Returning to the business world after being away for a few years—because you had kids or because you were laid off—can be a hard transition, says HR expert Nancy Varsos, president of Varsos Consulting and an AMA instructor. You can make the landing easier, however, with a strategy that involves self-examination, investigative research, and preparation, Varsos assures job hunters.
Your nonwork resume
What you do while you’re out of work can translate into a new job, Varsos says. If you are president of the PTA or take care of social media for a local nonprofit, those are marketable skills—so it’s a matter of finding a company where you can use them.
Varsos suggests the following tips for a successful reentry into the business world:
Find your uniqueness. If you are volunteering while out of work, ask yourself, “What are the things I did to differentiate myself and contribute to that organization?” Sometimes women don’t think of volunteer efforts as accomplishments, even when it’s a fairly large undertaking like coordinating a fundraiser. “If you start to think about what you’ve done, all of sudden you think, ‘Oh my goodness, I didn’t realize I did that much,’” Varsos says.
Work on your weakness. Of course, not everyone has “Event Coordinator” to put on their resume. If you feel there’s a skill gap preventing you from getting a job, find ways to learn the needed skills. That includes doing temp work, Varsos says. A temp job will get you talking the talk again and rediscovering office culture. Temp work is even more important if you want to try a new line of work, she says.
If you need some additional help in placing value on your skills, contact an ex-boss that you had a good relationship with, Varsos suggests. Ask him or her the top two or three things you accomplished for them on the job. “That should boost your confidence like crazy because you probably can’t even remember that you did it or the significance of what you contributed,” she says.
Use the Internet. Research everything you can about a potential place to work. Google it and check LinkedIn for information about the hiring manager, the CEO, and other people you may be working with. Check Facebook or Instagram, too, to find out what the company or its employees share about, Varsos says.
Not only can this help you learn about the culture or the people, but it can increase your knowledge about the job itself. Varsos says she might Google payroll systems, for instance, if she were looking for work as an HR person. She might look up healthcare plans and learn what companies are offering.
“The Internet is a huge tool that helps you to really put yourself back in the business world,” she says.
Prepare for the new world of hiring. For someone who hasn’t looked for work in a number of years, be aware of changes in hiring practices, Varsos warns. You may be treated like a piece of paper or a bunch of words. “Don’t expect to get a callback, don’t expect to get a ‘no-thank-you’ note,” she says. HR people and recruiters are inundated, and it’s become an arm’s length, impersonal system. “People get so discouraged, so quickly, and yet it’s just the system,” she adds.
You’re more than a piece of paper and a bunch of words, however. The more you work on improving your skills, researching the work you want to do, and getting to know people in the field through networking, volunteering, and temp work, the better your odds will be at getting interviews and eventually hired, she says.
Know you can do the job. No one is “just” a stay-at-home mom. “You’re so much more,” Varsos says. “Know that you’re so much more, and everyone will believe that you’re so much more.”
If you’ve been laid off, she says, “98% of the time it has no reflection on you. Even if it is a situation where you are fired, when you look back, it probably wasn’t the right match for you. You probably weren’t in a position where you were able to use your strengths.”
Before the interview, get a new suit or outfit that fits well. Varsos says feeling good about how you look and feel will project, and the interviewer will sense it. “It’s not about how people perceive you look, it’s about how you feel in the suit,” she notes.
You have done your homework, you know your skills, and you have prepared, Varsos says. So you can walk into the interview looking sharp, with the confidence and knowledge that you can do the job.
One way to jumpstart your job search is by networking, and AMA’s Women’s Leadership Center offers year-round opportunities to connect with other businesswomen.