Thinking about returning to the workforce? Whether you took some time off to see the world, care for a family member, or raise your kids, you’re probably feeling a little rusty at the whole job search thing. You might also have a few questions: Where do I start? How can I make myself relevant again? How do I deal with my resume gaps?
Not to worry. You’re not the only one in this situation. People have to leave and return to the workforce everyday. Life happens!
If you want to get back to work as soon as possible, though, you need to build a strong job search strategy. Otherwise, you will have a hard time marketing yourself to employers. Here are some tips from Amanda Augustine, career advice expert for TopResume, that you can use to get back on the job after being MIA for several years:
1. Reevaluate your career goals.
It’s important to be crystal clear on your job goals before you jump into your job search. It will save you a ton of time, energy, and frustration if you have a target to work toward. If you just try to “wing it,” you’ll have a hard time marketing yourself to employers. Moreover, it will be hard to nail down an opportunity that’s truly satisfying for you.
“Before you launch into your job search,” says Augustine, “do a little soul-searching and clarify your job goals. You may find that a corporate job may no longer hold its appeal or that you’re extremely passionate about your recent volunteer work and would like to pursue a career in that area instead.”
2. Take an inventory of your skills.
“Remember, just because you haven’t received a paycheck in a while doesn’t mean you haven’t gained skills worth bragging about,” says Augustine.
Think about what you bring to the table. What skills do you have to offer? What are you good at? What have you done in the past? Think about your skills and make a list. This will help you get a sense of where you stand in terms of qualifications. Plus, it will help you brand/market yourself more effectively.
3. Brush up on your skills (and learn new ones!)
After you’ve taken an inventory of your skills and clearly understand what you have to offer, it’s time to look at areas where you could improve.
“Invest in your career by seeking opportunities to bolster the skill sets your target employers care most about,” says Augustine. “This is also a great way to brush up on skills you haven’t had to use in a while or familiarize yourself with a new technology that’s now commonplace in your industry.”
Look at the industry and job postings to get an idea of where you need to upskill in order to be a qualified candidate. If you’ve been out of the workforce for a few years, it’s likely there are a few areas you need to upskill in. Are there any new technologies you should learn? Are there any new skills you need? Identify weak areas of your brand so you can strengthen them and stand out to employers.
4. Invest in your network.
When you’ve been out of the game for a while, it’s CRUCIAL to have people on your team who are willing to help you out. You need people in your corner who know what you can do and can advocate for you. Having those third-party testimonials or recommendations can really reinforce your potential to employers. This is especially important when you have resume gaps or have been out of a job for a long time.
“Make a concerted effort to reconnect with former colleagues, clients, vendors, and alumni from your alma mater who work in your industry,” says Augustine.
And don’t just focus on your professional connections to help you out. Your family and friends can also be great resources for you, according to Augustine.
“Don’t discount your personal connections during the job hunt,” says Augustine. “Whether you’re cheering in the stands at your son’s baseball game or leading your daughter’s Girl Scout troop, family activities are networking goldmines. Use these opportunities to get to get to know the other parents. You’ll be amazed at whom you could meet at your child’s dance recital or karate lesson.”
5. Stay up-to-date on your industry.
As someone who’s coming back into his or her field after being out for a while, it’s very important that you brush up on industry news and trends. You don’t want to appear clueless during interviews because you didn’t hear about that super-big-important-thing that affected the company to which you’re applying.
Augustine suggests subscribing to relevant online publications and setting up Google News Alerts on the major players in your field and other industry terms. That way, you can get automatic updates on the news and trends in your industry.
Returning to the workforce can be scary and stressful. Make your life a little easier by building a plan of attack that will get you back on the bike as soon as possible.
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