One of the toughest career challenges for women is re-entering the job market after a break in employment. Women experience employment breaks for various reasons:
- To stay home with babies and/or young children
- To care for elderly parents
- To continue their education
- To manage personal health issues
To ease the transition, there are three job search activities that can help optimize your re-employment results:1. Prepare a resume based on transferable skills
2. Reconnect with your network
3. Gain confidence by increasing your interview skills
- Prepare a resume based on transferable skills
As a career coach, I'm often asked by returning professional women how to account for the gaps in employment on their resumes. That's the first and best question to ask. The answer is to recognize the transferable skills you used during the time you were not employed. Skills gained off the job can still be translated into corporate assets that any potential employer would value: event planning, problem solving, conflict resolution, and negotiation skills, to name a few. View that period of your career as transitional time rather than time off, and evaluate your skills with an objective eye.
Most women spend a certain amount of time and energy working with others in a volunteer capacity during their time away from the workplace. For instance, serving on PTA or other youth group or church boards, neighborhood associations, or community sports functions. Any work performed with others toward a common goal allows opportunities to strengthen and exhibit skills needed on any job. Assess your accomplishments off the job the same way you would on the job. You may be surprised how much you achieved.
- Reconnect with your network
Long-term unemployment tends to isolate one from the groups of people who can provide the most information about employment opportunities. Those who are already employed have the advantage of learning about jobs through their professional association peers and company grapevine.
If you have been "out of the loop" with your old professional network, it's time to reconnect. Start by calling or emailing old colleagues to let them know that you are preparing to return to work. This is no time to be shy. Ask their advice about whom to contact within their company that might be interested in your skills and experiences.
If you've never had a professional network, then it's time to build one. Seek out one of the many associations for professional women in your area. There is no better place to meet new contacts who can help you in your job search than a women's networking event. It's still true that most people find new jobs through tips from others.
- Gain confidence by increasing your interview skills
A common problem among returning job seekers is loss of confidence in their perceived value to potential employers. Lack of confidence is impossible to hide in an interview. Nothing is less impressive than low confidence.
Interview preparation that includes building a list of accomplishments is one of the best ways to restore confidence. Accomplishments are developed by identifying the major problems and challenges you have overcome, whether on the job or off. Accomplishment statements are valuable interview material, helping you prove your ability to meet prospective employers' challenges.
Re-entering the workforce after several years does not need to cause the desperation that leads to less-than-satisfactory employment. With thoughtful strategy, any woman can turn the next phase of her career into the best professional years of her life.