Did you take an extended leave from paid work to focus on the demands of your family? Are you transitioning to a new career? This year Mom-mentum is launching our Return-to-work program and, to kick it off, we’re bringing together the US Department of Labor Women’s Bureau and other industry experts to host a workshop in New York City on October 8th. Today, Emily Seamone—one of our workshop presenters—joins us by sharing some tips to building up your resume experience.
One Thing You Must Do Before Returning to Work
by Emily Seamone
Perhaps you’ve been out of the paid workforce for some time to raise your children, whether it has been 5 years, 15 years, or more. You’ve been thinking about relaunching your career, but you’ve also heard rumblings about today’s vastly different job market. How can you possibly make it out there, you wonder?
Well cast aside your panic, as I am about to reveal a major secret that will help you smoothly and successfully return to work. Are you ready for it? Here it is:
Make sure you have recent and relevant
experience on your resume.
I know you are probably thinking, “Um…that’s actually what I’m trying to do by re-entering the workforce! How am I supposed to have recent experience before I actually get a job?”
Fair question, indeed. Thankfully, there are several ways to gain experience before you officially return to work. Think of it as a pre-return or dress rehearsal for the official relaunch. Best of all, nearly all of the options below can lead to new connections (which is also extremely beneficial when returning) and possibly even employment opportunities. You may have even engaged in some of these activities already, but if not, it is never too late.
- Volunteer: You probably are familiar with volunteering as a way to get your foot in the workplace door. This is especially helpful when you are volunteering at an organization where you’d like to be employed, or at least a place that does similar work. Volunteer experiences are valued by employers, because even though you may not have been paid, you gained skills and experiences that are relevant to their work. One mother volunteered at her children’s school where she could share her computer skills and eventually was offered a position in the technology department.
- Board membership: You can also apply your past work skills and experiences to serve on the board of a non-profit organization. Choose non-profits that interest you and investigate the requirements for membership (note that some entail a financial contribution). Serving in this role will give you firsthand experience managing behind the scenes of a non-profit organization as well as connections with other board members.
- Internships: These days internships are not just for those in college but for adults as well. Visit the websites of the organizations you are interested in to see if they have a formal internship program. If not, you might use your network or LinkedIn to connect with an employee at the organization to discuss possibilities of creating an opportunity.
- Career re-entry programs: These types of initiatives are usually run by universities or companies. For example, Pace University in New York runs a “New Directions for Attorneys” program for those who have taken a break from law and provides “knowledge of substantive law, professional legal skills, and practical legal experience”. Some companies, such as Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, have “Return to Work” or “Returnship” programs offering internships for those who have been out of the workforce. Even though employment is not guaranteed after participating in these initiatives, interns gain valuable and recent experience that they can leverage during their job search.
- Pro-bono and project work: Offer to assist a professional with a pro-bono project. For example, you could help your town market a new program using your skills from your past communications career or build websites for your friends’ new businesses.
- Temporary jobs: Professional temp jobs are another fantastic way to get your foot in the door, possibly even leading to a permanent job. I’ve seen this play out many times, including one mom who was out of the workforce for seven years. She proved herself during a temporary assignment as a technical writer and was offered a full-time position when it concluded.
- Education: Recent educational experiences are a surefire way to refresh your resume. While a new degree typically has the greatest impact, certificate programs can also demonstrate your newfound and updated knowledge in a particular field. Often students must complete projects and/or internships as part of their programs, which as mentioned above is beneficial for your resume. In fact, the combination of recent education and experience can especially help mothers who would like to transition into a new career field.
- Self-employment: Finally, consider starting your own business. If you enjoy this venture, you may decide to remain self-employed, or you could apply this experience to a “traditional” job as an employee. One mom had gained considerable photography skills while at home and thus decided to launch a professional photography business.
Employers want to know that even though you have been out of the paid workforce for some time, you have relevant skills that are up-to-date. Having recent employment or educational experience counts as such proof to hiring managers. Thus, give yourself time before you officially start looking for a job to gain new experiences via one (or more) of the options above and feel confident as you embark on this exciting new chapter in your life.
Leave a Comment: Which of the ideas above may already apply to your resume? Which could you start implementing soon? What other ways have you found to build your resume during an extended leave from the paid workforce?
Are you ready to return to work with confidence?
Join Emily and other industry experts
on Thursday, October 8th from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Lend Lease, 200 Park Ave., 9th Floor, NYC
(Inside Grand Central Station)
Find out more and register here.
Emily Seamone is a career counselor and work life specialist, who has coached hundreds of individuals on their career journeys. She particularly specializes in career change and transition, women and work issues, work life balance concerns, and flexible work. Emily currently works in higher education career services and has a private career counseling practice at www.womenworklife.com.