by volunteering to assist with projects at a local school, church or charity. Take a position that might be a stepping stone in giving you the experience and networking contacts that can help you achieve your new career goal.
· Continually review your resume and jot down activities that you did during your time off and might be able to translate into work experience (e.g., help compile an annual report for an association, coordinate an activity for an organized group, fix your neighbor’s computer, etc.).
· Read trade magazines and keep up with industry trends on-line. Some websites even offer the publications for free. A good example is Freetrademagazines.com. Keep your computer skills up to date by watching videos on-line. Some great video resources are Youtube.com, Howcast.com, eHow.com, KhanAcademy.org…and yes, this can become resume material!
· Join LinkedIn and begin to connect with former managers, colleagues and friends. Sharing an update or congratulating a connection on a promotion or any achievement can make reconnecting when the actual search begins much easier to do. Join LinkedIn Groups that are in your area of interest. There are hundreds of groups to choose from and get involved in posting and commenting on group articles. This is how good networking contacts are developed. I have personally been contacted by people after I made a comment about their posting on a Group page. Keep the comments positive. As you post articles, other might make a comment on your post and then you can connect with them. If you don’t already have a LinkedIn account set one up right now! It’s easy and a good source to tell your story, communicate your career goals and write about your passions. This is where much of the recruiting action takes place. Companies are extensively using LinkedIn to recruit new employees.
· Check out your local library and community college for professional networking opportunities. Also attend job fairs and search for ways to be active with your alumni group and participate in events and activities with your alma mater. Most of these events a free of charge and a good way to re-connect.
· Check out event calendars of state and federal employment services such as IDES for workshops here: http://1.usa.gov/Z3obia.
· Add a little structure and routine during your time off and actually schedule networking appointments either by phone or in-person with people you already know. They will be happy to refer you to some of their associates. Little by little you can begin to accumulate good networking contacts that will be happy to assist you as you re-enter the workforce. If you don’t formally set aside the time for training, networking and researching, it will NEVER get done!
· Establish small goals to start. Easy to reach goals. As you meet those goals you will become more motivated to keep moving forward. In a short time you will be amazed at how much you have accomplished.
· Get a good first draft of your resume and cover letter ready. Then you can continually update and edit as you progress. It is much more difficult to write these documents from scratch once you begin to start the actual search.
· Do a little at a time, but start now! If you follow these tips everything, including solid networking contacts will be in place and ready to go once you actually begin the search.
Natalie Pagsuberon Mean
LinkedIn Profile Page: www.linkedin.com/in/nataliemean/
Need additional assistance? Please consider contacting Job Transitions for a free resume review and initial consultation. www.jobtransitions.net.