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Creating Successful Leaders

Have you had to take a break from work? Maybe you were one of the 38 million people who resigned in 2021. Or, perhaps you had to take a break for personal reasons—starting a family, health issues (physical or mental), caretaking for an aging parent. Or maybe you felt undervalued or underappreciated at work, and decided to take a break to reassess your life’s path.

 Whatever the case, know that your reasons for quitting are valid. Other people may pass judgment, but they likely do not know or understand the full story. And you are under no obligation to justify yourself.

Besides, you now have the opportunity to find something better than you had before—a role that is well-suited to your personality, interests, and skillset. A position that pays well and offers excellent benefits.

The problem is, how do you reenter the workforce once your break has come to its natural conclusion?

What if a potential employer asks about your work gap? What if your skills are rusty? Or, what if you’d like to switch career tracks entirely?

These are all scary prospects, but fortunately, they are not insurmountable. If you’re thinking of dusting off your resume and searching for a job that sparks your interest, here are 5 tips:

Reflect

If you’re thinking about beginning a job hunt, don’t just jump in! The last thing you want to do is rush things and end up with a job that is not suited for your talents and interests. Instead, take the time to practice meaningful reflection. This could involve journaling, creating a vision board, meditating, or talking with a trusted friend or career coach.

When you’re reflecting, ask yourself questions such as:

  • When am I happiest? When do I feel like I’m thriving?
  • What are my favorite work memories? Least favorite?
  • Where do I shine? What are my top skills?
  • What are my interests? What excites me?
  • What are my career goals?
  • What does my ideal future look like?

Write a resume for the job you want

You never want to lie on your resume, but it is possible to tailor it for the job you want. Highlight the skills and experiences that are relevant to your dream job. Make them stand out. For instance, if you would like to work in management at a company, it’s a good idea to emphasize your leadership skills and roles. Did you spearhead an important project at your last company? Do you lead your daughter’s girl scout troop? Have you led volunteer initiatives? All this experience counts and can appear on your resume.

Brush up on relevant skills

If you’re thinking about making a major career change OR if your skills are a little rusty (this is especially true for tech industry workers), it’s a good idea to update your skillset. Enroll in online courses, take a community education class, or sign up for a certification program. You could also take independent classes from informal online schools (such as Udemy or Teachable); although they will not earn you a formal certificate.

Another way to brush up on skills is to talk with people in the industry who have (or have had) a similar role. Ask if you can conduct casual interviews and ask questions about the skills required for the job. Talking with someone who has been “in the trenches” can reveal aspects of the role that you may not have considered.

Create a calendar

If you want to take the major step of reentering the workforce, it pays to have a game plan. Otherwise, you might feel rudderless or unsure of what to do on a given day. Having a plan can keep you focused and prevent you from mindlessly scouring the internet every day.

I recommend creating a calendar and making daily goals for yourself. The goals do not have to be large, but they should contribute to your job hunt progress. You might include items on your calendar such as:

  • Reflection/planning time
  • Skill-building
  • Sending out five emails requesting informational interviews
  • Spending three hours perusing job listings
  • Rewriting your resume
  • Writing a cover letter
  • Filling out two applications

Be Courageous

Most importantly, believe in yourself! Know that you have the grit to dive back into the workforce and the determination to be an outstanding employee. Have conviction in yourself and believe in your skillset. You DO bring value to the table, and it’s up to you to articulate that value.

Before beginning the interviewing process, be sure to practice speaking about your resume, background, and skills. Talk aloud to your mirror or practice with a friend or spouse. Anticipate questions the interviewer might ask and practice answering those questions. Go over this information time and again until it feels natural to you. Preparation and Practice are two vital components of courage.

This is your moment. Employers are hungry for dedicated, talented employees, and they ARE hiring. Even if you’ve taken a break from the workforce for a while, you can get back on the horse with a little reflection, skill-building, and planning. The most important part is believing in yourself and your abilities.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE. 

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