Finding The Right Job Fit As You Restart Your Career
Finding the right fit for you job is critical, especially if you are a career re-starter. In fact, we all know how important it is to find the right fit – with your friends, your job, even your clothes, and definitely your shoes!
When the fit isn’t right, it causes friction. If you’ve ever been in a job that turned out to be the wrong fit, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
You Will Find Where You Fit
Recently I had a job interview that I was excited about. When it was over, I picked up my phone and saw a message from the Calm app (I really ❤️ the Calm app!) that said “You will find where you fit.”
So while I definitely cannot take credit for this little nugget of wisdom, I am sharing it with you as a reminder of how important it is to find the job and the company that feels right to you.
Let’s stop trying to fit ourselves into someone else’s mold and start being ourselves all the time. Let’s interview and be our best selves, and also be honest about the environment in which we will do our best work. This is how we land in a situation where we can thrive, do great work, and be appreciated for our unique gifts.
If it’s not the right fit, we’re not going to live up to our full potential.
As I go through my own job search, “you will find where you fit” has become a sort of mantra for me. It’s reminding me that not every job and company are right for me. But it also reminds me that the right fit is out there, and I know I can find it.
How To Find The Right Job Fit
There are a few things you can do to increase your chances of finding the right job fit for you.
Know What You Need
If you’re going to find the right job fit, you must be able to articulate what makes a good fit for you. This is going to be different for everyone, so spend the time to ask yourself a few questions that will nail down what you want and need in a job. Journal your answers to these prompts so you can refer back to it throughout your job search.
Here are a few thought questions to get you started on finding the right job fit:
- What is the work environment in which I can do my best work?
- Do I want to be in an office full-time? A few days a week? Or do I need a work from home arrangement?
- What is my ideal manager like? How could they work with me to bring out my best?
- How would I prefer to interact with my teammates?
- Am I most productive when I can work solo or do I thrive in a collaborative environment?
- Do I enjoy a competitive work environment?
- Am I willing to take risks at work such as taking on a big project, trying something new, or speaking up to propose a new process?
Look For The Clues That The Job Is The Right Fit
Once you are clear on the environment you need to thrive, you can look for clues that indicate a job is a good fit for you in job descriptions and on company Careers pages.
If you know you want a collaborative environment and the job description talks about competing for sales awards or recognition, you may want to move on. Likewise, if you are risk-averse in a work setting and the company places a high value on innovation and pushing the envelope with new ways of doing things, this is going to be a mismatch for you.
Use Available Resources
Check websites like Glassdoor.com for company reviews to get a feel for a company’s culture. Take these with a grain of salt, but also know that a large amount of reviews saying the same thing is a signal that there might be some truth there.
Tap into your own network by telling friends what type of job and environment you are looking for. People you are friendly with might share your same values and give you an inside scoop on a great workplace they know of. Finding the right job fit gets easier when you can talk to people about their work environment to discover what it’s really like to work there. Check out our Networking 101 if you need tips on this.
Ask the Questions To Find The Right Job Fit
When you are interviewing for jobs, have a list of questions that will help you determine if the culture and workplace expectations will be the right fit for you.
Adapt these questions to ask about your best-fit environment:
- How is failure handled here? Are people rewarded for trying new things, even if they don’t always succeed?
- What is the expectation for working in-office versus remote?
- What is the hiring manager’s management style?
- Has her team experienced much turnover during the last year?
- How does this team work together? How do they work with other teams in the organization? Can you give me an example of a recent team collaboration?
You know what a good fit feels like, so pay attention to the signals you are getting in the interview. Does the manager seem like someone you could productively work for? Are people happy to work at this company? Does the mission resonate with you?
Every decision we make involves some kind of a trade-off. Be conscious of the trade-off you are making when you evaluate a job opportunity and check in with your gut to make sure it’s right for you.
I hope you find where you fit and love it there!
If you need more tips on returning to work after a career break, check out our Job Search Greatest Hits.
Keep Track of Your Career Break Activities
While you are on a career break, it’s critical that you keep a list of things you’re doing that will help you make the case that you are a better employee because of your break. Let’s talk about tracking your career break activities and what you can do with that information.
Quick! Grab a pen and write down 5 things you’ve done while out of the paid workforce that a future employer might be interested in. These are your career break activities.
Need help? Here are some ideas to jumpstart your list:
-took an online course (LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, etc.)
-kept up a professional certification
-developed a new skill (what was it and how did you develop it?)
-took a course at a community college, a bootcamp, or anywhere
-managed a project at your kids’ school, your church, or a non-profit
-joined an industry association and attended their meetings or continuing education courses
-volunteered for a political campaign supporting a cause or a candidate that you believed in
-taught something (such as faith formation classes at your place of worship)
-started a group to get people with common interests connected
-joined a book club and participated in monthly discussions
-served on your homeowners association
-organized social events for an organization/school/church/neighborhood you are connected to
-took on gig or project work
-attended a conference that inspired you, taught you something, or kept you in touch with your profession or network
Why are career break activities important?
For many reasons! For starters, as you update your resume you’ll draw on this list to fill the gap in your employment history. It’s also important because when you get to the interview stage of your job search, you will be asked what you did while you were out of the paid workforce. It will be up to you to tell a compelling story that convinces employers that you are a constant learner with a growth mindset.
This week I met with a recruiter at a great local company and we talked about hiring women (and men!) who are returning to work after a career break. She’s interviewed lots of career relaunchers: The ones who rose to the top are those that spoke about their time out of the workforce as a time of growth and convinced her that they were busy using skills that transfer well to the workplace.
For a comprehensive look at how this fits into your job search plan, check out Back to Business’s Ultimate Guide To Returning To Work After A Career Break.
My advice to you: Keep track of all the things you do while on a career break
Start a google doc or a page in your journal to list every project and volunteer post you take on along with the skills you used and the outcome of the project. Don’t forget the outcome! If you’re ready to return to work and you haven’t been keeping track, no worries! Start your list now and spend the next few days adding to the list as you remember what’s been keeping you so busy all this time.
What if my list stinks? 🙂
OK, say you start your list and you decide it’s not impressive. Start doing list-building activities today by finding a course to enroll in, a group to join or a volunteer activity that will help you grow. Here’s a link to my blog about resources for job seekers that contains some ideas for you. I repeat, start today!
Being home with kids is a full-time job!
Yet so many of you manage to do this well in addition to volunteering, managing projects and improving yourselves on a daily basis. When I was a stay-at-home mom, I always marveled at how that title really missed the mark: I was never home! Between all the activities my children and I got involved in, I was constantly on-the-go.
I even took a fencing class with one of my children, which let me to include “Beginning Fencer” under the Interests section at the bottom of my resume. I didn’t exactly learn practical job skills in the fencing class, but it was a great conversation starter! Also, it gave me the opportunity to talk about how my career break allowed me to explore some unique activities that expanded my mind and kept me physically fit.
So start that list and keep adding to it as you craft your story around how you used your career break to get better. Don’t forget to tell future employers how that career break time will benefit them too – it made you who you are today!
Job Search Tips for Moms Returning to Work
Calling all Moms doing a job search to return to work after a career break! This is an exciting life change for you and Back to Business is here to guide you through it.
Here is a quick list of our job search tips for Moms returning to work:
Looking for a job is your job now. Schedule time to do this work and stick to the schedule.
Spend some time up front thinking about what you want to do. You don’t have to narrow it down to one option – recognize that there are multiple possibilities that could work for you and be flexible enough to change course as you learn more about yourself and the job market throughout your job search. My favorite book on this subject: Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans.
Invest in yourself. A few things worth spending money on as you restart your career are a killer resume, a course to update your skills, and professional coaching to ensure you know how to conduct a job search in 2023.
Set goals for yourself and write them down: Reach out to 3 new people each day, schedule 3 informational interviews each week, find 3 interesting new companies per day. Reward yourself with a healthy treat for meeting your goals.
Realize that this can take longer than you’d like. Persevere. Learn from your mistakes – because you will make some. Pick yourself up and keep going, even when it gets frustrating.
Set up informational interviews. You will learn a lot and grow your network by doing informational interviews. (And you thought these were just for kids!) Buying someone a cup of coffee and learning from them is a highly productive way to spend job-searching time. I’ve got a guide to mastering this process.
Have a supportive network as you transition back to the paid workforce. Looking for a job is hard work and it can be frustrating. You will need a tribe to help you get through it. Plan to meet regularly with them – coffee every Friday morning, for example. Keep each other accountable and encourage each other.
Get out from behind your computer! You will not find a job from the comfort of your home – this I promise you. You must get out and talk to people if you want a job. This can be uncomfortable at first, but it gets easier and you may even enjoy it as you get better at it.
Your job will come from your network, not from a job posting you saw on the internet. Start building your network today and you will reap the benefits of being a connected person for the rest of your career.
Networking is all about building relationships with people – it is a give and take. You may not realize it, but you’ve been networking your whole life and you already know how to do it. Be interesting and interested in other people and always ask what you can do for them. Here’s how.
Don’t let the “what if’s” keep you from pursuing a job you want. When Mom returns to work, the entire family has to adjust – and they will. “What if I can’t pick up at school every day?” and “What if I can’t make dinner every night?” are valid concerns, but don’t hold back on getting a job you’d like because there’s a chance that others in your house will be inconvenienced. You can outsource almost anything and planning ahead will solve a lot of these dilemmas.
Consider a Returnship. Returnships are jobs specifically created to welcome people back to the workforce after taking a career break. Check out my blog on Returnships to learn more.
Get Back to Business! Back to Business holds Meet-ups and workshops in the Raleigh, NC area and offers useful information and resources in blogs and through ebooks in order to help women returning to work. Visit us at www.backtobusinessconference.com.
How Do Moms Returning To Work Get Started?
Let’s Get Started!
I get this question a lot from moms who want to return to work after a career break. Some of them are unsure of how to get started because they’re planning to return to a career that’s different from the one they left. Some just don’t know yet what kind of work they want to do. Others know, but need a big dose of encouragement before taking the first step.
If encouragement is what you need, you’re not alone. This is a big transition we’re talking about and you’re going to need a healthy dose of self-confidence to pull this off. But don’t worry, because you’ve got that. You may need to remind yourself occasionally, but you’ve got it and I believe in you. So, let’s get started.
Moms, Make a Plan To Return To Work
To get started, we’re going to make a plan. And write it down.
I’ve already started this for you – it’s called the Back to Business Return to Work Checklist.
It’s long, I know. So let me give you just one thing to work on today: Think about what you want to do for work.
Think big. Don’t limit yourself to traditional occupations. The world is a big place and people make a living doing all kinds of things.
Moms Returning To Work Should Think Really Big!
And after you think about each of these things, take the time to write them down. Do it. The difference between thinking about something and writing it down is often the difference between getting something done or not getting it done. Let’s get this done!
Here are some things to consider (and then write down):
- What are the accomplishments that make you most proud when you look back on your life? Don’t limit yourself to accomplishments made while at work. I know you’ve accomplished a lot, so give yourself credit for everything you’ve done. This is no time to be modest. You’re awesome and we all know it. Now, what are your biggest accomplishments?
- What skills and strengths do you possess that could be clues to finding work in a field that you will enjoy? Put another way – where are your natural talents? Think seriously about what these are and let’s find a way to get you using these on a regular basis in a job you’ll love. Ask a friend if you need help answering this. Others often see things in us that we don’t recognize in ourselves.
- Think about your motivation for returning to work. Is it financial? Do you miss using your adult brain and interacting with people your own age? Do you have time on your hands now that your kids are getting older that you want to do something meaningful with? Understanding your motivation will help you determine if that job offer that comes your way is the right one for you.
- And finally, let go of the idea that you have to be pursuing your passion. Grab hold instead of the idea that you will find what you love, get good at it, and develop a passion through hard work and positive feedback. It can be paralyzing to think that you have to know what your passion is before you can get started looking for a job. I think the passion part kicks in once you’ve found the right thing and realize that you’re really good at it – not before you start looking.
Learn From Other Moms Who Have Returned To Work
You are not the first person to make this transition back to work after a career break. Here’s an article that shares lessons from other moms who have returned to work.
So let’s get started on our plan to return to work….You’ll find more tips here
Reasons to Return To Work After A Career Break
There are so many reasons why returning to work after a career break can be a positive experience for you, your children, and your spouse.
Independence. Role Modeling. Responsibility. Additional Income.
These are just a few reasons why returning to work can be good for you and your family. Let’s break this down:
Your kids will learn Independence
Our job as parents is to raise children who will be happy and productive members of society. At the most basic level, they have to be able to support themselves, cook for themselves and do their own laundry if this is ever going to happen. When mom returns to work, a shift occurs in the household and other people pick up more responsibility for the things that we used to do.
This shouldn’t be a burden on our children, it’s an opportunity to develop the life skills that they need. Better that they learn them while you’re around to provide guidance than when they’re out on their own and don’t have you to redirect if necessary.
So go ahead, post directions for using the washer and dryer in the laundry room and let your children have at it! It’s possible to raise successful kids without over-parenting.
You will role model having a balanced life for your kids
You’ve role modeled good parenting, problem solving and many other positive qualities all these years. As a job seeker, you have an opportunity to model successfully navigating a process that your children will one day go through. Let them see you put in the hard work, ask for help when necessary, pursue a goal and deal with the inevitable rejection that is part of the job search process. Talk to your family about what you’re doing so they can learn from you and support you.
Your return to work will give your kids more responsibility at home
This goes along with the independence we talked about above. Don’t just hope your children will step up and help out when you return to work – make it their responsibility to carry part of the weight. They’ll feel good about contributing (even if they don’t say so). And they’ll know that being part of a family has both benefits and obligations. Their future spouses will thank you!
Return to work to earn additional income for your family
Know what college costs these days? Yikes! Even if your brilliant children will earn scholarships and you don’t need the income to feed your family, I promise you’ll feel good earning your own paycheck. For some of you, going back to work isn’t an option – it’s a financial necessity.
And some of you may be facing life changes that require you to return to work, such as a recent divorce. Aside from the necessity of earning, returning to work can help you find new meaning with how you are spending your time and give you the opportunity to develop new skills.
So if you are looking to return to work – enjoy this! Look into the future and imagine yourself with a whole new set of competencies, then make a plan for getting there. Here’s some help with taking those first steps.
And if you’re not certain if you’re ready to return to work, check out our blog on How To Know If You’re Ready to Return To Work.
Also be sure to check out the Back to Business Ultimate Guide to Returning To Work After A Career Break.
Informational Interviews Can Accelerate Your Job Search
You’ve heard of the informational interview, and you may have thought these were just for kids looking for their first job out of college. Think again!
Informational interviews are an essential component of your job search, especially if you’ve been out of the workforce for a while. An informational interview is when you have an informal conversation with someone who works in a field you’re interested in or at a company you’re interested in.
I’m going to walk you through how to conduct a successful face-to-face informational interview from start to finish. Here is a Quick Glance Graphic of an informational interview that will also be helpful.
Clarify Your Goals
A good informational interview starts with clear goals in mind.
3 Goals to keep in mind when doing an informational interview:
1 Learn about your interviewer’s job, company and industry.
This information will help you target your job search and perform better in interviews.
2 Enlist your interviewer as an advocate.
When you show up for the interview looking sharp, meticulously prepared and wanting to share information, your interviewer is going to want to mention your name in their next conversation with their HR resource or colleagues who have job openings.
3 Offer knowledge and contacts that will benefit your interviewer.
Informational interviewing isn’t all about learning – if done correctly it’s also about teaching. You want to have some knowledge that you can offer to your interviewer that will benefit them. It’s a two-way street.
Your Game Plan
My formula for a winning informational interview
Step 1: Do your research
You must be knowledgeable about the industry and role you are going to talk to people about. Although you’re there to gather information, researching in advance will give you context for what you’re going to learn and enable you to carry on an intelligent conversation. Good sources for research: Local business news to learn who’s hiring and who’s laying off locally, online job postings from Indeed or Glassdoor to learn about the skills required in the industry and company websites and LinkedIn pages.
Step 2: Pick your target
I recommend starting with an easy target to get warmed up – ask your neighbor, a friend or a friend’s spouse if they’d meet you for coffee. Keep your ask simple and casual – it’s fine to do it via email. Here’s an example:
I know you’ve been at Lenovo for a few years and had a lot of success there. I’m interested in returning to tech product marketing. I’d really appreciate a few minutes of your time to talk about your role and the industry. Would you have time to meet next week? Do any of these days/times work for you?
Monday, March 16 at 9am
Wednesday, March 18 at noon
Friday, March 20 at 2pm
Thanks for considering my request.
Once you have a few of these meetings under your belt, you will have the confidence and contacts to move on to hiring managers and recruiters – actual decision-makers in the hiring process. Here’s what an ask can sound like as you approach these higher-value targets:
Karen Smith suggested I contact you to talk about your role at Cisco. I’m a former marketing manager with 5 years of experience in the tech industry and I’m currently looking for a new opportunity. I’d really appreciate a few minutes of your time to talk about your role and the industry. I’ve done quite a bit of research on cloud computing and would love to get your perspective on where the industry is headed. Would you have time to meet next week for a cup of coffee? If a phone call is more convenient, I’d really appreciate your time and be happy to work around your schedule. Do any of these days/times work for you?
Monday, March 16 at 9am
Wednesday, March 18 at noon
Friday, March 20 at 2pm
Thanks for considering my request.
Step 3: Plan an agenda for your informational interview
An agenda will help keep your interview moving along and productive. You requested the meeting, so you should drive it. Respect your interviewer’s calendar and stick to the agreed-upon time limit. You may want to position yourself where you can see a clock without being distracted or place your phone (on silent) on the table so you can glance at it occasionally to keep on track.
Download a Sample Agenda for a 30-Minute Interview Here
Step 4: Execute the Plan: Learn, Share and Get Referrals
Buy the coffee and start the conversation off on a friendly note by thanking them for their time. Then give your elevator pitch, learn about their industry and job and share with them what you know from your research. Ask to be referred to others who are open to a conversation and might have wisdom to share about your intended field.
Step 5: Follow up
After they depart, take a few minutes and jot down everything they told you that might be useful. Compose a thank you email – keep it brief and mention any next steps either of you agreed to take (“I look forward to having you introduce me via email to your friend Bob”). Then look up your interview partner on LinkedIn and send them a personalized invitation to connect if you haven’t already done so.
After you connect with Bob and have a conversation, the savviest networkers will email back to the person who connected you to say “Thanks for this introduction. I spoke with Bob this morning and he was extremely helpful, just as you said he’d be. I really appreciate your efforts.” Everyone likes to think of themselves as a connector of people and you just confirmed with someone that they are exactly that.
Boom. Done. Network grown. Industry knowledge gained. Advocate secured. Pat yourself on the back and then find three more people to engage in informational interviews this week. You didn’t think I was going to let you off that easy, did you?