For a wide array of reasons, people go through transitions in and out of their main career field… whether it meant dabbling in another industry, or taking time out to raise a child, or even caring for an ailing relative.
Did you know that stepping outside of a specific occupational pathway is actually a more common occurrence than you think?
For majority of workers, the biggest reason for having any kind of an employment gap is involves raising children, which complicates an otherwise steady career track by one of the parents usually taking time out of their career to stay at home. “Careerus Interruptus” might be a term some jokingly use in describing this intermission from working in a formal job setting.
Has this happened to you?
Does the mere fact that a ‘break’ happened in someone’s work history mean that they are any less qualified or professional?
After a few years of being 'off the merry-go-round' of a career, many people totally end up feeling left behind, obsolete, and at an absolute loss on how to get back on again. If you have done some career exploration or taken a ‘leave of absence’ from a specific industry or occupation, it is tough to get your foot back in the door, and especially so today when there is such fierce competition for what few jobs are available.
But there are some simple answers on how you can get your ‘game’ back on and re-enter the workforce with a vengeance. It’ll take some concentrated effort, but if you spend time focusing on these six tips below, you’ll be more likely to get back up in the saddle in no time:
1) Don’t be afraid to identify your time ‘out’ of the workforce. We all know that employers go straight for the jugular when reading résumés and look specifically for employment gaps. Ok, great, so now you have one. Now what? The worst thing you could do is dodge it and hope it goes away. It won’t. Instead, proactively account for your time by using these two simple tools to summarize the glaring hole in your career:
a. Write: “Personal Sabbatical (YEAR-YEAR)” – and divulge a reason in a professional way, such as “to engage in child rearing,” “to care for ailing relative,” “to finish up school,” etc.
b. Write: “Professional Sabbatical” (YEAR-YEAR) – and simply say, “to engage in career exploration” – or something along those lines that comes across that you took the time off but were responsible about it.
2) Ask yourself: Is there anything helpful that I learned during my time away that will help me now? Do you know what a parent really is? A full-on project manager. What if you took a year off and traveled across Europe? You’ve gained global cultural fluency. The trick is to analyze your time away for things that could be translated into something an employer might need or figure out how what you’ve done could help them. Parlay that experience into something of VALUE to someone else beyond what it just meant to you.
3) Theme your résumé around relevant history (not necessarily recent history). Just because there is a gap more recently does not mean that the function of what you used to do isn’t still relevant. Technology may have changed things in how it is done, but the basic principles still apply. Create a themed résumé to capture the right cloud of keywords and relevant accomplishments that demonstrate your prowess towards that target job position.
4) Get your skills up to date. Identify key professional development opportunities and strategize about which ones would have the most value to the people making the hiring decision at your job target. By taking the appropriate classes, workshops, trainings, and gaining any industry certifications, you are telling that prospective employer that you are not obsolete and have taken the initiative to keep your job skills honed.
5) Get out there and rebuild your network. We all have found that there are ‘seasons’ to certain friendships and professional relationships. Change a job and go into an entirely new field, and suddenly the network that you’ve been making the rounds in seems a lot less relevant. Get to know that current movers and shakers in your target industry. Do some poking around and find out what are the vibrant professional organizations that you should belong to in order to start reconstructing your contact base. It’ll pay off in spades - most jobs are found through someone we know versus just blindly applying online.
6) Put your skills into action. Volunteering, even if you are looking for a job and a full-time parent, can seem like an impossibility due to demands on your time, but don’t forget the means to the end. Volunteering can pave the way to the right job opportunity. Plus, it is an active point on your résumé where you have demonstrated that you can put your skills and knowledge base to active (and recent use). This provides traction.
The trick to re-entering the workforce with a mindset that your time away is a liability. If you transform it into an asset, you’ll be getting in the right frame of mind to position yourself to succeed.