Here are our top tips to help you navigate the job search process! It’s hard, we know.
For me, I attempted to balance work and motherhood with my first child, but jumped with both feet onto the Mommy Train after my twins were born. I always knew I’d get back onto a professional platform at some point. But, while I transitioned from bottle babies and board books to big kids with backpacks, the digital revolution began, which changed business forever. By the time I felt ready to shift my focus back to my own career pursuits, I suddenly realized how much the whole job search process had transformed. I felt frozen solid: career Yeti.
Emma Sudduth of Collective Experts categorizes a “frozen career” as one that’s been stalled for 5 years or more. Although she acknowledges that fast-paced changes in digital technology can make even a 2-year break seem huge, depending upon the industry. A big thaw is manageable, though, with this advice from Emma:
Put the word out that you are looking! Tell people what you do and ask for leads. Talk about it at school functions, neighborhood parties, church meetings, etc. You never know who might be searching for someone just like you!
No matter how long it’s been, contact your former colleagues and co-workers. Get their input on the changes to your former position or new openings at your former workplace.
Think about what you really want to do, as well as projects you’ve completed while away from the formal workforce. All those volunteer stints in the community, your church, or your child’s school … volunteer work is STILL work! Maybe your career goals changed during your hiatus. Is there a new field that you’d like to investigate?
Polish your computer and technology skills or acquire new ones. Don’t worry, that’s a common hurdle! Online classes abound and many software programs offer complete certification right from home. Take the time to learn; it could open up scores of new opportunities.
Social media is now a HUGE force in the employment game. Check your online profiles and create new ones if necessary. Clean up your Facebook and Twitter accounts to ensure you are reflecting a polished image–no tawdry, embarrassing photos or inappropriate commentary. If you wouldn’t say it or show it in a staff meeting, get it off the Internet. If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, set one up … right now! Include a nice headshot, either spring for a professional photo or snag a talented friend take some nice digital pictures for you. LinkedIn profiles are an incredible resource for making business connections and finding out about job opportunities. This network is very well-monitored to maintain it’s integrity.
Educate yourself. Read articles and blogs for current industry trends. Familiarize yourself with recent issues and buzzwords. You must be informed and prepared. Online job boards such as CareerBuilder and Monster can be great places to learn about the types of jobs on the market and their requirements. Emma advises, “These sites catalog thousands of employment offerings, so they might not be the best place to actually apply for a position. Instead, use this resource to gather all the information possible. Then follow up with the company directly, checking their website for contact information and resume submission guidelines.”
Oh, how the resume game has changed! Emma warns, “An outdated resume format can be a red flag to potential employers!” Most companies scan these through computer programs to pick out keywords. In some industries, it’s the creative resume that stands out, garnering the attention of hiring execs. Seek professional help in this category if you need it. (I sure did!) Again, connect with friends on this one. Think about who you know working in a human resources department or as a headhunter. Meet them for lunch and get some advice. Search for career counseling workshops in your community. Do a Google search for sample resumes and cover letters to get a preview of what makes for a successful applicant. Regular mail is antiquated, so you’ll probably be sending these out electronically. Follow the exact instructions for resume submissions and tailor your cover letter specifically to the position for which you are applying. Follow up about your submission in a week or so, reiterating your interest and asking if they’d like any additional information.
Your wardrobe, that is. You landed an interview, YAY! Now look at the work-worthy wardrobe options you have in your closet. You may not be interviewing for a “suit” job these days, given that many companies have moved toward a more business casual atmosphere in the workplace. Be in the know: investigate what the company’s level of dress is before your face-to-face meeting, and whatever is required, make sure you freshen up any outdated or worn out pieces so you arrive looking crisp (i.e., no spit up stains on your best blouse!).
An upcoming interview is a the perfect time for a little retail therapy, too. Whether it’s a new dress or a new pair of shoes, selecting something current and modern that makes you feel great is the key. You’ll go into your interview with extra confidence knowing you look sharp.
Your manners are showing. On an interview, show your best self. Be on time, or a bit early, dress to impress and be ready to ask thoughtful questions. Make friendly small talk, but avoid “mommy talk.” Skip the chatter about sick kids or little league playoffs, this is about your personal interests and professional strengths. Do your homework. Make sure you know important details about the company and sell yourself. Focus directly on the interviewer, make eye contact and turn off your cell phone! After your interview, send a well-considered note of thanks highlighting specific thoughts mentioned during the meeting.
Yes, relax. Obviously, the process of re-engaging in the professional world can be a stressful process and trigger some feelings of anxiety. Ultimately, the most fulfilling job will be one that’s in an environment where you feel comfortable. Interviews present the opportunity to evaluate a good fit for both employer AND employee. Take a deep breath and enjoy rediscovering this facet of your life!
Thank you for your input, Emma!