We now live in a post-job-for-life world, where sabbaticals, contingent work, self-employment, long-term unemployment, and multiple career changes are all the new normal.
This state of affairs has created record levels of career mobility – but it has also lead to more uneven career paths. Extended breaks from the workforce used to be pretty uncommon, but these days, they’re not all that unusual.
Unfortunately, returning to work after a break from your career poses a unique challenge, which is why we’d like to offer some tips to help you reanimate your career after a long time away.
1. Start Networking to Access the Hidden Job Market
Sources suggest that as many as 80 percent of available jobs are never publicly advertised. These “secret” openings comprise the “hidden job market” – and the only way to tap into this market is by networking smartly.
Two to three months before you plan to return to work, start talking to friends, family members, former coworkers, and so on, about potential opportunities they may know of. Chances are that at least one of them will know about — and maybe even refer you to — an unadvertised job opening. If you can get into the running early — and with a glowing reference — then you greatly increase your chances of landing the job.
2. Get Plenty of Recommendations
Even if your network can’t help you find a position in the hidden job market, it can probably help you find the next best thing: an influential inside contact who can vouch for your character and skill.
Having an influential contact on your side is a great thing, as studies show that people who are referred are twice as likely to be called to interview and 40 percent more likely to be offered a job.
If you do find a strong contact at a company you’d like to work for, consider sending in a “speculative application,” using your reference boost your appeal and get on the employer’s radar.
However, you don’t want to just drop the reference’s name. Rather, you want to ensure that the reference is actually attesting to a particular skill or valuable business quality that you possess. If your reference is just a flashy name, your speculative application won’t garner any attention.
3. Emphasize Your Transferable Skills
Many employers (and job seekers) wrongly assume that long-term unemployment always leads to a loss of skills. The reality, however, is that a long break away from the workplace can actually boost your skills.
For example, a survey from CareerBuilder found that taking a career break to be a stay-at-home parent for a while helps people develop some highly valuable skills. More than 66 percent of hiring managers surveyed by CareerBuilder said that parenting skills can be very relevant to the corporate world.
Some examples of highly valued parenting skills include:
- Ability to multitask
- Time management
- Conflict management
- Budgeting and finance management
- Project management
Despite the value of these parenting skills, just 8 percent of parents mention these skills in their applications, meaning many parents are missing a great opportunity to impress prospective employers.
So, if you are a parent returning to work after a long break, make sure to play up your highly valuable parenting skills during the application and interview processes.
4. Emphasize What You Have Learned
As mentioned above, a career break can be a great way to develop new skills. No matter what those skills are — or how you learned them — be sure to emphasize them in your resume.
For example, perhaps you did a little freelance work while you were away from your career, and this has helped you develop greater levels of business acumen. Or perhaps you used your free time to teach yourself a new language or some coding skills.
Whatever the case, you want to be positive and give employers the impression that your life away from the workforce has benefited you. Moreover, you want employers to know that you’ll be able to pass along these benefits to them — if they hire you, that is.
There is no doubt that coming back from a career break is a unique challenge, but with a positive approach and a finely tuned job search strategy, you should be able to pick your career up where you left off with relative ease.