Getting Back Into the Workforce After a Career Break
Career gaps can happen for a number of reasons. In today’s work environment, many employers are sympathetic to those looking to re-enter the workforce after taking time away from their job for family or personal reasons. As a job hunter, though, finding the right opportunity may seem like an uphill battle. But with a clear plan for getting back into the workforce, you can take action to boost your chances of landing a great job.
Know What You Want From Your Career
No matter your age or experience, the first step to a successful job search is to evaluate your career goals and interests. Carol Fishman Cohen, founder of career re-entry firm iRelaunch, suggests in a TED Talk that those seeking jobs after a break “need to do the hard work to figure out whether their interests and skills have changed.” Most likely this will involve some type of career or personality assessment prior to your job search. If you’re unsure about how to assess your current interests and skills, try an online assessment tool to help you set job search goals.
Network and Reconnect
Developing a professional network is important, as a job match can come from places or people you least expect. Make sure your online profiles, including LinkedIn, are up to date and look professional. Make contacts with people you already know in your industry and let them know you’re interested in returning to work.
Brush Up on Skills
When you’re away from work, you may not have the chance to keep up with your industry. Before you begin your job search, it’s a good idea to refresh your skills, if possible. Take a training class online or, at the very least, research recent developments in your field. When you’re out of work, try to stay in the loop about changes and advances in your particular area of expertise so you’re not thrown off by questions during your interviews. Keep up with subscriptions to technical journals if you can afford to do so, or make a habit of reading online news updates about your industry.
Become Familiar With New Technology
Employers looking to hire those with a break in service are often concerned about the potential employees’ ability to use the latest technology. To give you an idea of where your industry’s technology has headed during your career break, try studying job listings before you prepare to interview. Note the software companies are using and commit to developing your technical knowledge if you can.
The newly expanded “gig economy” has made it possible to keep up with your field by freelancing, working part-time or on a contract basis. Working flexible hours allows you to stay up to date with the current work environment while allowing you to ease back into the workforce. More than ever, companies are actively seeking freelancers and contract workers. Depending on your financial situation, this may be a great back-to-work alternative for you.
Prepare for Interview Questions
Restructure your resume as needed to address your career gap. If you volunteered for a nonprofit or attended training classes during your time away from work, add this information to your business profile. And be prepared to address the gap in your resume during job interviews. Have a standard answer ready and practice your delivery to ensure that you’re getting the right message across while remaining confident about your ability to get the job done.
If you’re just getting back into the workforce after a long break, remember that you’re not the first person to be in this situation. By researching job opportunities and taking your job search seriously, you’ll be able to find an opportunity that works for you. And when that first job offer comes in, make sure to consider both the salary and the benefits offered before accepting a new position.