How to relaunch your career after time away

So, you’ve set yourself the goal of getting back to work after a career break. While it can be exciting to imagine the myriad opportunities ahead of you, it can also be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. The job hunt can be challenging at the best of times, but that gap on your resume can make it seem even more daunting. How do you put forward your best self and ignite your career launch? Here’s one parent’s back-to-work story and some expert tips for re-entry. 

After having three young children, now all at school, Sarah* had been out of the workforce for eight years. She’d lost her confidence and couldn’t see how she could return to full-time work.

Sound familiar?

Sarah was a buyer for a major department store, which involved long days and several overseas trips each year. Her preference was to work for two to three days per week, but again this was not realistic if she returned to buying. She was lost, lacked confidence, and needed support about her return to work, so she contacted me.

Sarah had updated her resume and had been applying for marketing coordinator positions to ‘ease herself’ back into the market.  She had completed a marketing undergraduate degree and was prepared to start at the bottom and work her way back up. So far, she’d applied for about 20 jobs with high-profile fashion, sport, and retail organizations but hadn’t received any responses and was feeling frustrated and demoralized.

When I met with Sarah, I explained the problems with this approach:

  • She had never actually worked in a marketing assistant/coordinator role and was competing against possibly hundreds of other candidates who were currently working in these roles.
  • Her undergraduate marketing degree was virtually obsolete as she had no digital marketing or social media skills which were an expected requirement for many of the jobs.
  • Her resume wasn’t doing her any favors. It looked outdated and didn’t highlight her transferable skills.  As a ‘relauncher’, out of work for eight years, her resume was really only highlighting this gap.
  • The jobs she was applying for — fashion, sport — were highly appealing to a wide range of applicants which would therefore likely make the applicant pool even greater.
  • By applying for entry-level marketing roles, Sarah was not valuing the plethora of skills that she had developed earlier in her career: leadership, client relationship management, stakeholder management, financial management. They were still there! It was also highly likely that recruiting managers would think she was too experienced for coordinator roles.

When I pointed out these facts, Sarah completely understood where I was coming from. I suggested to Sarah that she take a different approach to her relaunch — to find people instead of jobs.

Here’s what I suggested.

The first step was to write a list of everyone she had worked with in the past, to find out where they were now working, and to organize a coffee meeting in the next fortnight.  The goal was to tell them she was keen to return to work.

Sarah was excited about this idea and contacted me a few days later to say that she had organized four coffee meetings with ex-colleagues from her buying days, who had moved to new organizations.

The results of these coffee meetings were astounding, resulting in the following over a one-month period:

  • An interview with the human resources manager of a major fashion label.
  • An interview with the human resources manager of a major retailer.
  • A job offer to work as a part-time account manager for a homewares company.
  • A further interview lined up that she canceled after receiving the job offer.

Sarah accepted the position with the homewares company.  She now works from home as an account manager three days a week during school hours. She is using her transferable skills (relationship building, marketing, budgeting, and analysis) whilst also working in an industry that she is passionate about.

Written by Leah Lambart, founder of Relaunch Me. Leah Lambart is an experienced career coach offering specialized return to work coaching programs through her business, Relaunch Me.  These programs are tailored for the individual but may include career counseling, interview coaching, LinkedIn coaching, and job search coaching.

*Not her real name, but based on a real story.

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