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5 Steps to Reentering the Workforce

by THEA kelley | October 28, 2022

Whether you’ve been caring for a family member, recovering from a major illness, self-employed, or unemployed for any reason, getting hired after a long break can be tough. How can you convince skeptical employers that you’re ready to jump back into the nine-to-five?

One: Demonstrate Your Commitment

Employers want employees who are passionately committed to the line of work they’re hiring for. Ways to show your dedication include joining professional associations or LinkedIn groups, updating your knowledge and contacts within the occupation or industry, and targeting your resume and online profiles very specifically toward your goal. This will all build up your resume and your LinkedIn profile, too.

Two: Fill Your Skills Gaps

If the postings keep listing skills you don’t have, there are ways to gain them: classes, tutorials or independent study. Complete a project you can show as a work sample. Consider earning a certification or even a degree. There are many areas in life where it’s wise to be frugal, but investing in your career is usually not one of them.

Three: Embrace LinkedIn

The lack of a positive online presence can lead to a perception that you aren’t serious about your career.

Whether you’re in job search or still exploring your options, a good LinkedIn profile can build your credibility, make networking easier and serve as free advertising as you “sell yourself” in the job market. If you have privacy concerns, take a look at the settings: you can have a lot of control over what people see and who can contact you.

Create a “current job” in the Experience section. In the “title” field, enter your target job title and maybe a key selling point or two. If your desired title is the same as jobs you’ve held in the past, you might enter the names of past companies in the “company field.” If not, you could use that field to name the industry(-ies) you want to work in, or in which you have experience. Under “description,” summarize your experience, qualifications and goal.

Above all, don’t underestimate the power of LinkedIn recommendations (not to be confused with endorsements, a separate and less powerful LinkedIn feature that only requires a click). Request them from past bosses above all, but also from your past teammates, internal and external clients and people who reported to you.

If LinkedIn seems useless to you, chances are you just need to learn more about it.

Four: Make sure you have top quality career marketing tools and skills.

Reentering the job market is a tough job that calls for good tools. In addition to an online presence you need a resume that communicates quickly and credibly.

With a long gap in your resume, you can’t afford to do anything halfway or half-baked. Either hire a high-end resume writer (expect to pay $400-$1,000+ depending on your occupation, experience and level) or do it yourself with the help of a good, up to date how-to book and a professional editor/proofreader (less than $10 per page).

It’s crucial to really know how to network. Applying to jobs online works well for people who are currently doing the same type of job they’re looking for, but that’s not you. If you’ve been out of the workforce, skillful networking is a must.

You also need to understand how to sell your skills effectively in an interview. Don’t wait until a recruiter is on the phone – or worse yet, until you’ve failed at an interview – to think about interview coaching. Why not get it right the first time?

Five: Get current experience.

Last, but definitely not least: Lack of current or recent experience is often the number-one reason employers are leery of hiring a returning worker into a full-time, permanent job. It may be easier to start with a temporary or contract position. Although it may require a commitment of several months, it’s usually worth it for the opportunity to refresh your skills and put new dates on your resume. Meanwhile, don’t stop hunting for your next opportunity.

Consider a “returnship,” an internship-like role for experienced workers returning to the workforce, especially those entering a new field. Growing numbers of companies are offering this kind of experience.

What about volunteering? While it won’t plump your wallet, it can build your experience and fill the empty place at the top of your resume, and you need that. You can include it in the same section with your previous work as long as you head the section “Experience” rather than “Professional Experience.” Look for skills-based volunteer opportunities as closely related to your vocational goals as possible.

Work hard and work smart. 

If you’ve been out of work for a while, I’m guessing you know a thing or two about overcoming hardships. Nobody ever said it was easy to reenter the workforce or that it wasn’t a lot of work. Make it your job to do all of the above, and before long employers will be taking you seriously as someone who’s ready to get back in the game and help their organization win.   (This post was originally published in 2018 and has been updated.)


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