As much as you may want to believe that quitting your job to parent won’t affect your career long term, the unfortunate reality is that landing a job after a gap can be a challenge. You may have to learn new skills to stay current and the longer you have been out of work, the harder it can be. You will also be competing against applicants who haven’t left the marketplace and other parents looking to restart. According to Après Group, a career platform connecting employers with parents returning to the workforce, there are more than three million women in the U.S. with college or advanced degrees looking to get back in.
So how do you make yourself more marketable, boost your profile and get the job you want? Lauren Smith Brody, author and founder of Fifth Trimester Consulting, which helps workplaces improve their culture for new parents, and Jennifer Gefsky, the cofounder of Après, share their advice on how to avoid common mistakes and land an amazing job.
Mistake #1: Sending Out Your Resume Too Soon
Once the decision is made go back to work, the instinct is to immediately start applying for jobs. Don’t. Start by taking steps to make yourself relevant in the current market. “ You can’t go into an interview and say, “I haven’t worked in five or ten years, but here I am!” says Jennifer Gefsky. Do an internship, take an online course, or update your tech skills first. “I’m a huge fan of taking an in-person class and just being around people other than your social networks at home,” reveals Gefsky. “It’s putting yourself in a different world. It’s getting yourself ready to go.”
Mistake #2: Only Applying For Part-Time Openings
Part-time jobs can seem like a less jarring way to ease back into the workforce, however, Gefsky advises against limiting your search: To close off that majority of available jobs is a mistake. You will be excluding potentially great jobs that might ultimately be able to offer part-time down the road, but maybe aren’t going to offer it for a new employee.
Mistake #3: Not Leveraging Social Media
“The number one piece of advice I give people who have been out for a period of time is get on LinkedIn as soon as possible,” says Gefsky. Not only should you update your profile to include relevant skills, classes or internships, Gefsky suggests writing short articles on topics related to the career you want. This will build up your digital presence, personal brand, and show your expertise. “That advice surprises a lot of people because they think, ‘I’m not a writer!’ But that’s the amazing thing about LinkedIn, you can publish articles on your page,” says Gefsky. “Then, when people look you up, it’s, ‘Oh, wow, this person is totally up to speed on what’s going on in our industry.’”
Mistake #4: Not Asking For Help
Once you have established your digital presence and updated your skills and resume, you are ready to network. The key is to leverage all of the relationships you have. “There are all kinds of things we can learn from our personal relationships that apply to work,” explains Brody. Her advice? Ask a friend currently in the workforce to run through a mock interview with you or find out what qualities they look for with new employees. Even if they are in a different industry you can gain valuable insight and direction.
Mistake #5: Discounting The Skills You Learned As A Full-Time Parent
It’s easy to see your work life and home life as two totally separate arenas, but the skills learned in parenthood can definitely be a boost to any career. “You are probably better than ever at managing your time, your budget, your goals. You pivot more quickly between tasks. You know what’s worth saying yes to, and what’s not. Feel that empowerment when you enter into negotiations,” advises Brody. Also any volunteer work you did around your child—helping to organize events for school, leading committees, etc. Those should be added to your resume too. They can provide examples of your leadership, organization, finance, and management skills.
Mistake #6: Only Submitting Your Resume Online
One way to get noticed by recruiters who might overlook applicants with parenting gaps is to ask friends, family, or former co-workers to hand-deliver your resume to higher ups or their company’s HR reps. “It’s very hard to submit your resume and get noticed, especially when you’re competing against people who haven’t had a break,” says Gefsky. “The way you’re going to get hired is by people who know you. Networking is critical.”
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