What If You Approached Your Return to Work Knowing That You Could Not Fail?

What If You Approached Your Return to Work Knowing That You Could Not Fail?

If you are working on your professional comeback, there are so many things you need to think about: your resume, career direction, LinkedIn presence, cover letter, professional wardrobe, preparing your family for a big change, and on and on.

But how about you?  Yes — you!  Do you feel ready? Are you nervous? Need a confidence boost so you can get out there and present yourself in the very best light?

Job seekers tend to spend a lot of time on the tools of job search that I mentioned above, but my experience tells me that women returning to work often need a big shot of confidence in this stage of their life. You’ve been doing amazing things during your years out of the paid workforce but you may be unsure of how they translate to your next career move.

Someone told me recently that they appreciated that the Back to Business Women’s Conference dealt with more than just the tools of job search; we took the confidence issue head-on for women returning to work after a career gap.

 

Fail

I’ve been thinking about this issue a lot today because I spent the afternoon doing the high ropes course and zip-line at Bond Park in Cary, North Carolina where we live with our 4 children. Originally, I signed our 11-year old twins up for the open ropes course afternoon, but when one of them asked me “Aren’t you going to do it too?” I went back and signed myself up also.

This was not my typical Saturday! We climbed up a shaky 35 ft rope ladder, walked across a balance beam in the sky, crossed rope bridges and zip-lined. It was scary! But during the ground training we learned that we were protected by a two-fold security system: we wore two harnesses and were clipped into 2 carabiners. So, although it was scary, we were not going to fall.  There was no way we could fail.

What if you couldn’t fail? What if you approached your return to work knowing that you could not fail? Would you walk a little taller? Be a little bolder about reaching out to people you’d like to meet or work with? Speak up about your accomplishments and skills with a different voice?

Well, guess what? I’m here to tell you that you cannot fail in this endeavor. It may take longer than you’d like and you may hear a number of “no’s” along the way, but all you need is one “yes.”  And I promise you, eventually you will transition back to work. Approach it like you know you cannot fail.

 

Trust

Another thing I was reminded of while walking high among the tree-tops today is the importance of trust. When we climbed the rope ladder today, we had to have a spotter and before we began we had to say “Trust on” to verbally acknowledge that we trusted our spotter.

Who’s spotting you during your transition back to work? I hope you have people you trust to encourage and support you as you look for a job and return to work.

During the Back to Business Women’s Conference, we seat women with others who live near them and suggest that they get to know each other and continue to meet after the Conference to support each other. Some of these groups met for a year or more after the conference – as members started new jobs and left the groups, they introduced friends who took their places. Many women have told me what a great source of support their Back to Business group has been during their job search.

 

Making it fun

Let’s face it – going back to work is hard work. Whenever possible, let’s make it fun.

If you’re in our area, I hope you’re planning to join us for the Back to Business MeetUps that will take place over the next few months. We’ll have fun as we share job search advice and hear from women who have successfully made the transition so you can learn from them. Check out the full schedule of upcoming Back to Business events here.

If you’re not in our area, you can access all the information you need here from recaps of MeetUps to How to Conduct an Informational Interview and pretty soon some online content.

So now that we know we can’t fail, let’s get Back to Business!

You can do this.

Back to School Means a Fresh Start for You

Back to School Means a Fresh Start for You

Back to school means a return to more structured days and a sense of routine at home. I personally love the freedom of summer, but I can also appreciate the rhythm that returns to our lives once school begins and the kids settle into a new year.

If you’re actively looking for a job, this is your season! You have time during the day (uninterrupted time!) to schedule meetings with people, do informational interviews, write amazing cover letters and polish up your LinkedIn profile. What a gift!

Back to school isn’t just a new start for your children: It’s also a fresh start for you. This is an ideal time to recommit yourself to your job search goals and get re-energized to focus on the things you need to get done for you.  Here are a few ideas to keep you on track:

 

Start with a plan: Focus your job search by planning out the time you’ll spend looking for your next career move.

 

Be interactive! Be sure that time is heavily weighted toward activities that have you actively engaging with other people as opposed to being at home in front of your computer.

 

Update your online presence as part of the fresh start. Take a look at your LinkedIn profile and find a few places that you can freshen up. The more you update your profile, the higher your chances of showing up in a recruiter search. Be sure to include keywords that appear in postings for jobs that you’d like to have.

 

Make it fun! Find a group of friends to support you through your transition. Yes, it’s work, but it can still be enjoyable.

 

Join us at Back to Business Our website and programming is all geared toward helping women like you transition back to work after a career break. If you’re local to the Raleigh area, join me for MeetUps or workshops where classes and panels are designed to assist in every aspect of your job search.  If you’re not local, make good use of our free online articles and checklists and checkout our online courses.    Whether it’s in person or online, I look forward to meeting you and helping you get back to business.

 

Designing Your Life

Designing Your Life

I’m reading a book that’s so worthwhile and relevant for women returning to work that I have to share it with you.

Designing Your Life: How To Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Stanford professors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans is about applying design thinking to life and career planning.

It’s really made me stop and think about how people choose careers and plan their lives. Their focus is on college students, but so much of what they’re preaching applies to women like us.

Here are a few of my favorite take-aways:

Pick 3 Paths:  Choosing your career should involve choosing 3 different paths –  one isn’t enough!

They advise that you map out 3 different career paths you could pursue. This way you’ll have options (but not too many options!).  Designers like to come up with lots of different solutions to problems, and coming up with 3 ideas for your next career move is a smart way to keep your options open.

Prototype your options: Once you have mapped out 3 different career options, Burnett and Evans advise prototyping your ideas.

Discover what it’s like to actually work in the field you’ve identified. How do you do this?

  1. Find people to have career conversations or informational interviews with so you can learn more.
  2. Take concrete, specific steps to put yourself in that job field – this may be volunteering at first or taking a course to plug a skill gap you have.
  3. Whatever that next step is, take it so you can actively try out the career option. If you discover this isn’t the path for you, look at the other options you identified and try another one out.

 

If you find yourself short on time but still want to experience Designing Your Life, check out Bill Burnett’s TEDx talk on the book in which he presents highlights from the book.  Or sign up for a free trial of the audible app and get the audiobook on your phone so you can listen to it while you’re driving.

Have fun designing your next steps!

Should You Take Just Any Old Job or Hold Out for the Right One?

Should You Take Just Any Old Job or Hold Out for the Right One?

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.