Reentering the workforce can be a challenge no matter how good your excuse is: volunteering, working or studying abroad, starting a family, caring for a sick relative or coping with your own illness, or investing in your future by completing a graduate degree.
Your search can be made more difficult by the poor economy and a bias against people who have large gaps in their work history. Your return to work can even be hampered by your own fears or your subtle (or not-so-subtle) wish that you didn’t actually have to buck up and get a job.
But don’t worry, you can do it! With these tips, re-entering the work world will be a lot easier than you might think.
Begin updating your skills before you start to look for a job: If you can, start padding your resume a few months before you want to start looking for a job. Volunteer, take an online course, investigate internships, get a certificate — do anything that can help fill gaps and reboot your life and resume.
Ask others about their experience. If there are other people you know who transitioned back into the workplace after a long break from employment, ask how they were successful. You may find you can use their same strategies.
Focus on your soft skills. A major differentiator between candidates is the unique attributes and soft skills they offer to any workplace, so focus on soft skills like adaptability, communication, time-management and creativity. Explain to the hiring manager how your particular soft skills make you an ideal fit for the position.
Put yourself out there: After spending all that time updating your resume, make sure it will be found. Update your LinkedIn profile and also be sure to spread the word through your network of friends to increase your chances of getting job referrals.
Be an interview superstar: When you land an interview, arrive ready to outshine the competition. If asked about it, discuss your time away briefly. Don’t get bogged down in the details of your year in Belize or become emotional about a loved one’s illness. Emphasize your skills and work ethic rather than your time away. Sell yourself as a blank slate ready to jump in and work hard in a new work environment. If it makes sense, draw concrete conclusions between the job you’re interviewing for and the things you learned while coping with real-life situations (travel, illness, graduate school) that the competition may not have had to deal with.
Be open to new experiences: The reality of reentering the work world is that you might have to make some compromises. Be open to part-time, project or contract works. These short-term jobs often provide great experience and contacts that can help you land a job that is a perfect fit for you and all of the experiences you bring to the table.