Returning to work after a hiatus is not easy, but it is possible. I know because I returned to work after 11 years out of the full-time workforce, and I have spent the last 10 years meeting and interviewing thousands of women who have done the same. The following five tips are top strategies to consider:
1) Assess Your Career Options
You can’t return to work until you are sure about what you want to do. Your interests and skills may have changed while you were on career break. Contact alumni career services at your alma mater or work with a private coach.
2) Consider Going Back to School
You don’t necessarily need to go back for a new degree. Semester or yearlong certificate programs and even a single course with a field study component are excellent resume and interview material. Participating in a course helps broaden networks and update skills. Enrolling in courses can also make you eligible for campus career services and career fairs.
3) Engage in Strategic Volunteering
Strategic volunteering means taking on volunteer work that is in line with your career goals. For example, a medical social worker interested in returning to work after 17 years at home took a volunteer position at a local hospice. Not only did this lead to a paid position at a neighboring hospice, but it also put her in contact with medical social workers visiting the hospice, who could tell her the best places to work and who was hiring.
4) Pursue an Internship
Any short term, nonbinding work arrangement qualifies as an internship equivalent. The employer is not obligated to hire you at the end of the work period and you are evaluated on the basis of a legitimate work sample. You also have the opportunity to evaluate the employer.
5) Update Technology Skills and Complete a LinkedIn Profile
Employers expect you to come to the table with a working knowledge of Excel, Power Point and Word. LinkedIn is a requirement for all job seekers, as internal and external corporate recruiters tell us they rarely interview someone without a LinkedIn profile. Make sure you include a photo as well as your work and education history. For examples of LinkedIn profiles that include a career break, join the iRelaunch LinkedIn group to take a look at member profiles.
For more tools and resources on returning to work after a career break and to read almost 200 career reentry success stories, go to iRelaunch.com. The 16th iRelaunch Return to Work Conference is October 2, 2013, in New York. More info is can be found at www.returntoworkconference.com.