Returning to the Workplace: Strategies for Women

by Denham, Thomas J. Monday, March 10, 2008
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If you have stopped-out of the workplace, there are some strategies for making a smoother transition. You may feel anxious about the challenges of moving from home to office. You can lessen the stress if you prepare ahead of time. For all the many things that women are juggling today, getting started is the hardest part, but investing your time will be worth the results.

Get Career Tested by a Career Counselor. This reentry is a new opportunity to find work that has purpose and meaning. Finding your passion is an important part of the 3-step career development process: 1) self-assessment, 2) career exploration, and 3) job search or education/training. A qualified professional can administer and interpret self-assessment inventories to more thoroughly evaluate your skills, values, and interests and zero in on the passions that will lead you to possible career options.

Explore Your Options. With the results of the self-assessment tests, you will want to develop 4 options: 1) first choice job/ideal, 2) realistic job choice/back-up plan, 3) safety job/last choice, and 4) wild card job/unexpected opportunity.

Set Short-term and Long-term Goals: What are your goals? Commit to writing 3 to 5 S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic and Time-Sensitive). You will need to answer such questions as: “Do I need part-time or full-time work?” “Should I return to my past employer or seek a new company?”

Close the Resume Gap. Updating your resume can help you assess growth and keep you competitive. Consider meeting with someone that would be willing to give an objective critique and advise you on how to close any gaps or weaknesses in your resume. A strong resume can produce multiple interviews.

Volunteer Into a Career. To make this a smooth transition, you will need to develop a series of transferable skills for the workplace. By volunteering at various non-profit organizations, you can develop administrative, fundraising, organizational, communication, analytical, problem-solving, and financial skills. This is also a way to close the resume gap.

Obtain Strong References. An employer will ask you for references to confirm your abilities. Volunteer experiences can serve as excellent source of letters of recommendation and strong references can make a difference in your candidacy.

Read and Research. During your downtime, I recommend that you stay current by reading relevant career books and researching your options. A suggested sample includes: What Color is Your Parachute?, Do What You Are, I Don’t Know What I Want But I Know It’s Not This, and Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow. Also research various industries, employers, and specific job titles. When you think about how much time you will be spending at work, this type of research will be a real investment.

Take A Course. A class might help you develop new skills and knowledge that will be applicable to the workplace. One course can also ease you into a possible degree program that will increase the possibilities for advancement. Learning a new computer application will also look attractive on your resume.

Networking Beats NOTWORKING. At least 50% of all jobs are landed by networking, so start networking before you need the next job. Conduct informational interviews to explore your options. Shadow someone in the field to get a taste of the profession. Tap into the networks of your family, friends and other professionals for advice and to develop relationships that generate leads. Collect business cards for future reference.

Sharpen Your Interview Skills. It’s the most important and neglected stage, so don’t “wing it”. Be sure you research the career field, the employer, the specific job and answers to difficult questions. Spruce up your wardrobe with new interview attire. Consider conducting a video-taped mock interview to help you practice conveying your goals, strengths, career direction.

Implement the Action Plan. A clear purpose and direction derive from an organized personal plan. Once your career plan is developed be sure to review it periodically, revise it as necessary, and recommit to it frequently. Form your dream team of advisors that will help you implement your plans and keep you motivated and accountable. Plan your work and work your plan. Finding a career that you are passionate about requires preparation and sacrifice, but it is entirely possible with the right tools, perseverance, and guidance.

© Careers In Transition LLC