Your kids are off to school or full-time daycare, and you finally get some long overdue “me” time. And by “me” time, I mean time to work on job applications so you can return to the workplace. It’s an exciting time—but also scary, because hey, it’s been a while since you edited the ol’ resume.
Pretty much everyone has some challenge they face when kicking off a job search, and yours happens to be a long gap in employment. While that might make you panic and wonder who the heck will ever hire you after seeing that, I’m here to reassure you that it’s not as big of an obstacle as you think. Take me for example: I worked as a freelance content marketing consultant until all of my kids were in school. When I wanted to reenter the workforce, I returned to work for an old boss. (I ended up quitting after a few months and going back to freelancing because I found it so much more appealing, but the point is, I got hired again, and you can too!)
While there are a few things you can do to get your foot in the door, today I’m focusing on the hardest part: actually starting the process. Here are three steps you should take to launch your job search—and start your journey back into the workforce.
1. Update Your Resume
First, let’s dispel a reentering the workforce myth: You don’t want to “hide” those years off by trying to craft a functional resume. Recruiters and employers can see right through this—and it can distract you from putting your best foot forward.
To alleviate any suspicions, make your resume chronological, and enter those gap years right into it. Of course, I’m not suggesting you list your title as “Stay at Home Parent” or a cutesy, made-up role like “Executive Assistant to Three Pint-Sized CEOs.” But, now that you have a clear sense of your gaps, look at those years and make a list of all of the things you did during your “time off.”
Did you volunteer at your children’s schools in any capacity? Maybe you organized fundraisers and bake sales—just like with any other position, include how much you raised and quantify your impact. Consulting and freelance work counts, too! List projects you completed and the value you provided to your clients. (Then, contact those clients and ask if you may use them as references!) All of these projects keep them “current” and provide a lot of content to fill in those gap years on a resume.
Maybe you haven’t been in the workforce—even peripherally. Don’t panic: This does not mean your resume is doomed. Check out this advice from Muse columnist Jenny Foss on creating a stellar comeback resume including utilizing a “robust summary.” (And if your resume’s so old, it’s beyond updating, check out these tips to create one from scratch.)
2. Revamp Your LinkedIn Profile
If you have ignored your profile—maybe you’ve been out long enough that you never even set one up—now is the time. Once that resume is finalized, you have all of the information you need to update your profile with some great stuff. And if you have never had one, today is the day to fix that. (You can get your LinkedIn profile job search ready in just 30 minutes— here’s how!)
If you haven’t been on the site in a while, do some serious browsing. There are a lot of networking groups you can join that relate to your career interests. You can post your resume with specific keywords to draw in potential employers. You can check out job opportunities. And you can easily re-connect with former co-workers, managers, and really anyone from your professional network. Of course, I’m not suggesting you do all of that today, but these are all things you can over your morning coffee once you have it updated—or after the kids go to bed. Then, going forward, you should make it a habit to check in throughout the week.
Fact: This platform’s become one of the most important networking tools out there, and you need to become a part of it. Bonus: When you apply for positions in the traditional way, you can add a link to your profile on your resume, so that a potential employer can see that you’re up to speed on current social media and networking.
3. Email 3 Peers From Your Past Jobs
One of the best ways to find out about opportunities is to let your past colleagues know that you’re back in the game. These contacts include not just co-workers but others in the career field with whom you established relationships.
One thing to remember is that your path back into your career may not take the traditional route of locating recruiters and job opportunities, and then submitting your resume and hoping for an interview. Many opportunities aren’t advertised, and even for the ones that are, you may not scream “traditional candidate,” which is all the more reason to get a referral.
Here are a few templates to get you started:
- How to Ask for an Introduction: An Email Template
- “Help Me Find a Job!” Emails to Send to Your Network
- How to Ask for a Referral: An Email Template
It can be intimidating to embark on the job search again. But the best way to get over that fear is to dive right in with things you can do right now, today.