Whether you take a break of 5 years or 20, re-entering the workforce can be an intimidating idea. It may seem impossible at first, but rest assured, it is indeed possible to gain employment after taking a break.
People choose to take ‘timeouts’ in their career for a myriad of reasons. Maybe they want to raise their children, go back to school, or take a break for elder care.
If you held an executive level role prior to taking a break, we encourage you to check out ExecuNet. ExecuNet is a leading site for executive job search, career path, and leadership. They recently published a great article that explores the MYTH that if you are over 50, the chances of finding meaningful employment are low, at best. The fact is, if you have valuable skills, taking a few years away from your corporate life does not devalue your skills. In fact, time and time again we see instances where people have stepped away from their corporate life to focus on ‘real life’, only to come back as more compassionate, well-rounded individuals.
Whatever the impetus may have been that prompted someone to leave their professional life, the decision to rejoin the workforce will undoubtedly present unique challenges that differ from people that are currently employed, when looking for a new job.
Luckily, there are ways to overcome these hurdles, if you prepare for them in advance.
Here are 5 tips to get you started:
Before beginning your job search, take time to evaluate what you really want in a new role. This is a standard interview question that you will always want to be prepared for during the re-entry process. What types of positions would spur your innovative and creative passions? You should strive to discover the next chapter in your career journey rather than simply landing your next job.
Do Your Research
Technology has dramatically changed how job seekers can explore opportunities, and there are several tools available for job seekers. Once you evaluate what you want to do next, decide what companies would be a good match for your personality and your areas of interest. Check out companies on Glassdoor, which is a website that allows employees to anonymously share their experience working for a company with others. This site not only provides company ratings, but it also has a salary tool to help you ensure your salary expectations are in line with what the industry is offering. It is also beneficial to leverage job boards such as INDEED, which is a website that compiles all the jobs posted on the web into one place. Look at job openings that you are interested in, and also set up alerts. The alerts will notify you when jobs matching your criteria are posted. You can also post your resume on Indeed, for an easy way to get exposed to hiring managers and recruiters. Take your time to explore vacancies and job descriptions to see what your ideal role is and what kind of company you would now like to work for.
Google recruiters that specialize in your area of focus and connect with them either by email or LinkedIn. Having a clear vision on your end goal in your job search is key to success.
Work on Improving your Network
A solid network is often the key to landing a job, especially after a long break. As they say, it’s not always about what you know; it’s also about who you know. One of the best ways to expand your network is by attending industry and discipline specific events. These events are great opportunities to familiarize yourself with the latest key players in your industry and keeping an eye out for who is hiring and what sort of people work in those organizations. You can find these events by simply asking Google for networking events in your area.
LinkedIn is also a fantastic way to network virtually. You can re-connect with former colleagues by reaching out to past co-workers and letting them know that you are re-entering the workforce. Ask to be notified if they know of any potential openings that match your skill set. A smart way to leverage LinkedIn is joining industry groups and follow companies you are interested in. This will allow you to learn about industry changes and hear announcements from companies of interest, which will be beneficial in your job search.
Connect with hiring managers and recruiters on LinkedIn. Be sure to personalize your message, letting them know why you are reaching out. Most hiring managers and recruiters get dozens if not hundreds of invitations to connect per day, and a personalized message as opposed to the boilerplate invite will help you to stand out.
Once you are connected, engage with your contacts on LinkedIn. Commenting on someone’s post is often a savvy way to get their attention. Increasing your level of engagement on LinkedIn will provide free advertising for you to individuals outside your immediate virtual network.
You can also reach out to them by sending them a resume via email, along with bullet points on the types of jobs you would be interested in hearing about. Listing your geographic area and putting your area of expertise on the Subject line, such as “Texas based Financial Executive”, will typically get you directed to the right people much quicker than a non-existent or generic subject line.
Don’t Sell Yourself Short – Showcase Your Skills!
Updating your resume after a career break can be a challenge. It is important to determine which type of resume format best illustrates and highlights your skills. The two most common types of resumes are chronological and functional.
Functional resumes tend to be best when you are making a career shift into a new area or an extended break in employment. With this type of resume, you are able to focus attention on your strengths and job accomplishments rather than an employment gap. It is important to note you will still want to include your work history in the resume, but your skill highlights will be the star. When showcasing your abilities, it is imperative to include the buzz words that will catch the eye of recruiters and hiring managers. For example, key strengths like communication skills, leadership ability, budget management, and a firm understanding of marketing and sales are all important abilities that the recruiter should know about you. Remember most resume screenings are automated. You want your resume to match some of the mandatory qualifications of the job, so it shows up on our end as a solid match. A good tip is to Google “key action words for resumes”, and you will see a variety of ways to bring your skills to life on paper.
In the vast majority of cases, the time that you spent away from your professional life was still full of valuable experiences, and chances are, you learned important skills that can be utilized. Have you been a full-time Mom the past couple of years? If you were involved with the PTA, list it! Have you been exploring the world or volunteering? Give some thought to what skills you have learned or utilized during your time away from your desk and list them.
When re-entering the job market, you might also be open to a geographical change. Even if you are open to relocation, it is essential to list your city and state on the resume heading. Many people erroneously think that by leaving that off, it opens them up to a wider area of opportunities, but the opposite is true. The best chance for making a match is going to be for local opportunities and when you do not have your city and state listed, you might not come up in database searches. You can certainly put ‘Open to Relocation’ in your Objective statement but do make sure to list your current location at the very top of the resume, along with a good contact phone number as well as email address.
Overall, be confident in your skills and what you bring to the table. You might not match each set of job requirements 100%. That is OK! Use your best judgement when selecting which roles to apply. Do you have 3 out of 5 of the criteria? If so, then apply! You never know when an employer will be flexible in some criteria which might be deemed desirable rather than required. Show enthusiasm and interest in the role by reaching out to the recruiter via e-mail or LinkedIn. When there are many equally qualified candidates all vying for the same position, it typically comes down to who shows the most enthusiasm for the role.
Update Yourself on Industry Changes
With the economy booming and our unemployment rate diminishing at a substantial rate, there has never a better time to consider re-entering the work force. However, a long break of 4 or 5 years may have left you a little bit rusty on the latest trends and hiring practices in your industry. It’s imperative that you keep yourself updated with current events as well as changes and advancements. This information will come in handy when you’re being interviewed by a hiring manager.
Invest half an hour to an hour daily to read relevant articles, blogs, books and watching videos pertaining to your industry. Set up alerts on Google and LinkedIn for updates. Gather relevant and authentic sources on industry-related resources or sign up for free and low-cost webinars to bridge the information gap.
Deciding to go back to work can be daunting but by preparing yourself well, you’ll be able to level the playing field for yourself in no time.
International Search Consultants is an executive recruiting search firm that has matched thousands of organizations with talented candidates since 1999. We place qualified professionals in the fields of Financial Services, Sales, Human Resources as well as in the Construction Management and Energy industries.
As with all executive recruiters, please keep in mind that we are CLIENT DRIVEN. The Client (Hiring) companies pay our fees, so we are essentially finding people for jobs, as opposed to jobs for people.
If you are a person seeking a job, consider reaching out to an employment agency, that will be candidate driven. While we always appreciate receiving resumes and gladly add candidates to our confidential database, making a match all depends on having a Client company reach out to us and request the exact profile that you possess. For more candidate driven services, forging a relationship with an employment agency may provide the quickest results.
Feel free to check out our BUILD A RESUME portal on our website, and then start sharing it with Indeed and also within your network. Update your LinkedIn profile, mentioning that you are open to new opportunities.
Just because you have not been actively employed for a period of time in no way diminishes your prior accomplishments. Be confident and patient when beginning your search, and you will find a fulfilling career in no time.
Ann Zaslow-Rethaber is President of International Search Consultants and can be reached via e-mail at or via direct dial at 888-866-7276
Lisa Finch is an Executive Recruiter with ISC, focusing on Financial Services as well as the Energy industry. Lisa can be reached via e-mail at or via direct dial at 888-771-1488.