If you’ve been off the career track for a few years while staying home to raise a family, finding the path back into the work world can be overwhelming. Whether it’s part-time or full-time work you’re seeking, it’s hard to know where to start and how to secure fulfilling job that will set you back on your chosen career path.
The first thing many women do is hop onto job boards (such as SimplyHired.com, Indeed.com, or CareerBuilder.com) and begin searching for jobs in their local area. This can work, but rather than wait for jobs to be posted on those boards, there are some more proactive things you can do to beat the rest of the competition to the punch and find a job that is perfectly suited to you.
First, update your resume. Even if you’ve been a stay at home parent for years, you should have your resume in “ready to go” condition. You haven’t just been sitting at home up to your eyebrows in diapers and crayons all this time. You’ve been managing a household and even volunteering for causes you care about (church groups, school PTO, etc.). Be proud of those activities and find ways to showcase them on your resume.
If you don’t have a profile on LinkedIn, create one. These days, LinkedIn is essential. It’s like having an online resume, but you can choose what you display publicly (to people you haven’t accepted as “connections”) and what you keep private. If you can, contact your former colleagues and ask them to write recommendations on your LinkedIn profile. (In return, you can offer to write recommendations on their LinkedIn profiles, but only if you were honestly impressed with their skills!)
Check your Facebook privacy settings. This is important. These days, one of the first things potential employers do is search for applicants on Facebook. If you’re one of those people who doesn’t have a care in the world about who sees your political rants and drunken summer barbeque party pictures on Facebook, you need to care right now. This matters a lot to most prospective employers. Remember, even if you change your general privacy settings now, the stuff you posted in the past that was public remains public unless you go back to each post and change it. So do that, pronto!
Make a list of employers in your area for whom you’d like to work. Don’t rule any of them out because you think they wouldn’t be interested in a mom who’s paused her career path for a few years. Roll up your sleeves and do your internet research. Then, find contact information for the key people in hiring roles at each company. You can call them up and ask for the name and email address of the head of Human Resources, or you can often find that information on their corporate websites.
Write a personalized cover letter to key hiring individuals. Tell them specifically why you’re interested in working for them. Be sure to add some key detail from your research that will prove to them that you’ve done your homework to learn about their mission or business goals. Tell them, why you think your skills or background could benefit them in some way. Don’t forget to close your letter with your contact information, and tell them that you plan to follow up within a couple of weeks with a phone call. Then, in a couple of weeks, follow up with a phone call! Even if they have no current openings that match your skills, this will likely make a positive and memorable impression on the individual you’ve contacted, and it increases the likelihood that they’ll save your information, remember you and contact you about a future opening.
Consider part time work. Some employers may have a hard time finding someone who only wants to work part time. Most recent college graduates will rule out a part time position immediately. That could work to your advantage. The position could very well grow into a full time position.
Network with as many people as possible. Let people know you’re interested in finding work. Tell your friends, tell your neighbors, and tell your book group. If you know of people who do the kind of work you’re interested in, reach out to them and offer to take them to coffee or lunch. Ask them about their employers and how they found their jobs. That person might be likely to recommend you for a position if it opens up at their workplace or if they move on to a different job and need to hire someone to fill theirs.
Consider registering with a temporary staffing firm. Employers often mitigate the danger of hiring the wrong person by “test driving” an employee for a period of time through a temporary agency before hiring them directly.
Don’t grab the first job that comes your way if it’s not what you want. If you’ve been offered a position, give serious consideration to how it will position you for potential job growth. Will it be a meaningful addition to your resume in terms of skill development, or possibly a stepping stone along the career path you want? Don’t take a job just to have a job. You’ll regret it if the right job comes along a few months down the line, and you don’t want to be viewed as a “job hopper.” A reputation like that can catch up to you and burn your chances with prospective employers.
Finally, don’t sell yourself short, girlfriend. Just because you’ve taken a detour from your career path to do the worthwhile work of spending time with your family doesn’t mean your skills are irrelevant and useless. Although there are many, many fresh and newly graduated college applicants vying for jobs, many employers are seeking someone with experience, maturity and a proven track record. Keep your chin up, and your attitude positive. If you follow these suggestions, you will find yourself back in the work groove sooner than you think.
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