I often work with women returning to the workplace after taking a few years off to stay home and raise their children. In the early 2000’s, media coined the term “opt-out generation” to refer to this group. Since then a lot of focus has been put on professionals who gave up money, success and big futures to take care of family needs.
Now over ten years later, these stay at home parents are dealing with unique struggles as they make the decision to re-join the workforce. Whether it comes from the need contribute financially to their household or because their children have grown, their priorities have shifted, and they feel the need to get back in the game.
If you are knee-deep in your opt-out phase or are planning your re-entry to the workforce, you can begin doing these eight things right now to support your re-entry strategy:
1. Volunteer With Purpose
There are plenty of volunteer opportunities within your community, church and child’s school. Consider how you can use this experience to build your resume. If your background is in finance, seek out opportunities to utilize and hone those skills. For example, consider joining the finance committee or becoming the treasurer of an organization.
2. Expand Your Network
Through volunteer work you’ll have opportunities to do some networking. But don’t stop there. Don’t be afraid to meet new people. Whether at the soccer field, in the morning drop-off line or at a neighborhood cocktail party – use these opportunities to expand your network and get yourself out there.
3. Stay Connected
You may have fallen out of touch with the folks in your old office. Send an email, connect on LinkedIn, meet for coffee or lunch, but get the conversation started. Proceed with caution, however. The connection has to be mutually beneficial and genuine, but it only takes one person or opportunity to get you back in the game.
4. Create an Effective LinkedIn Profile
More and more recruiters are relying on LinkedIn as their number one source for identifying viable job candidates. Including a professional photo of yourself increases your LinkedIn visibility up to ten percent. Providing a concise summary of your qualifications and accomplishments will go a long way. Begin following organizations that interest you to stay on top of industry trends and job opportunities.
5. Stay Relevant
The industry where you began your career may have changed over the years, or maybe your technical skills have become a little stale. Use this time to brush up on those skills. Read a book. Take an online course or class at a local college.
6. Join a Group
Joining an industry group or professional organization will give you the opportunity to expand your network with people in your field and continue to build your skills through educational offerings groups provide.
7. Identify a Sponsor
In her book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg describes sponsors as “people who will use their influence to advocate for you.” Different from a mentor, a sponsor is able to connect you with important players and speaks on your behalf, keeping key industry players aware of you and your achievements in an effort to move your career forward.
8. Revamp Your Professional Resume
It should go without saying, maintaining an up-to-date resume should be a priority. The key is to effectively communicate what you are capable of doing as well as your accomplishments during the time you were at home. Many people sell themselves short by not highlighting volunteer accomplishments, which include key skills that recruiters look for. It can seem daunting so it’s important to get feedback on best practices in resume writing.