"When should I start thinking about my re-entry into the workforce?" This is probably the question I am most often asked by stay-at-home-moms planning to re-launch their careers. The answer is: As soon as you know you will be returning. The job market is competitive. Women re-entering the workforce face a lot of obstacles including the perception that they don't have their priorities straight, that their skills are outdated, or that they haven't kept up with the industry and have lost touch with their networks.
Thankfully, there are some steps you can take to ensure a successful career re-launch:
1) Take Stock
My most successful clients are the ones who know what they want, what their liabilities are, are realistic about their prospects, are able to adapt, and know exactly what they have to offer. Use the time before embarking on a job search to do some self-assessment. Pinpoint your career goals, identifying your priorities, what's needed to meet your new goals, and what your assets and liabilities are. If you don't have the skills, experience and education to qualify for your desired positions, can you obtain them within a reasonable amount of time? One client of mine used her re-launch as a way to shift fields. After fifteen years away from her career in finance she found that both the field and her priorities had changed significantly. During her time away from work, she earned a certificate in Human Resources, completing coursework just as she was ready to re-join the workforce. Taking the time to do some self-assessment, will allow you to better target your job search.
2) Build Your Network
Every time you interact with others is a chance to build your network. You never know who is in the position to connect you to your next opportunity. Think in terms of family, friends, and neighbors in addition to former employers and colleagues. LinkedIn is an essential tool for maintaining your network (many recruiters won't consider an applicant if they are not on LinkedIn). It has revolutionized networking, making it easy to not only re-connect with business associates, but to also search for jobs, join professional associations and learn about networking events (a great way to polish up your professional skills).
3) Close the Gaps
Go back to the weaknesses you identified in step 1 and work on addressing those. Take on volunteer experiences that show a commitment and are quasi-professional. For example, I had a client that had a career in accounting before taking ten years to raise her family. For the past three years she had volunteered as Treasurer for her school's PTA. Because her volunteer work was significant, I was able to frame it as experience on her resume, which positioned her well for an accounting position in a non-profit organization. By taking on strategic volunteer work, education or training, you freshen up your skills and add recent dates to your resume.
4) Modernize Your Resume
The biggest changes to resumes in recent years have come from technology: Today's resumes need to be friendly to both a computer and to the human eye. Once used only by the largest corporations, Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)—software that sifts through the large amount of resumes received—have become widely used by smaller organizations. This means that all resumes should be ATS-friendly, using the appropriate format and the keywords most associated with your targeted positions (one of the reasons Step 1 is so important).
Once narrowed down to a manageable amount, resumes are then seen by HR professionals and hiring managers. Website design has greatly influenced what makes something easy to read (resumes are no exception). Today's resumes often include color, columns and graphics that entice the reader to linger. Successful resumes are highly targeted, technically sound, with a modern, easy-to-read design. If this sounds too overwhelming to do by yourself, consider using a Certified Professional Resume Writer who is trained in creating resumes that meet all of today's standards and best position you for a successful job search.
While there are many challenges that make it difficult for women to re-enter the workforce after caring for their families, knowing how to counter some of the associated stigma and having a plan to articulate your goals and market your abilities can help you re-launch.
Kari Solomon, Owner of Aspire Resumes writes resumes that launch new careers. Whether for a career-changer who needs to reframe previous work experience, a college student trying to stand out from the pack, or someone returning to the workforce who needs to address an experience gap; Kari creates modern resumes that get noticed.