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Category Archives: Job Search

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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Business woman and building

One of the sad and disappointing effects of the COVID pandemic (aside from the tragic loss of life) is that a disproportionate number of women have had to leave their jobs, either temporarily or permanently. Time Magazine reports, “Between August and September, 865,000 women dropped out of the labor force, according to a National Women’s Law Center analysis of the Bureau of Labor Statistics September jobs report. In the same time period, just 216,000 men exited the workforce.”

Why is this happening?

It could be any number of reasons. For one, industries that are female-dominated (education, service industry jobs, child care, etc.) have been hardest hit by the pandemic. Also, due to at-home schooling and daycare centers shutting their doors, there’s becoming a greater need for parents to stay home with children. And, guess what? The lowest wage earner is inevitably the one who will stay home, which is typically the woman (As of 2020 women make an average of $.81 for every $1.00 a man brings in).

We can’t solve the gender pay gap in one blog post. Nor can we give women all the safety nets they need (affordable childcare, paid maternity leave, etc.). However, we CAN focus on one key question to attempt to turn around this grim situation:

How can women re-enter the workforce once they are able to come back?

I’ll be frank. Once you leave the workforce for an extended period of time, the cards are stacked against you. Resume gaps never look good, and you may fall behind on industry advancements and new skillsets. However, there ARE a few steps you can take to make yourself a more enticing candidate to future employers. Here are four steps you can take:

1. Never Stop Working

This may sound counter-intuitive, but it IS possible to avoid resume gaps by doing very part-time work at home. If you’re a graphic designer, for instance, you might take on the occasional freelance project. If you’re a writer, you could volunteer for your neighborhood newspaper. If you specialize in social media marketing, you could put in some hours volunteering for a friend’s business. If you have a finance background, you could consider becoming a virtual financial assistant (typically a very part-time gig).

Yes, not every job is conducive to part-time, at-home work. If you used to work in healthcare, for instance, you can’t exactly care for patients in your free time at home! Instead, consider volunteering in a relevant area or skip ahead to tip #2:

2. Stay Relevant

When you leave a job, it’s a good idea to keep tabs on your industry and refresh your skills, when you can. Sign up for newsletters, read articles, or listen to podcasts related to your industry.

If you have the time and bandwidth, consider taking an online class or pursuing relevant certification. You might even connect with a local college or university to see if they’re offering any useful classes for people who are not full-time students.

3. Network

Never stop networking. According to Diane Flynn, co-founder and CEO of Reboot Accel, “About 85 percent of women returning to work find jobs through their network.”

Even if you’re temporarily working as a homemaker, you can still continue to keep in touch with your network. Send the occasional email or LinkedIn message to former co-workers, join an online women’s networking group, or check out Toastmasters.

Once you’re ready to start looking for work again, don’t be afraid to make your job hunt public. Post about it on social media, send emails to friends who could possibly assist you, and drop your former co-workers a line. You never know who might say, “Yes! I know of a job opening that would suit you perfectly!”

4. Tap Into Resources

Believe it or not, there’s an entire industry set up to help people re-enter the workplace after a long break. Firms such as iRelaunch or companies offering reentry programs (sometimes called “returnships”) are actively seeking to hire people who have been out of a job for an extended period of time.

You might also contact your alma mater’s career center for guidance or work with a career coach who specializes in worker reentry.

5. Don’t Sell Yourself Short

If you are trying to re-enter the workforce after a significant break, there is absolutely no need to feel shame or embarrassment. Push those feelings aside and concentrate on your enthusiasm and your relevant skills and expertise. Demonstrate that you are ready to hit the ground running and willing to put in the legwork to do the best work possible.

If an interviewer asks about a gap on your resume, don’t shy away from the question. Instead, be honest! Tell them you had to temporarily stay home to care for your school-aged children, but you’re now ready, enthusiastic, and as prepared to work.

Remember: Your volunteering experience, memberships, and online classes/certifications count! If, for example, you sat on the PTA or organized an annual fundraiser for your church, be sure to tout that experience and demonstrate its relevance. For example:

“For three years I spearheaded my church’s annual walk to end hunger fundraiser. As chair of the committee, I was in charge of 30 volunteers, organized all the event logistics, and tracked over $10,000 in donations.”

In sum: Don’t sell yourself or your experience short!

Re-entering the workforce after an extended break is often not an easy task. However, with a little foresight, some planning, and the tenacity to seek resources and lean on your network, you CAN make a successful workplace reentry. The right job is waiting for you; be bold enough to seek it out and seize it!


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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Clouds spelling the word "Change"
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

You’ve known it for a while. You’ve been plugging along in the same old job, doing the same set of tasks for years now and you’ve simply had enough. You need a change, a fresh start. Maybe you need a change of scenery and, potentially, a new set of co-workers, colleagues, and higher-ups. Alternatively, if the pandemic has left you unemployed or furloughed, maybe it’s time to explore different career paths in entirely different industries.

Whatever the case, you’re restless and something needs to change. Soon.

But how can you make a change while everything is in flux? With the coronavirus still rampant (at least in the U.S.), it’s difficult to think about leaving your job or making a major change. That might be so, but I would argue that now is the perfect time for some deep reflection and decision-making. Even if you don’t act until after the pandemic has passed, it’s still a good idea to prepare.

Begin with intentional reflection.

Sit down with a pen and notepad, find a quiet place, and start jotting down your thoughts. Reflect and write notes about the following:

  • What do you like about your current job (or the last job you had)? What do you dislike about it?
  • What were some of your favorite tasks/assignments? When did you shine or feel fulfilled?
  • What are five things your next job needs to have?
  • What are your talents? How could these skillsets be put to better use?
  • What are some alternative career paths you’ve considered? (Dare to dream!)

Once you’ve thought about your preferences, skills, and dreams, you may want to consider a deeper exploration.

Sometimes, we’re not always the best judges of ourselves and our own talents. Sometimes, it’s best to use outside help or a trusted tool to uncover the root of who we are and where we excel. One of my favorite evaluation tools is Insights Discovery (and Insights Deeper Discovery). This science-based assessment can help you identify your communication preferences, your preferred work atmosphere, how to define your “living legacy,” and the potential areas that need improvement/attention.

As a licensed practitioner of Insights Discovery, I’ve worked with a wide range of people to help them unearth their core aptitudes and preferences, and to define their path, going forward (For more information about Insights, please visit my website). If you’d like to have a conversation about Insights Discovery, please feel free to send me a note.

Once you have a good handle on where you’d like to take your career (and life!), it’s time to start planning.

Start thinking about your next steps by asking yourself future-oriented questions:

  • What additional training will you need in order to step into your ideal career? What might that entail on a practical level (online courses, additional education or certificates, etc.)?
  • How much do you know about your dream job? Is additional research necessary?
  • Do you know anyone in that role? If so, could you set up an informational interview?
  • How much time might it take to make the transition? Will you (and your family) be fine with a period of income uncertainty?

Even though it may be difficult to think about your next steps during such an uncertain and volatile time, it is a good idea to do so. Planning can help you take some measure of control of your future, and it can re-energize you and give you hope. And, once the dust has settled, you’ll have a full-fledged plan that you can put to work. I believe in you!


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. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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