After taking time off to stay home with young children, care for a relative, travel, or simply to take a break, the task of preparing oneself to re-enter the workforce is daunting. So much may have changed since you were last working that so often, just taking that first step towards going back to work can be quite stressful. An outdated resume, new technologies, and loss of personal network contacts and are all intimidating factors that can dissuade someone from taking the plunge. “With so many challenges lying between me and my next job, where do I even begin? “ Trying to do everything at once can be a mistake. Instead, try to break down the things you need to do into small manageable tasks so that you do not become overwhelmed before you’ve even sent out your first application. Below are three guidelines that you can use to ready yourself.
Dust off your resume
The first step to getting back into the workplace is definitely to ensure that your resume is up-to-date and ready to send off. Dust it off and update it ASAP. Have a professional look at it and give you pointers. Since you’ve been out of the workplace for some time, there will be a gap in your career history. This is not the end of the world. It is important to mind this gap and any work experience whether it is career-relevant or not, is important to include.
I recently had a client who was looking to go back to office work after taking five years off to be with her young family. In that time she had done a number of un-related certificates and was working part-time as a massage therapist. The recruitment agency she had been speaking to recommended that she exclude this work from her resume as it was not relevant to the customer service work she was seeking. I disagreed and explained that she had done an honorable thing in taking time off to be with her children while at the same time working as a massage therapist on the side. The therapist job, in fact, has a lot of overlap with a customer service job. She had established a clientele who asked for her by name and then set up an individual program for each one to deal with their specific needs. Massage therapy is a customer service job, it speaks to one’s ability to establish and retain customers by providing an excellent and predictable level of service. A recruiter will see that.
Back to the original point. Any experience is relevant; it’s all about how you sell it. So if you’ve worked at all, no matter whether it is as a volunteer in your child’s classroom or as a massage therapist when you are looking for office work, include it on your resume. When you really have no work to explain a gap in your work history, it is ok to own that gap and explain what you were doing in that time. Caring for a sick family member, having children of your own, travelling are all realities that we as individuals confront and that interviewers can and should respect.
Find out what has changed as far as technology, and learn it!
Changes in technology happen daily so staying up-to-date is never easy, especially when you haven’t worked with a given program in years. It is important to see what has changed in your specific field and familiarize yourself with these changes whenever possible. With the speed at which technology is changing it is not easy to stay updated on every single update and employers understand that you may not have their specific software set up on your PC but as long as you are familiar with the newest versions of the more popular and basic software, you are demonstrating your ability to stay on top of the change. An employer is looking for your capacity to keep up with ever-changing technology, and not necessarily for your knowledge of their company-specific software version 2.0.
Re-establish your social network
Going back to work after a break is always tough and can be made even more intimidating when your network of people you once relied and depended on for references or a head’s-up on office news are suddenly gone. With the social media we have available at our fingertips, there is no excuse to have an outdated social network. Join or update your LinkedIn profile now. Send invitations to your old contacts and reach out to new ones in industries you are seeking work in. Join Twitter and search for experts in your field to follow. Often they will send out an inspiring tweet or link to an interesting article that may be meaningful to you. While you are updating your social network, ensure that your Facebook page is cleaned up as well (revisit your privacy settings!). A recruiter will look there first and find out all sorts of interesting things about you so remove information, photos and posts better left unseen and unsaid and make sure your future posts are ones that you are fine with should they be viewed by your future employer.
In conclusion, re-entering the workforce after time off, no matter what for or for how long, can be terrifying and stressful but there are ways to ease this stress if you prioritize and break the process down into a few manageable steps. Be ready with an updated resume that you can send out at any moment. Inform yourself on changes in technologies. Re-establish your social network by getting back in touch with old contacts and finding new ones in industries or jobs you are interested in. Now take a deep breath. You are ready to dive in!
photo credit: levoleague