The first time I wrote this blog, it was eight months ago for WIT’s fall 2019 job fair. How quickly life can change! I touted the tight labor market as the perfect opportunity for professionals with career gaps to successfully re-enter the workforce. Returners remain an amazing untapped talent pool. But COVID-19 has hit women, especially caregivers, hard. Women are opting out of the workforce due to the pandemic, and studies show that getting back in is harder for women, especially older women. At FlexProfessionals, we routinely and successfully place professionals who have significant career gaps, and I am not talking small gaps but breaks of 5, 10, and 15+ years. What are the secrets to successful re-entry? Here are a few to get you started:
Believe in Your Professional Self
Most importantly, do WHATEVER it takes to maintain or regain confidence. You bring tremendous value to employers. Not only do they benefit from your diverse skillset, but you bring good judgement, commitment, unparalleled productivity, and trusted communication skills to the workplace. Start to become aware of how you communicate your value. Most re-entry candidates begin by highlighting the number of years that they have been out of work. No employer is going to hire you for your gap. Avoid long-winded, defensive, or apologetic explanations with lots of personal details. Instead, be proud of your decision to stay home, and quickly shift the conversation to your skills and accomplishments. Be careful not to dismiss your volunteer work because it is unpaid, or prior professional accomplishments because they are old. Think of yourself as the talented professional you are, and people in a position to hire you will think of you as the same. Watch this Amy Cuddy TED Talk for a little motivation and encouragement.
Express Excitement and Readiness to Return
Two top concerns of employers hiring re-entry professionals are their readiness to return and commitment to their work. If you left the workforce due to health issues or to care for aging or sick family members, clearly state to the prospective employer that the issue is now resolved. If you left work to raise a family or to care for children no longer in school or daycare, be sure to indicate that you have the support in place to transition back to paid work. We find that our re-entry candidates, grateful for the opportunity to get back in and intent on proving themselves, have staying power! Click here for more ideas for responding to common employer concerns specific to re-entry professionals, including the concern that you may be over-qualified.
Update Your Resume and Get Intimate with the Details
Update your resume, focusing on the most relevant successes, accomplishments, and results. Quantify as much as possible, or at least identify the impact or benefits of your work. Your resume should be concise, with only substance. Think of your resume as a reflection of the top skills you have and want to use in the future, rather than a laundry list of past job duties. Own your gap, but do not draw attention to it by giving yourself a fancy title like “Manager of Household” or providing too many details, i.e. “took 10 years off to raise four children”. Instead show that you have kept your skills sharp and/or learned new skills. This can be reflected on your resume by highlighting volunteer experience or recent trainings and certifications relevant to what you want to do next. Try not to obsess over your resume, but make sure you are familiar with the details so you come across as sharp and fresh during an interview. Use this formatting and editing tip sheet for quick reference.
Retool to Return to a Technical Field
STEM professionals in particular face a unique challenge when returning from a career break into a technical field. With rapid changes in technology, even small career gaps result in outdated skills. Our experience has shown us that returning STEM professionals with a commitment to updating their technical skills are most successful in landing employment in a technical field. Retooling during your gap is a great way to sharpen a skill, network, gain confidence, and demonstrate an eagerness and commitment to re-enter. Cloud computing and data analytics rank at the top of this region’s most sought after skills. Click here to learn about an exciting program to prepare returning or transitioning STEM professionals for in-demand tech jobs.
Consider Part-time as a Transition Option
Today professionals returning to work have more options than ever before. The notion that you have to be “all in” or “all out” is simply outdated. Part-time may be a great option as you transition back to paid work, as it allows you to ramp up at a more comfortable pace and to meet caregiving demands at home. It can also serve as a great stepping stone to that dream job! Check out our job postings for flexible work opportunities in the DMV area.
Click here for more tips on how to own your gap and re-enter the workforce with confidence! Don’t forget to REGISTER TO ATTEND WIT’S VIRTUAL JOB FAIR on June 25, 2020 from 4-7 pm. Be sure to “get in line” in the comfort of your own home and chat with a member of our team at our virtual booth! We’d love to meet you and learn about your skills, accomplishments and professional goals!
Sheila Murphy is Co-Founder of FlexProfessionals, a firm that matches experienced professionals seeking meaningful, part-time employment with growing businesses in need of top talent. Featured on The Today Show, Sheila is a career re-entry expert, work flexibility advocate, and seasoned speaker/trainer on a variety of job search and career development topics.
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