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.
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