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Are You a Woman Re-entering the Workforce?

Three tips for regaining the momentum lost during your time off.

October 18, 2007
by Deborah Walker, CCMC

One of the toughest career challenges for women is re-entering the job market after a break in employment. Women experience employment breaks for various reasons such as:

  • Caring for babies and/or young children
  • Caring for elderly parents
  • Continuing their education
  • Managing personal health issues

No matter what the reason, the challenge remains universal: how to get back into the workforce without taking a step backward professionally. To ease the transition, there are three job search activities that can help optimize your reemployment results:

  1. Prepare a Resume Based on Transferable Skills
    As a career coach, professional women often ask me how they should account for gaps in employment on their resumes. That’s the first and best question to ask. The answer is to recognize the transferability of important skills that you used during the time you were not employed. Examples of “off the job” that can be translated into corporate assets include: event planning, problem solving, conflict resolution and negotiation skills, to name a few. View that period of your career as a transitional time rather than time off, and evaluate your skills with an objective eye.
  2. Most women spend a certain amount of time and energy working with others in a volunteer capacity during their time away from the workplace. For instance, serving on PTA or other youth group or church boards, neighborhood associations or community sports functions. Any work performed with others toward a common goal allows opportunities to strengthen and exhibit skills needed on any job. Assess your accomplishments off-the-job the same way you would on-the-job. You may be surprised at how much you achieved.

  3. Reconnect With Your Network
    Long-term unemployment tends to isolate one from the groups of people who can provide the most information about employment opportunities. Those who are already employed have the advantage of learning about jobs through their professional association peers and company grapevine.

    If you have been “out of the loop” with your old professional network, it’s time to reconnect. Start by calling or e-mailing old colleagues to let them know that you are preparing to return to work. This is no time to be shy. Ask their advice about whom to contact within their company who might be interested in your skills and experiences.

    If you’ve never had a professional network, then it’s time to build one. Seek out one of the many associations for professional women in your area. There is no better place to meet new contacts who can help you in your job search than a women’s networking event. It’s still true that most people find new jobs through tips from others (see related story in this issue).  

  4. Gain Confidence by Increasing Your Interview Skills
    A common problem among returning jobseekers is loss of confidence in their perceived value to potential employers. Lack of confidence is impossible to hide in an interview. Nothing is less impressive than low confidence.
  5. Interview preparation that includes building a list of accomplishments is one of the best ways to restore confidence. Accomplishments are developed by identifying the major problems and challenges you have overcome, whether on the job or off. Accomplishment statements are valuable interview material, helping you prove your ability to meet prospective employers’ challenges.

Re-entering the workforce after several years does not need to cause the desperation that leads to less-than-satisfactory employment. With thoughtful strategy, any woman can turn the next phase of her career into the best professional years of her life.

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Deborah Walker, CCMC, is a career coach who works with women returning to the work force, preparing them to compete in the toughest job markets. Her clients gain top performing skills in resume writing, interview preparation and salary negotiation. Learn more about Deborah Walker, career coach at: http://www.AlphaAdvantage.com