Six Keys To Job-Hunting Following a Long Hiatus
People take breaks from their careers for many different reasons: to travel, stay home with kids, care for a family member, or medical issues, to name just a few. Given these very valid rationales for spending time on personal endeavors, many might not think about the difficulties they could encounter in getting a job after the break. But in today’s tight job market, a time gap in a resumé might be all it takes to get that resumé moved to the recycle bin.
But if you’re among those job hunters who are returning to work after a hiatus, fear not. With patience and perseverance, you will find a job in your chosen field, and the following tips should help you get back on the road to a thriving career:
Mentally (and Financially) Prepare for a Long Search: Many unemployed job seekers are stunned to find themselves looking for a job for months or even years before securing a position. The length of the search can be very disheartening, particularly if you were expecting to wrap up a great position in a couple of months. So:
- Go into your search with the understanding that you might be at it for a while.
- If possible, make sure you have a financial reserve that can tide you over for a year or more.
- If you don’t have that kind of financial cushion, create a plan B for generating income or reducing expenses (like getting a part-time job or downsizing your apartment).
In short, minimizing your financial stress will greatly reduce the overall stress you feel in searching for a job. Next:
Be Ready to Discuss any New Job Skills, and Consider Adding Them to Your Resumé: Examine whether, during your time away from your “normal” career, you gained skills that could apply to the jobs you are seeking. Be ready to discuss specific skills that you gained or developed, in case your interviewers want to know how you stayed sharp while you were away. That said, use your judgment regarding the convention for resumés in your industry: consider consulting a career coach to decide whether explicitly mentioning your non-traditional experience will help or hurt your chances. If you do decide to go this route, some possible ideas:
- Did your world travel require you to be resourceful and negotiate in cultures and customs that were unfamiliar to you?
- When you were dealing with insurance companies on behalf of a sick family member, did you learn to be persistent and keep trying different strategies until you were able to get what you needed?
- You may also want to consider adding a section regarding your time away to your cover letter.
Reach Out to Your Network: In any job search, your chances of securing an interview are much greater if someone on the inside passes along your resumé than if you send it in cold, or through an online resume collection system; when an HR assistant is sorting hundreds of resumes, your time off might be an easy way for them to put you into the “no” pile.
But if your old boss calls a friend at the company and says he knows this great analyst who is looking for a job, then sends your resumé along, you know that someone with authority is, at a minimum, reading your resume. There’s no guarantee that any individual contact can “get you a job,” so don’t expect that. But the more people you reach out to, the better your chances of getting interviews and eventually landing a position.
Enlarge your Target: Three years ago, you might have been on track to become the next vice-president of sales. Unfortunately, now the game has changed, and you might not be able to expect to get back on the ladder on the same step you got off. Some scenarios connected with that:
- You may need to consider taking a job that you feel is a step back, or at least a step sideways.
- Depending on how long you’ve been away, you might want to consider taking something part-time, or even seeking an unpaid internship-style position to get back in the game and get a chance to prove your mettle.
- In any case, keep your eye on the big picture, and try not to get discouraged if you need to take a job that isn’t your ideal. Once you’re in, you can start climbing back up the ladder like the champ that you are.
Make Sure You are Interview-Ready: While you’ve been away from the professional world, it’s possible that your professional wardrobe has become outdated, you’ve forgotten how to style your hair, and you gave away your last decent pair of dress shoes. So change that, and make sure you have everything you’d need if someone asked you to come in for an interview tomorrow. Get your suit cleaned, shine those shoes, have extra resumé paper on hand, make sure you have a decent handbag or briefcase, and think through anything else you might need for that interview.
Get Help from a Professional: If you are financially able, consider investing in a few hours with a career coach or counselor who could help you polish your resumé and think through your job search strategy. Professionals who work with people in your industry might be particularly helpful, as they are likely to have insights on how to frame your time off in a way that will be most appealing to potential employers.
At the very least, get a friend to read through your resumé and cover letters to look for typos and awkward language. It always helps to have someone to brainstorm with, and a second brain and pair of eyes might be just what you need to uncover errors that could be holding you back.
Returning to work after a long break can be hard, but in the end, it will be worth it. You have skills that make you a valuable worker, and eventually, a savvy employer will see that your time away from the corporate ladder is no hindrance to your ability to contribute.18