If you’re re-entering the workforce after an extended absence such as 10 years, you’ll need to polish your image and skills. While you’re at a disadvantage compared to applicants with more current experience, you can often level the playing field by assessing the current job market and what you bring to the table.
Refresh Your Skills
Your industry might have changed dramatically while you were away, and no matter how qualified you are you may not have the skills or education employers are looking for. Read industry magazines, talk to people still in the workforce and join forums or discussion groups for people in your profession. Ask them what you’ll need to do to compete with candidates who haven’t been out of the game. For example, you might need to master new software programs or learn changes to industry standards. Consider taking seminars or workshops to brush up on your skills.
Polish Your Resume
Just as your skills might be outdated, your resume likely doesn’t reflect your qualifications and experience. Revise your resume to accommodate the gap in your work history without drawing attention to it. Use a skills-based resume instead of a chronological format. Begin with a skills summary highlighting three or four skills or qualifications required for the job and describe how you’ve used those skills at previous jobs, both full-time positions and volunteer, temporary or part-time work.
Build Your Network
Turn to friends, family, former colleagues and connections within the industry to point you to job leads or introduce you to decision-makers. If you’re no longer connected to anyone in the industry, attend networking events or join professional associations and touch base with your former contacts. Use social media to connect with fellow professionals, recruiters and companies you’re interested in working for. Also, consider asking for informational interviews. Even if they don’t directly lead to jobs, they bring you together with people who can offer career and job search advice.
You might not be able to re-enter the workforce at the same level you were at when you left. Instead, you might need to start out with temporary, part-time or freelance work so you can gain current experience and make a name for yourself. You might also have to settle for entry-level or lower-paying jobs at first. Employers may hesitate to give returning workers jobs with significant responsibility, fearing it’s too drastic a transition after long-term employment. If you do accept a lower-level job, go above and beyond your job duties and then pursue advancement opportunities with your current employer or other companies.