Five Tips for Re-Entering the Workforce

returning to work

Job-searching can be a difficult and nerve-wracking effort, especially if you have been out of the workforce for a period of time.  Many people are unable to work for months or years due to parenting obligations, illness, layoffs and other circumstances.  While you may be eager to regain your position in the workforce once the time is right, getting back into the habit of updating your resume, interviewing and taking direction from someone else can be a whole lot to get used to.  Just the idea of it all can be extremely daunting.  But in reality, you are not alone, and if countless others have been able to re-enter  the workforce successfully after an extended break, so can you.  All you need to do is take the right approach to make the transition smooth and painless.

1.       Regain Your Confidence

Before sending in any applications or scheduling any interviews, you should take steps to regain your confidence and sense of self as a working individual.  Whether you realize it or not, you have been developing and honing skills the entire time you have been away from work in other areas of your life (such as your church or your child’s school), and you have probably also learned a whole lot about yourself in that time.  Take some time and effort to evaluate what your interests and skills are now, and be aware they may differ from what they were years ago.  It is difficult to job hunt effectively when you have no idea what you want out of a job.  In How to Make Your Way Back to the Workforce, Fortune.com contributor Anne Fisher emphasizes goal-setting as a crucial first step to re-establishing your career.

2.       Update Your Skills if Necessary

If you feel the nature of your position has evolved since you last worked, or want to pursue a completely different career path than in the past, you may want to brush up on your skills so you are in tune with the current business landscape.  This may involve going back to school either for continuing education courses or to get another degree, but it could also be as simple as doing some research and getting help from others in your field.  Ask around to see what skills are in high demand these days, or volunteer at a company in a department similar to the one you are looking to work in to get a feel for what a typical day would involve.

3.       Rework your Resume

When it’s been a long time since you have updated your resume, sometimes it’s best to choose a resume format that focuses more on your most relevant experience and proficiencies, instead of a resume that consecutively recounts all your past jobs.  If you have any old references or business colleagues, see if you can get recommendation letters from them.  You will need to address your time away from the workforce, but simply approach the conversation in the right way, by letting your enthusiasm for getting back to work show.  Also, don’t be afraid to show what you have accomplished in your time away from work.  Monster.com offers some great tips in Resume Help for the Unemployed.  In the article, Anne-Marie Ditta, president of career-planning firm First Impression Career Services states, “ Hiring managers are more interested in knowing how you used your time away from the workforce as opposed to why you were unemployed.“

4.       Rebuild Your Network

Be sure to make others aware that you are looking to re-enter the workforce, and what your interests and passions are.  While you don’t want to seem overeager and impose on anyone, don’t miss an opportunity to strike up conversations surrounding work and your career wherever you are.  You never know where you could find a potential connection.  Look into trade shows and industry events in your area.  Also, take advantage of social media outlets such as LinkedIn, where you could reconnect with past co-workers and business associates.  Try to find common ground with those you haven’t talked to in a while (or ever) and reach out to them with something they will find interesting, such as a blog article or an upcoming industry event.

5.       Re-train yourself for Interviews

It can seem overwhelming to describe yourself and your experience to someone new when you have gotten out of the habit of doing it.  Practice interviewing with friends and family members so you get more comfortable, and do your homework.  Read up on not only the company you will be interviewing with, but on common interview questions that you are likely to be asked.  A great guide to difficult interviews is the book 101 Great Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions (available on Amazon.com).  And don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t nail it on the first interview.  As with anything, the more you do it, the better you will get at it.

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Jessica Cody

Jessica Cody, a native of Fairfield County, Connecticut, has a background in online marketing and public relations. She is a graduate of the University of Connecticut, where she studied Journalism and Political Science. She is also an avid runner with a passion for the outdoors.

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