Whether you were a stay-at-home mom, have a disability, enlisted in the military or just took some time off from your career, reentering the workforce can seem daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. Jessica Koltz, Rasmussen College career services advisor, says there are plenty of ways for you to prepare for re-entering the workforce, including everything from volunteer work to your social media privacy settings.
Check out her tips on how to integrate yourself back into the workplace, including how to prepare for those stressful interviews!
9 Tips for Re-entering the Workforce
1. Have a plan
It’s important to think of the right next step for you. Do you have the education you need? Getting the certification you need, or finishing the degree you never completed will be key in your job search. Is your resume set and polished? Have you gone to staffing agencies or to your career services advisor to complete a mock interview? Do you have the proper interview attire? Have you volunteered? Are you on social media?
“Finessing all of those components is critical,” says Jessica Koltz.
No matter what the reason for reentering the workforce, it’s a good idea to have a plan in place before starting to look for work.
2. Highlight your volunteer work
Look at any and all possible volunteer opportunities and organizations that you may have been affiliated with during your time away from the workforce. “Employees see that as unpaid work; those are definitely things to highlight,” Koltz says.
Also, if you haven’t volunteered yet, it isn’t too late. “Look for assistance on your LinkedIn profile, connections in your community or organizations that align with work you’re interested in or passionate about,” she says.
3. Double-check your resume
An updated resume is a must. If you aren’t keeping your resume up-to-date, make sure to spend extra time on it—whether or not you’re a current jobseeker. You should keep on top of your resume ongoing throughout your career. Also, don’t get caught up on having a chronological resume.
“There are really two acceptable resumes: chronological or one that has your competencies and skills as the meat of your resume, and just a brief overview of your work history,” Koltz says.
Make sure to also list transferrable skills on your resume. If you were caring for an ill family member, for example, that entails many transferrable skills such as patience, the ability to be compassionate and a quick problem solver, especially if someone isn’t able to communicate effectively.
4. Google yourself
It might sound silly, but it’s very important to do a search of your name on the Internet. You need to know what people will find out about you. Unfortunately, once something goes viral it’s hard to keep it under wraps. However, at least you’re aware a potential employer may see information you don’t want them to via the Internet, and you are prepared to speak to it beforehand in lieu of a defensive response.
5. Clean up your social media profiles
It’s important you have social media profiles and that they are as professional as they can be. Ask yourself: Do I have LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook? If I use them regularly, how professional is the content on them? Am I reflecting a professional image? Are the things I like and the things I have in in my feed what I want professional employers looking at? It’s pretty easy to clean up your social platforms. You can delete content, or change your privacy settings. Also, try to keep your profile images professional too. Give some hypothetical examples to connect with your reader.
6. Take networking seriously
You may have heard the saying, “It’s all in who you know.” It’s true. When it comes to job searching, the more people you know, the better and more opportunities you’ll have.
“Ask yourself, ’Who do I know?’” Koltz says. “Networking is probably the thing people fear the most. Start with your closest circle—immediate family—and then start working outward.”
Do you know a cousin that works at a company you’re interested in? Or maybe it’s an aunt or sibling. Once you’ve done that, you can go from family to friends, then acquaintances. “In those three circles you’d be surprised at all the people you do know,” she adds.
7. Practice your interviewing skills
You should make use of all opportunities available to you. When it comes to interviewing, it could start with you practicing in front of the mirror and move to you practicing with a spouse or a friend. Once you feel confident, you should go to a workforce agency, a career fair or meet up with your career services advisor to perform a mock interview. You need to be aware of how to present yourself professionally, which is why mock interviews are so important to everyone. The feedback you’ll gain will be extremely valuable.
8. Remember to bring a list of professional references
Just like resumes, it’s important to always have a list of strong professional references ready and updated. The list should include supervisors, coworkers or faculty/staff that can speak to how you were academically. You should not have friends or family on your list of references. In addition, if you can have a letter or two of recommendation, that will also be helpful during the job search.
9. Be prepared to answer questions about the period of time in which you were not working
During the interview it is important to not give away too much information. All you need to say is, “‘Due to unforeseen circumstances, or due to personal obligations, I took time off.’ Anything you say during an interview can be used against you,” according to Koltz.
If the interviewer pushes the topic, Koltz says it is acceptable to answer, “I’m not comfortable answering this,” or ask, “How does this answer pertain to the position I’m applying for?”
The bottom line
Reentering the workforce is not as terrifying as it may seem, and if you follow this list of tips, you will be well prepared and confident—which will leave you in a good place. For tips on other burning questions, learn how to avoid job search mistakes.