Whether you left to raise a family, care for aging parents, go on medical leave, do your MBA or even travel, reentering the work world after an extended period of time can be tricky.
The most common reason people step out of the workforce, other than to retire, is to raise a family fulltime and disproportionately this responsibility falls to women. The statistics on women who chose to exit the workforce are staggering: only 74 percent who take time out will return and only 40 percent of those will return fulltime.
This is always surprising considering 93 percent of women express an intention to return to the workforce, but shift their priorities.
So how do you beat the odds and successfully transition back into the business world?
Be strategic and plan your return. Treat your transition like a job. Haphazardly submitting your resume to a 100 random online postings is not likely to land you a lasting fulfilling career.
Decide what you would truly like to do.
- How much and where would you like to work? (FT, PT, freelance, downtown, from home, etc.)? When you are re-entering the workforce is a great time to reflect on what you really want to do.
- Have your interests changed? Many people find after a break or significant life change they are passionate about different things. I know many people who have moved from finance and law to more creative or flexible endeavors such as interior design and often this is an optimal time to start a business or buy a franchise.
- Many entrepreneurs say during time away from office it can be easier to identify a gap in the market and start a consumer business. Many great companies have been started this way.
- Do your research, there is great data available to see where the most promising career and wage growth is. Government labor websites will tell you everything you need to know about growing industries, job openings and wage trajectories of specific roles in your region.
- Glassdoor is also a great resource to find out about prospective employers and business opportunities, today we can be much more choiceful and educated about the kind of company they’d like to work with.
Gather your confidence and get rid of self-doubt.
I believe the biggest thing holding people back when re-entering is lack of confidence and self-doubt. Think of yourself as coming back rejuvenated and refreshed--as an enhanced version of your former self. Remember over the course you your lifetime you have developed many skills, write yourself a list of your skills and accomplishments to revisit every time you start feeling insecure.
Identify and update your skills.
Even better than just identifying your skills is to stay current. When I talk to employers the biggest skill barrier to successful re-entry is technology. Social media can really help here. Many of the programs employers use today closely mirror or even work off of social media platforms. Also, a current web friendly bio or resume and cover letter is important along with a current LinkedIn profile. Consider getting a professional to help with your resume, cover letter and practice interviews.
Develop a great elevator pitch.
The more you practice it, the more confident you will become.
"Start off with your strong headline, your value proposition and then spend the rest of the time backing up your position with evidence, case studies or testimonials. What do you do, or what role do you play? What result is achieved?
An HR executive may say: “In my last role, I was the Executive Vice President of Human Resources for a large high growth multinational company with 30,000 employees. As a member of their executive team we worked to acquire new companies and successfully integrate their employees across the globe.
During my time in this role we acquired 10 companies and successfully transitioned 12,000 employees ensuring they were happy and settled in their new role. I am looking for a business opportunity where I can help make a difference in the work lives of employees. If you hear of a business or opportunity like this coming up I would really appreciate a referral.
Tell others about your search.
accessing the hidden market is key because this is where the vast majority of jobs and opportunities are. Casually telling others that you’re searching for employment or looking to acquire a business could make a difference and don’t hesitate to use your social networks as much as your personal networks to get this message out.
If you know you are going to be stepping out of the workforce for a period of time what can you do proactively to ensure a smooth transition back to work?
1. Keep one foot in the door, stay connected with your co-workers and industry.
2. Consider doing something part time like volunteering, working a few hours a week, take on a small consulting assignment or even a home based business.
3. Stay active with on professional social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter by following thought leaders, sharing relevant articles and engaging with your peers.
4. Keep reading industry publications or listening to podcasts. (Freakonomics, HBR,etc) You would be really surprised how using current business language helps signal you are up to speed in your industry.
5. Perhaps most importantly don ‘t feel pressure to do something during your time away from work. There is nothing wrong with taking a break and there is significantly less stigma around gaps in a resume today.
I still remember being on my Blackberry in the delivery room when I had my son. At the time I thought it made me look like a dedicated employee, in hindsight that was silly. I am not sure what my coworkers were thinking but I can guarantee you it wasn’t “what a productive worker she is.”
Don't worry about hiding your employment gaps.
Instead you can do one of two things that work equally well. It depends on what you are more comfortable with. Right on your cover letter or in your discussions explain you have taken time away for your specific reason and now are returning.
Or chronologically on your resume or LinkedIn profile fill the time away with part time work, community involvement or volunteer activities.
Stepping back into the game doesn't have to be overwhelming. Follow the data, understand what you are passionate about and proactively search for the right opportunity.