Rejoining the workforce after an extended time off can be one of the most difficult transitions in life. You may have been raising your children or caring for a relative, or you were “downsized.” In any case, it’s a daunting proposition to pull out the business suit, polish up the résumé and start looking for a job. But if you prepare appropriately, and attack the search smartly, it’s not as intimidating as you may think. With the right mindset, the proper downtime approach, and some specific strategies, you can get back out there.
The Mindset: You have a gap in your résumé. So what? People obsess that a gap in their résumé is a horrible sin. The fact is, it’s incredibly common these days. Layoffs are an unfortunate everyday occurrence. An increased number of women are staying home to raise children, and work/life balance awareness has become so important that more people are taking time off for personal reasons.
The Approach: The biggest issue employers have with employees returning to the workforce is the perception they’re “out of the game.” Technology, industry trends, and job skills can change rapidly over the course of a couple of years.
As such, be prepared to demonstrate your aptitude in some of these areas. Take computer classes, get involved with trade organizations, and stay abreast of industry happenings by reading trade or business publications (like PINK!) during your time off. Then in your interview you’ll be able to say something like, “I knew it would be important for me to stay current on my computer skills, so I took classes in the most recent version of Microsoft Office while I was home raising my children.”
The Strategy: Packaging your résumé “gap” takes careful consideration. Don’t try to trick employers by changing dates or writing about how you honed your managerial skills negotiating with three children under the age of ten. Recruiting directors know what you do as a mom or as a caregiver. What they want to know is that you’re still in the game and ready to contribute.
Of course, it’s always ideal to be able to tell your story in person, but often you don’t have the luxury of meeting recruiters face-to-face. As such, your cover letter is the most effective tool to explain your résumé gap and why it’s not a big deal.
Mention why you’re re-entering the workforce now, for example state, “I had always wanted to return to the workplace, and now that my children are in school full-time, it’s the perfect opportunity.”
Also, talk about how you stayed in the game, like explaining, “I wanted to stay involved in advertising as much as I could after our company closed our office, so I’ve attended monthly meetings of the Chicago Advertising Federation and also took a class on advanced media skills.”
Ultimately, it won’t be easy to get back out there. But with the right game plan, it doesn’t have to be as difficult as you think.
By Brad Karsh,a leading job expert, and President of JobBound, a company specializing in résumé writing, interviewing, and job preparation, and author of “Confessions of a Recruiting Director: The Insider’s Guide to Landing Your First Job.”
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