There are many reasons why women find themselves amid a career break. We meet many women in the Vermilion Talent community that face an extra layer of complexity due to a divorce or separation. It doesn’t really matter why you took a break; the universal factor is the struggle to get back in. This path can be riddled with waning confidence, vulnerability, and frustration in combination with the ‘urgency’ to re-establish yourself after a divorce or separation.
Before applying for a single job and falling into the “black hole” of unacknowledged applications, we recommend you step back and get your house in order. We have travelled this road with many Vermilion members and I’d like to share some tips to move forward with confidence:
1. Don’t think in terms of a “job”, define your skill set first. Identify what transferable skills you gained during your break, for example through volunteering, and what skills you still master from your previous career. Maybe the combination of the two will reveal new insights on what type of roles to pursue. If this is difficult, work with a coach to guide you through this process.
2. Update your resume. Now that you have clarity on your target role(s), take stock of your resume. Is it current and modern? If it isn’t take a stab at updating it and adding any relevant experiences and transferrable skills you gained. Make sure it has a profile on top that summarizes who you are and what values / skillset you bring to the table. Language should be crisp, clear and relevant.
3. Stabilize your home system. Imagine what will change when you start working. What needs to change in your daily routine, what support is required for you to feel confident and secure to leave the house and enjoy your work day. Think about child care, pet-care, etc. One of our members who successfully re-entered the workforce mentioned even getting groceries and picking up dry-cleaning wasn’t something she had though through before she started. Develop a game plan so that you can enter this next phase of your career with confidence.
4. Create your renewed, current, confident me. Update your wardrobe as norms may have changed. Many companies (depending on the industry of course) have adopted more casual work environments. You want to feel confident in your clothes and reflect your personal style. This will reflect how you feel and come across at networking events or in a job interview. Also, create a simple business card. If you are feeling inspired, add a simple logo or color reflecting your personal brand. Ask your friends how they would describe you to get some inspiration.
5. Show up and work it with confidence. It’s time to shut down your laptop, practice your elevator pitch, bring your business cards and get out of the house. Attend educational and networking events to connect with other job seekers and potential employers. Sites like meetup.com, EventBrite and the event calendar of relevant industry / trade / local organizations are all useful to find places to network. Acknowledge the fact that stepping into a room with people you don’t know can be scary. Reframe this in your mind. Networking is just connecting, which we as women are great at!
6. Don’t wait for the perfect job. Getting started is key, in all perspectives: confidence, income, daily routine, networking, and re-building your professional confidence. You are taking a step forward and refining your skills set and getting your foot in the door at a company or industry you want to explore. You will expand your network and subsequent opportunities will follow. So that first job after your break may not be at the (income or role) level you’re aiming for, or not at your target company, but getting started is much more important.
Most of all, keep your chin up and communicate with confidence that you are serious about getting back to work. Don’t apologize for the situation you are in. Focus on your skills and communicating how you are the right candidate for the role. Hiring managers tell us that they are not interested in why you are re-entering the workforce; don’t overshare and keep private details private during an interview. Remind yourself of the inherent skills you bring to the table that have been honed over the years such as communication, professionalism, maturity, and emotional intelligence. This is an asset. Our partner companies tell us they greatly value talent and functional skills, but place a premium on candidates with a portfolio of “soft-skills.”
Rediscovering your professional footing can be isolating, but it doesn’t have to be. We invite you to join the Vermilion Talent community to access a guided approach to career re-entry. It is an art and we work with our members to navigate each stage of this process. For more information, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Anne-Barbara Lemmens, Co-founder of Vermilion Talent