Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Returning To The Workforce – Scary, Daunting, But Do-Able

Staying at home with the kids is a choice that many of us make. It involves sacrifice and is more than a little aggravating sometimes, but for those who choose it, we feel it's worth it for the kids. The scarey part of giving up your career, of course, is trying to get it or some semblance of it back. Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a seminar given by Lauren Markon of Career Connections (www.careerconnectnj.com). Ms. Markon is an expert in helping people become workforce ready. Here's what I learned from her and from attending that seminar.

We began with attendees going around the room and explaining what we'd done “in our former lives.” Previous occupations included a teacher, lawyer, nurse, college administrator, and yours truly, a humble marketing professional-turned writer. We realized that there are many barriers to returning to paid employment including:

  • fear (of failure or, even, success)
  • insecurity
  • lack of focus
  • lack of money for childcare
  • age
  • gaps on one's resume
  • mental health issues, including depression and anxiety

There's also the fact that some of us just don't know what we want to do or are dismayed by the lack of options out there (i.e. an abundance of clerical jobs we're overqualified for or the sad fact that those of us with experience may be relegated to salaries lower than people who have just graduated college). Tackling those issues is critical before one can even think of re-entering the workforce. It may be as simple as building up your confidence or even a bit more difficult, as in getting some short-term therapy for mental health issues.

Once some of the issues are behind, it's time to get ready to jump back in. Identify your resources like workshops, professional associations, etc .and get any training you may be lacking in the form of classes, whether in-person or online. One website that I didn't know about is the one for the Goodwill Community Foundation (http://www.gcflearnfree.org) which offers free lessons in dozens of topics including technology, social media, computers, job development, and more.

Markon's website, as well, has oodles of really useful information that any job-seeker will relish. Begin networking with other people and don't be shy about letting your social circles know that you're looking for employment. Oh, and moms: lest we think we cannot network, we do it all on the time on the blacktop and while waiting for our kids who are in classes. How often are we just standing around chatting and sharing info about our kids, teachers, staff, etc.? It's time to share with those same people information about your job search and let them know you're looking for work.

Get your resume together and don't forget that volunteer experience counts and can fill the gap caused by staying at home with the kids. Make sure you have a cover letter you're comfortable with (again, resources to help you are at www.careerconnectnj.com) Let people you trust critique your resume and then get set up on Linked-In. If you aren't fluent in Linked-In, there are many books you can borrow from the library that will get you up to snuff.

Make sure you have the proper clothes to wear while interviewing. A novel idea that came out of the seminar was having business cards printed up showing your name and contact data on the front and bullets from your resume on the back that you can give out when you meet a person who can help you.
And don't forget to rehearse your interviewing skills, preferably with a professional who can give you helpful advice on how to land a job. Then, with your confidence up and the tools you need at the ready, start looking for a job.

While you're looking, volunteering for a position you might be interested can help with visibility and training. Years ago I found a great opportunity via the site: http://www.volunteermatch.org which helped me apply for a position that allowed me to learn and offered an enormous e amount of flexibility.

Re- entering the job market is difficult, but not impossible. With preparation, patience and dedication, you can find a job that will make you happy.  

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