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I want to address an age-old question asked by women contemplating a professional comeback:
Should I take just any old job or should I hold out for the right one?
This is a question I hear a lot and it’s a question that I asked myself often as I looked for a job after being out of the full-time workforce for many years. Here’s the easy answer: It depends.
The answer to this question depends entirely on what is motivating you to go back to work. Here’s my point: If you need to start earning income for you or your families’ survival now, then you should take the best job you can find quickly. By “best” I mean highest paying. Life is expensive, kids are expensive and it takes money to survive. Pure and simple. Divorce often forces women back into the workforce, or your spouse might have been laid off. Whatever the situation, if quickly earning income has become your primary motivation, then find a job and bloom where you’ve been planted. You don’t have to stay there forever but my personal rule of thumb is that you do have to do your best while you’re there. If you sense that you’re just passing through, work diligently so that when you leave you’ll have a great recommendation and can feel good about the work you did.
While the need for money motivates many women to return to work quickly, others find that their timing isn’t quite so urgent. To you, I say – lucky you! You have the luxury of doing the 3 steps of Reflect, Research and Activate that I think are so important to a successful job search. The Reflection step is of critical importance in a job search because this is the step where you think deeply about your skills, your past experiences and your current interests and add them all up to set a course for your future.
I want a career break to become a very normal part of a person’s career (both women and men) and for employers to view these not as breaks from real work, but as opportunities to develop more deeply as people, as parents, as travelers or as caregivers of aging parents. Your ability to reflect on what you’ve learned and how you’ve grown during your career break is a key part of finding direction for your job search. And setting off on a journey with a destination in mind is going to get you there faster than if you are just wandering through the job search process, applying to something different every day.
If you are motivated to return to work by a desire to re-engage your professional self, to grow as a person in a professional capacity, to put your valuable skills to work and to earn a good income while doing so, then you have the luxury to look until you (a) find the right job or (b) find a job that offers a trade-off that you are comfortable taking. Every decision we make is a trade-off between things that are important to us. If your job search is starting to feel like it’s taking a long time, and you’re considering taking the next job that comes along, here are a few things you can consider:
- Will this job keep me moving forward? Will I learn here? Will I meet people that will grow my professional network? Will I feel good about the work I’m doing?
- Can I think of this job as a stepping stone? Will it get me closer to where I’d like to be professionally?
If you can answer “yes” to any of those questions, then maybe it’s time to take the job.
The second part of this question is –
Do I have to take a job making less money or with a lower title than I held before I took a career break?
My guidance is that I want you aim high, but you must understand that the burden of proving your value to an employer rests with you and only you. How can you prove that you’re worthy of your previous salary and title?
- By demonstrating that you’ve spent your career break learning and keeping your skills fresh
- By taking courses to refresh your job skills
- By becoming active (and being known) in a professional association relevant to your field
- By maintaining a network of influential people in your field
Then develop your personal brand image to illustrate your value.
One final thought: When I was job searching, I realized early on that my next job was going to come from someone who knew me personally and not from a resume that I blindly sent out over the Internet. And this belief changed my job search activities from sitting behind my computer sending out resumes to instead viewing every opportunity to talk to someone as a chance to get one step closer to finding the right job. And, guess what? It worked.
Back to Business Guest Blog by Mir Garvy of RTP Resumes
Whether you chose to step out of the workforce for a year or for 15 years, getting back into it can seem like an uphill battle. It can feel daunting to work toward gaining acceptance in your chosen field, toward maintaining your confidence and self respect, and toward eventually securing a position that rewards you for what you know and what you can do.
Waiting for that eventuality can be frustrating. After you’ve taken a career break you’ll be using the same skills you’ve always used to job hunt: a polished resume, a strong network, an understanding of industry trends, and a dedication to your personal goals. Keeping a positive attitude in all this is essential, but it might require some effort.
I find knowing that others have successfully relaunched their careers gives other people returning to paid work—especially women—the encouragement they need. I’ve helped enough relaunchers to know that every path back to work is unique. The people who come out on top are the ones who are flexible and creative, willing to combine some new skills with their old ones.
Meet Relaunchers Alex and Melanie
Here are two examples of what I mean. One story demonstrates how a forced career break can be framed as a growth experience leveraging someone into a new occupation. The other shows how even minimal but ongoing involvement in the same occupation can plug holes in a resume.
Alex (name changed for anonymity) was 50 years old when we worked on his resume. He had spent more than 25 years in the hospitality industry and then went through a divorce. Instead of a plum job as a Director of Operations at high-end destination resorts where he oversaw a large staff that managed top-tier functions such as golfing events, professional conferences, and weddings, he became the trailing spouse to his ex-wife, who moved twice with their children.
Alex struggled. Forced to take whatever jobs were available to him in the cities where his ex-wife chose to move, he worked as a store manager at The Home Depot and then at The Fresh Market.
When both of his aging parents’ health became problematic, he stopped working to care for them. This career break extended to two years. When they died he was charged with settling their estate.
During this time, he was not employed at all, but something interesting happened during those years. As a result of spending time with his own failing parents, he become passionate about working in an industry that improves the lives of elderly and frail people.
He decided to earn a certification in the field of elder care. His new resume leveraged his experience managing resorts to managing assisted living facilities.
We labeled the two years off a sabbatical. He told the story of caring for his parents in his cover letter, and he briefly mentioned the personal side of his being a trailing spouse as a single dad in his interview, then quickly moved on to all of his professional and transferable skills. The happy ending is that Alex was recently promoted to Senior Operations Director of a chain of assisted living facilities.
Melanie (not her real name) is 43 years old now. In her twenties she had earned a degree in marketing and then worked for eight years in advertising and public relations, advancing her career each year.
Social media was just becoming a viable revenue-generating tool that businesses were taking as a serious part of their overall ad and marketing spend. She gained considerable experience writing blogs, ad copy, web copy, social media posts, and creating graphics for all of these outlets.
But then, Melanie and her husband decided to start a family. At age 30, she stepped out of the workforce and spent the next 12 years raising three children. From time to time, the agencies where she’d worked, as well as former colleagues who’d gone on to work at other marketing companies and ad agencies, would reach out to her to do contract jobs. This was a fortunate circumstance.
She didn’t make much money from her contract work, but she did form a sole proprietorship and report her earned income each year. By the time her youngest was ready to start school, she was ready to get back to full-time employment.
Because, on paper at least, she had owned a business for 12 years, we were able to draft her resume to show she was continuously employed. Granted, there were months—and even years—when she earned zero income for her business. But, luckily, she had maintained some level of business involvement in the midst of parenting, and some documentation to prove it.
As a result of what the piecemeal jobs required of her, Melanie had kept up to date for the most part with trends in her industry. She joined a couple of professional organizations. She attended a national conference in social media and digital marketing to brush up on all the very latest platforms, trends, and who the thought leaders were.
Her resume, her LinkedIn profile, and her interview skills quickly strengthened and she started applying for jobs. By the time she dropped her youngest off for his first day of kindergarten, she had accepted a position as Senior Social Media Manager for a well-known IT company.
I love it when all the pieces come together like they did for these two clients. Even though Alex and Melanie did not exactly plot ahead of time how they would fill the hole of a career break, and even though their work history was quite haphazard because of the curve balls they were thrown, we were able to shape their stories to make their career gaps appear logical and intentional.
If you are a relauncher, consider how to piece together a story that frames your career break in a way that works to your advantage. If you need help with this, you may want to work with a professional resume writer who has experience in this area.
About Mir Garvy, MS, CPRW – I’ve written resumes for 2,000+ job seekers just like you—and helped my clients land jobs with companies like Amazon, SAS, Google, Duke University, Travelocity, Cisco Systems, GlaxoSmithKline, Expedia, and IBM. www.rtpresumes.com
There’s no shortage of advice on the internet for job-seekers when it comes to resumes. But women returning to work after a career gap have a special situation: You’ve been very busy while out of the paid workforce but don’t necessarily have a job title or professional accomplishments to show for it. Here are a few suggestions to help you as you put together your resume:
Use an objective or summary statement. An objective or summary at the top of the resume may be especially important since your career is not necessarily following a linear path. Chose just one of these: The objective is handy if you are applying for a job for which you may not be an obvious fit or you are a career-switcher, like many women returning to the workforce after a career break.
The objective briefly states what type of job you are looking for and the specific skills you have that relate to that job, but must be framed so that it clearly states what you can do for the employer. Here’s an example of a well-crafted objective statement: “Obtain a position at Back to Business where I can use my marketing and business development skills to help grow the organization.”
A summary statement summarizes your skills, areas of expertise and anything that might distinguish you from other applicants. An effective summary reads like this: “Experienced Project Manager with 10 years of experience in the telecommunications industry and knowledge of Global Networks. Proven ability to manage projects in emerging and established markets.”
Whether you choose to do an objective or a summary, remember that this part of your resume will need to be carefully tailored to each position you apply for and should include keywords that recruiters will search on when filling the job.
Use action words such as developed, designed, established, expanded, grew, launched and achieved to start your bullet points and capture the reader’s interest. Each of your resume bullets should convey an accomplishment, rather than simply listing your responsibilities.
Where possible, provide evidence that you possess these most sought-after skills, according to Quintessential Careers: communication skills, analytical/reasoning skills, computer/technical literacy, flexibility/ability to manage multiple priorities, interpersonal skills and leadership/management skills. Regardless of what functional area you are seeking work in, these skills are highly prized by employers. Visit Quintessential Careers for an excellent article on how to articulate these skills in your resume.
Know the right keywords for your target industry and use them effectively. You can determine what keywords are most commonly used in job postings by reading through multiple job postings on Glassdoor.com, Indeed.com or another job search website. Pay close attention to the words used in any job listing you are responding to and be sure those exact words appear in your resume and cover letter whenever possible.
Quantify the statements in your resume bullets. Be specific when stating your accomplishments. You are aiming for bullets such as “Increased sales by x%”, “Reduced costs by $50,000”, “Brought in 10 new clients” or “Hired and trained over 500 people”. If enough time has passed that it’s difficult to recall specifics about your previous professional accomplishments, check out former co-workers profiles on LinkedIn and see if you can get clues from how they talk about their experience. While you’re there, invite them to connect, congratulate them on a recent career move or just drop them a line to keep the relationship fresh.
Here’s some expert advice from Catherine Tuttle, Former Manager of Alumni Career Services for the NC State Alumni Association and Owner of Forward Thinking Resumes:
“Returning to work after a career break doesn’t mean you have to have lots of white space on your resume. Keep in mind, just because you weren’t getting paid for what you were doing outside the home doesn’t mean it’s not relevant experience. Think about everything you’ve done since you left your most recent full time position and evaluate how it relates to your next career move. For example, were you volunteering for a political campaign – canvassing neighborhoods and speaking out about the issues? Were you part of an alumni network planning opportunities for others to engage on and off campus? Were you working with the PTA to raise awareness and funding for your child’s school? These experiences aren’t trivial and if communicated appropriately, represent a number of key skills that employers value including communication, initiative, relationship building, fundraising, and event planning just to name a few. As women we tend to downplay our success, so talk with friends and family or work with a professional to evaluate your experience, embrace your accomplishments, and articulate them clearly on paper.”
Getting started is the hardest part, so set aside some time to produce your first draft, then ask a trusted friend or adviser to review it for you. Having a resume you are proud of is a key step in being ready to face the job market as a prepared, confident job seeker.