So you’ve had some time away from the 9-5. Whether you’ve been laid-off, at home parenting your kids, took an emotional leave or you were trying something new. Regardless the reason, you now have a gap in your resume where you were not earning an income. This can pose some challenges when trying to re-enter the workforce. And you may feel awkward or unsure about how to address this topic when it comes up… and it will come up.
Having a lengthy break away from regular employment can make re-entering the work force challenging. These 5 tips will help you re-focus on what’s important when returning to work after a break.
1. Own Your Story
You’ll undoubtedly be asked at some point to explain the gap in your employment. Prospective employers will want to know the reason for your time away. Be up-front, honest and most importantly be confident when talking about your employment break. Exhibiting anger, embarrassment or shame will not earn you any points in your interview. Highlight the positives, what you gained while you were away, what you learned in the process, what you did to keep up your skills, and the strengths you came away with. A few concise, to-the-point sentences is all you need.
2. Get Current
No matter how long your employment gap, things may have changed since you were last employed. Be sure to research your industry for current trends, new skill requirements, current salary ranges, etc… If you notice an area of your skill set that may be lacking or could be updated or improved, now is the time. Enroll in any courses or programs that will provide documentation or certification to prove your new skills. This will help you identify roles that match your experience level when searching for new employment opportunities. This also shows potential employers that you’re committed to staying up-to-date within your industry. All while upping your level of confidence when speaking about your skills in an interview.
3. Update Your Resume
Inevitably, time has passed since you’ve last had to use a resume, so dusting off your old standby isn’t going to cut it. You’ll want to create a new version that is up to current standards in it’s format and layout. Include updated information to reflect your recent skills and any newly earned certificates or courses. Do your homework to find out what skills employers are looking for in your industry so you can highlight these qualities in your resume. Remember you will need to prepare different versions of your resume and cover letter for different positions that you apply for.
4. Practice Interview Skills
As with everything else, things change. And so does interviewing. You may be familiar with a certain interview scenario and “typical” interview questions. But depending on how long it’s been since you’ve been in an interview, things may be drastically different. There are loads of information online that will get you caught up with current interview practices, how to handle tough questions you may be asked and industry specific questions.
Practice answering some of these questions with a friend or family member. Know your own resume inside and out. Be familiar with and get comfortable talking about your strengths, accomplishments and what you can bring to the company. Practicing this ahead of time will help build your confidence to communicate your story and skills with ease.
5. Contact Your Network
Now is the time to get in touch with former coworkers or colleagues, friends, family or professional groups in your industry. Connect with as many people as you can to get the word out that you’re returning to the work force. Use social media platforms such as Linkedin to your advantage and connect with as many people as you can. You never know who has a lead, opportunity or knows someone who does. This is a great way to avoid the long, traditional job searching process and could get you in the door, snag you an interview or set up a meeting faster and potentially with more success than going the traditional route.
Whatever the reason for your break in employment, own your story and be proud of who you have become after having the experience. You’ve inevitably grown in many ways because of it. Embrace this new wisdom and strength & allow it to propel your efforts in your return back to work.
Written by Christine Graham