Your kids are entering school and you are ready to get back into the workforce…the paid workforce, that is. Raising your children definitely qualifies as work.
However, you have been out of the workplace for some time now. Your skills may have diminished, you may have lost valuable contacts, and you may not even be sure what you want to do upon returning. Unless you are extraordinarily fortunate, your old job will not be available and even if it is, you may no longer be qualified for it.
How do you begin? As with most tasks, begin with assessment and planning.
- Set Goals and Needs – Are you going back to work for personal gratification, monetary needs, or both? Do you want a slightly (or completely) different type of job than you had before? Do you have the family support necessary to keep stress in check? Are you looking for a full-time position, part-time, or one with flexible hours?
Do not skip on introspection before you get back to the workplace. You want to focus on a job that is right for your needs, and your needs may not be the same as they were prior to your break.
- Assess Your Skills – Once you decide what type of job you want, assess your skill set. How far has your chosen field advanced, and have you kept up during your break? Be honest in your assessment.
You may have developed new skills during your childcare break that are useful in a new job. As a parent, your management, multitasking, and negotiation skills have been tested and are probably improved. These are not resume points, but they will give you insight into what you can handle and what you can enjoy.
- Check Your Options – Before you start with resumes and applications, check some job descriptions in CareerBuilder.com, Indeed.com, or similar websites to see how your preferred sector has evolved, and whether you should consider a slightly different position in the same field. If you know of sites tailored to the industry because of your previous experience, include them in your research.
If you cannot find any suitable job descriptions, perhaps the market is saturated, or your skill set and old job description may be obsolete. Consider whether a different but related field may be a better choice.
- Update Your Resume – Trim out the segments of your resume that no longer apply, and focus on achievements. A functional resume may work better than a chronological one, since that style highlights the gap in work experience. Resist the temptation to embellish.
Before releasing your resume out to the world, check it over with both professionals and friends who can give you supportive and constructive criticism.
- Plug the Skills Gap – Training may be necessary to fill a gap in your expertise. If so, seek that training and update your resume appropriately. Seeking independent training shows an employer you have initiative and are serious about resuming your career.
- Network – Re-establish as many contacts in the field as you can. Let people know you are looking for a job, but do not put them on the spot by pressuring them about vacancies at their company. LinkedIn can be a valuable resource, as well as any trade organizations or social media groups that apply.
- Practice Interviewing Skills – Ask friends or colleagues to conduct a mock interview to get you ready for the real thing. They should ask the most difficult questions you are likely to face, and you should practice answering them under pressure.
Proper assessment and planning can identify the correct job for you upon your return, and confidence and decisiveness can help you land that job. Employers like to see that you can make an overall life plan yet successfully adjust to life’s conditions. It tells them that you are a forward-thinking employee with the ability to adapt in today’s working world.
You were probably overwhelmed when the kids came along, but you have adjusted and done just fine. Consider your return to the workplace as a similar challenge. You’ve handled challenges before and you can do it again.