You used to be so confident, successful in your career, juggling life responsibilities and bringing home a paycheck. But then came a career break, an extended period of time where, for family or other reasons, you left the full-time workforce. Now there is a gap in your resume and a sense of professional unease has crept into that opening but you want to go back to work.
Carol Fishman Cohen, founder of iRelaunch, the back-to-work organization, has been there. It is easy to forget when watching this high-energy, confident professional lay out a step by step plan of how to return to work, that she spent many years driving not her career but her minivan as the mother of four. Fishman Cohen has as the walked the walk.
Fishman Cohen and her co-auther researched and wrote a smart book on the subject Back on the Career Track: A Guide for Stay-at-Home Moms Who Want to Return to Work but far more than that, she took extended career break and came back roaring. Cohen realized that there is a growing demographic, parents who had left the workforce only to return in midlife, their skills out of date and their confidence dented, that needed help.
The professional return to work cohort is huge, by iRelaunch’s estimate nearly two million strong, and from an employer’s perspective relaunchers are an attractive hire with maternity leave behind them, fewer spousal relocations, a mature perspective and an abundance of energy and enthusiasm.
Here are ten tips from the iRelaunch experts that we gleaned after attending their recent NYC conference:
1. Don’t apologize for your time away. Rather, show how you have recently honed your skills and taken leadership roles outside of the paid workplace.
2. You were smart and capable before your career break and you still are. No matter how hard or daunting this may seem, it is easier than some of the really hard things you have done in your life.
3. Treat getting a job as a job. Get up early, get dressed in something that says purpose, spend seven hours a day on constructive job seeking activity.
4. You may be working with people who are much younger than you or who never took time away from the workforce. Get over it.
5. Do not underestimate the value of your core skills. Your value to an employer before you left was not simply a body of knowledge or a list of clients. Your core competencies, be they analytic skills, leadership, sales ability, are all still there and remain an asset. Remind yourself of that and then make it sure it appears on your resume.
6. Get talking. Practice what you are going to say to interviewers with people who like you, will be nice to you and will give you realistic feedback.
7. Get out of the sweatpants, tee shirts and anything else that makes you look like someone who is not serious about work. You need to get out of the house and meet people and when an opportunity arises, even if it at the grocery store, you need to look like you are ready for it.
8. Interviewing may require new clothing and, for once, you can justify shopping as an investment. Enjoy.
9. Jobs do not come to people sitting behind a computer screen simply filling out forms. Jobs come from informational interviews, from talking to friends and acquaintances about their companies and from volunteering in organizations that soon realize that they cannot live without you.
10. Look for jobs in unexpected places and remain open to where your skills stack up. The world has changed even in the short time that you may have been out of the job market, keep your mind open to opportunities you might never have thought of before.
Over half of the iRelaunch conference participants returned to work within a year of attending the conference and attributed their success to strategies learned at the iRelaunch conference. Fishman Cohen has run the conference fifteen times. At each conference there are over three hundred women who all look like they are on a client visit for JP Morgan or McKinsey. Even if you’re not walking into, or out of one of those places, it is a real shot in the arm to be in this sophisticated, engaged and insanely smart group and to hear that their stories are just like yours.
iRelaunch has just published a comprehensive list of back to work programs that is a great place to start.