Turn the page and write a new chapter in your career.
Are you are a parent who quit your job to raise your children? Did taking a sabbatical end up derailing your career path? Or, like my mother, did you find yourself laid off because the company you worked for went bankrupt? Whatever the reason, going back to work after a break has its challenges. However, unless you are completely destitute, it can also offer you a great opportunity to take stock of your life and make more informed decisions about what to do next. Here are three steps to get you started on your back-to-work journey.
Read more: Interview Tips: How To Land Your Dream Job
1. Soul searching
Once you have decided to find work again, it may be tempting to quickly touch up your most recent CV and start applying for jobs straight away. You may get lucky and find one quickly, but that’s rarely the case. The experiences of many of my clients suggest that finding work again can take anything from a couple of months to a couple of years. For this reason, it is important to do some serious introspection – know what you have in your armoury before you launch yourself into the job-hunting battlefield.
One way to think about this is to imagine that you are an iceberg floating in the Antarctic. The top of the iceberg is your behaviour that is visible to the outside world. In a job-hunting scenario, this may include updating your CV and reaching out to recruitment agencies. What shapes your actions is your attitude, beliefs and values that lie below the surface. Without knowing that, you may never understand why you keep bumping into the same obstacles over and over again. In other words, why your search is unsuccessful.
Some questions you should be able to answer before you start applying for work and amending your CV are:
- What is your motivation to find a job or start a new career now?
- What are the top three things that your new job must offer you?
- On the flip side, what are three things that you are willing to compromise on?
- Can you bring something to bring to your workplace that others may not?
- What sort of environment do you want to work in and why?
- What abilities, skills and experience do you want to deploy in your new role?
- To what extent are you competent in doing what you want to do?
- Do you have demonstrable experience doing what you say you want to do? (If not, what do you need to do to gain that experience?)
Once you are clearer on these points, it’ll be easier to tailor your resume and make your search much more targeted.
2. Set your back to work goals
Answering the above questions will enable you to narrow your search and make quality applications for jobs that match your criteria. The answers may also help you to adjust your goals if you discover through your search that what you are looking for in a job is simply not available in the specific role, industry or sector that you want to work in. For example, you may want flexibility, training and development, and you like the idea of working for a startup. Whilst you may find a startup that offers you flexibility with plenty of on-the-job learning opportunities, they often have tight budgets which may mean that attending external training is unlikely.
3. Take kind but concerted action
Once you have a clear idea of what you are looking for, you need to go ahead and do it. But, remember to be kind to yourself in the process because you might have to “do it” again and again and again. Avoid job-hunting burnout by practising self-care. Eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising, having fun and spending time with people who make you feel good about yourself are not luxuries that only working people can afford to indulge in. Doing these things is necessary. Whether you intend it or not, how you feel about yourself is likely to be projected in your interactions with prospective employers (or people in your network who can refer you to them). Being in a negative frame of mind can be misinterpreted as being disinterested or incompetent.
When you are looking for work, your confidence can really take a knock. Rejection letters or complete silence to your applications can mean many different things, but it is hard to simply brush off. Acknowledge your disappointment, but don’t let it consume too much of your energy. Instead, consider alternative ways of further researching the job market and getting feedback about your applications. Get advice from a friend working in the sector you are interested in or seek professional support from a career coach or consultant.
Other points in your action plan
Even if your only reason for going back to work is that you are craving human contact, consider upskilling. Besides the practical use, acquiring a new skill can enhance your confidence which is essential in any job search.
On the other hand, it is important to realise that going back to work may include coming to terms with downskilling. If you used to be a senior executive at a large corporation and you are looking for a manager role at a smaller business, you may need to accept that your new job description includes doing things that were previously done by your personal assistant.
Another essential element of your action plan is convincing the world through personal branding and marketing that you are the right person for the job. This is another thing that the introspection described above can prepare you for. Taking time to do this can help you to formulate an elevator pitch or personal statement that is uniquely yours.
Finally, activating your network is another essential part of your action plan. Do not underestimate the power of your connections, close or not so. Often, it’s unlikely acquaintances who can help you reach new networks that you do not already have access to, which in turn can present you with new opportunities.