So, you've been on a career break. How long has it been? Three years, five years, more? Whether you took time off to care for your children or to travel the world, relaunching your career is a major undertaking, especially these days. Just sending out a bunch of resumes won't do the trick.
Here are some effective tips and steps for relaunching your career you can start doing immediately to help you reach your goal of getting back into the workforce:
1. Get Your Story Straight
Prospective employers are going to ask you what you've been doing for the last few years. Make sure you have the story down pat and can tell it confidently. Don't be sheepish. Taking a break from work, whatever the reason (save incarceration), was a choice you made, and you don't need to apologize for it.
Everything you say should be true, of course, but you choose what the takeaway of the story is. Second, you're going to need to have a good answer for the question of why you're getting back into the workforce. Note: "I have a mortgage to pay; gambling debts; or momma needs a new pair of shoes," are not good responses. You don't want to seem needy or desperate.
To come up with a good answer, think about those things you loved about your job before you took your break. Talk about the passion you had for your career, about your craving for intellectual stimulation, about your ambition.
It's also important to think of these things in context of each job you're applying for. Why do you want to work for this specific company? What problem do you want to help them solve? How do you connect with their mission and values as an organization?
2. Stay Connected (Or Reconnect) To Your Career
When you take your break, you don't have to turn your back on your career altogether. Look for opportunities to stay connected. This can mean consulting, volunteering, or freelancing. It's a matter of keeping at least one toe in the work realm.
Kelly, for instance, worked as a graphic designer for a major newspaper until she decided to leave the daily grind to care for her young son. To stay connected to her field, Kelly began freelancing every Sunday for her former employer. She also kept her skills honed by designing a monthly newsletter for her moms club. Through these efforts, Kelly remained close to her profession and continued to build her portfolio even while on a career break.
If you haven't stayed connected to your career throughout your break, it's not too late to reconnect. In fact, reconnecting should be a key part of your career relaunch strategy. Immediately start accepting projects—even if it's free work for friends or nonprofits. It will pay off in the end. Don't pass up any opportunity.
3. Revise Your Resume And Get It Online
It's time to dust off your resume. First, fill in the gaps with all that good work-related stuff you've been doing during your break. Even if it was a volunteer project, list it just as you would any other work experience (though you don't necessarily need to use the word "volunteer"). Do some research to make sure your resume will get past the ATS. Many experts these days, for example, recommend ditching the "objective" portion at the top of the resume and instead replace it with hard skills and keywords mentioned in the job description that you have developed in your career.
To find pertinent keywords, do a little research. Look at online job postings and see the kind of words that employers are using in their posts, then use these words in your resume. Once your resume is keyword-optimized, you can then focus on customizing it for each job you're applying for, to give yourself a better chance of getting an interview.
First, reconnect with your former colleagues and professional friends. Meet for coffee. Talk shop. Let them know you're looking for work. Don't be shy about telling family members, friends, and acquaintances that you're looking for new opportunities. Most people get jobs through personal connections.
Then, widen your circle. Try to attend a business networking event every week. Even a remote networking event can open new doors. Much has been written about how people should approach networking, and a little research on the topic may be helpful. In general, remember that your goal for networking isn't instant gratification. Many experts will tell you not to expect (and never, never, never ask for) a job at a networking event. You're there to meet people and build relationships. Eventually it will pay off.
To find networking opportunities, ask people you already know or search on the internet. A simple Google search (city + state + "networking opportunities") should turn up results. Also, try websites like Meetup and Eventbrite.
5. Use Social Media
More and more job seekers are using social media websites for networking, and employers are using them to find out about job candidates. Use social media sites, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to build your personal brand, make new connections and further your relaunch efforts.
On LinkedIn, it's important to optimize your profile and make sure it matches your resume. Also, avoid making common LinkedIn headline mistakes. With a strong social media presence, you'll stand out to recruiters and hiring managers, and they'll see how proactive you are with trying to relaunch your career.
6. Get Involved
Look for opportunities, above and beyond attending networking events, to get involved. Start a blog related to your field. Check out existing blogs and online forums and comment on posts. Share your opinion. Offer advice. Establish yourself as an active member of the community. Host a networking event, or take on a volunteer position within a networking group. Take a class. These things will supercharge your networking efforts.
The more you're involved in your community and industry, the more others will view you as an expert in that field. Don't be afraid to start something new. Get out there, get involved, and make a name for yourself!
7. Cast A Wide Net
When looking at job opportunities, think outside of the box. Don't think of yourself in terms of past work experience alone. Assess your skills, and determine how they can be applied to different jobs. These are your transferable skills. They can be extremely helpful when trying to relaunch your career, especially if you're making a career change.
Know what you can do, and be ready to tell prospective employers how your skills can benefit them—even in a position you've never held before. Think about what jobs have the best potential for career happiness.
8. Don't Pass Up Opportunities
Sure, you're looking for full-time work. But as you relaunch your career, don't pass up part-time, contract, or freelance opportunities, as long as they move your relaunch efforts forward. (Part-time at the local mini-mart, for instance, wouldn't do much good.)
A contract position could lead to a job offer, and in the meantime you're gaining new experience, building relationships, and adding to your resume.
9. Prepare For The Interview
Eventually, the day will come: a prospective employer will want to meet with you.
A job interview can be particularly daunting to someone who's been on a career break. The best remedy for a case of interview-related nerves is preparation.
Think about what questions will be asked, and how you will answer (remember tip number one?). Research the company online. Formulate some smart interview questions to ask in return. Have a friend help you practice with a mock interview. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will be.
10. Keep At It
The best advice for relaunching your career? Don't give up. You didn't get to where you were before your career break without hard work and perseverance. And it will take those qualities to get back to where you want to be.
If you want to relaunch your career, just know that you can and will. Half the battle is having the right mindset. The rest is all about strategy. Follow these 10 tips to successfully relaunch your career, no matter how long you've been out of the game.
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This post was originally published at an earlier date.
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