No matter what career field you’re trying to get back to (or break into) you’ll want to prove that time away from working doesn’t translate to an outdated skill set. Yes, polishing up your resume and LinkedIn profile and reaching out to your network are as important as ever—and they’re steps you can accomplish in a weekend. But once your situation allows you more time (your children are all going to school full-time, your childcare arrangement changes, your partner has greater availability), you’ll want to plan out a strategy to increase your qualifications so you’ll have more options.
For example, I was in the content marketing field before I took my hiatus to raise my children. When I went job hunting three years later, I had to get on top of the increased role of social media and all of the tools and apps that had become standard while I was gone. It took about six months, three webinars, and lots of practice until I felt comfortable—and could sell myself as capable of working on these platforms.
These options take a larger (and longer) time commitment, but they can increase your hireability for the roles you want. So, look at it as an investment in your career, and see if any of these four tactics are reasonable for you.
1. Take a Workshop, Seminar, or Course
You can find many classes, webinars, podcasts, and other ways to boost your skills from behind your computer screen. Most employers are very familiar with MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses) and know that they are rigorous and challenging.
If you do have the time—and are looking to get out of the house—consider “Weekend College.” Many universities offer classes for working professionals, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Often, you will earn a full credit through a weekend course, and it always looks good on that resume. Because the course is so intense—usually eight hours each day—you will also get to know career professionals in your field and establish new networking opportunities. I went back to a local university and took a month-long course in content marketing: It was a huge eye opener! It inspired me to start writing and submitting blog posts. I included the ones that got published on my LinkedIn page and mentioned them in my resume.
Getting updated is really important, especially in certain fields, like technology, accounting, personnel management, CRM, and marketing, to name a few. As you finish each course, add them to your resume and your LinkedIn profile (here’s the right way to do it) to demonstrate you know the latest information.
2. Get Some Current Reading Material
Whether you visit your local library, bookstore, or go online and download books, reading the same things as others in your sector is a great way to get on the same page (sorry, the pun was right there!). While this isn’t something you’ll add to your resume, it’ll provide you with the latest trends and terminology in your field, so you’ll sound knowledgeable during an interview.
This sort of “name dropping” shows you have time and interest to think about what’s going on the field. And it’ll disprove any fears that you wouldn’t have the capacity to be as “in the know” as other colleagues.
If you work in a field that doesn’t have a ton of recent material published, you’re not off the hook. Instead you’re going to want to find online sources, whether they’re industry websites or curated newsletters, that’ll fill you in on the latest and get you back in the loop.
And if you draw a blank on that too, you can at least pick up a few general books on leadership, productivity, or general career success. Picking up some new knowledge in any of these areas is never a bad idea, and in the right interview, can serve the same “name dropping” purpose.
3. Build Out Recent Work
One of the problems with being out of the workforce for a while is that you don’t have current references. Your old boss can talk about how awesome you were—three years ago. But, you’d probably like someone who can speak to your work since then.
If you have participated in activities that involved leadership or called on some skill that you have then you have some current references you can tap. Did you hold any leadership positions in volunteer organizations?
Don’t discount an organization like the PTO or the Girl or Boy Scouts of America. If you planned and organized successful fundraising campaigns or other large events, then you have leadership and management skills. Go to those above you in those organizations and ask to list them. One mom I know served as a substitute IT manager for her kids’ school district when the full-time IT person went on maternity leave. That superintendent and the IT manager were both great references.
And if you haven’t been involved in any of these sorts of projects? There’s no time like the present. Along with browsing for part-time and full-time jobs, consider bridge roles and volunteer opportunities. Not only could the people involved serve as references in a few months, it’ll also give you something fresh to add to your resume.
4. Participate in LinkedIn Groups
I cannot emphasize this enough! When you update your LinkedIn profile, look for groups to join. When you become an active participant, you’ll be seen as a respected expert, and you never know when a participant is looking for someone just like you, or knows someone who is. The best part? This is a step you can do on your own time, from your phone when you have a free moment.
Need proof? Muse writer Aja Frost increased her profile views by over 400% in one week simply from group participation. I know a stay-at-home dad whose participation in a group alerted him to a national conference that many in that group were attending. He went, and out of the face-to-face contact with his group members, came two offers, and one was local.
If your personal network isn’t translating into any leads, this is a way to expand who you know in your field and grow the information—and number of opportunities—you’ll be exposed to.
Returning to work’s exciting, but challenging, to be sure. You are not the traditional candidate who’s simply moving from one job to another. You’ll have to put in a bit more legwork to show you’re ready to work. However, hiring managers will notice this effort and know you’re serious about getting back to work.