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Thinking About Reentering the Workforce? 4 Things You Need to Know

Thinking About Reentering the Workforce? 4 Things You Need to Know

Let’s say you were on top of your professional game. Maybe you were head of marketing at a major firm or perhaps you were a senior analyst with a deep portfolio of research. Then, you decided to take some time off to raise a family. While the experience is obviously rewarding, reentering the workforce is still part of your plan. But, are you prepared for how hard it’s going to be?

[Related: After the Break: The Benefits of Career Reentry Internship Programs]

When researchers gave subjects identical resumes that differed in only one respect -- one mentioned membership in the Parent Teacher Association (PTA), the other did not -- the mothers were 79 percent less likely to be hired and 100 percent less likely to be promoted.

While 74 percent of mothers’ job searches ultimately end in success, they wind up making less money than before. In order to regain momentum, you need to prepare yourself to reenter the workforce using alternative methods -- and that starts with your application materials and how you navigate the job search. Here’s how:

Display some humility

Many women don’t understand why they are having a hard time. Perhaps you feel like a job is owed to you or, because you worked hard at one time in your life, you are indebted to another opportunity. This mindset is too aggressive. Anyone reentering the workforce needs to understand they are going to have to reboot. Your line of thinking needs to be less pushy and more, “What can I do to be wanted?”

When I left the workforce, I was running a team. When I came back, I took a pay cut, had a Managing Director above me, and was taking orders from people I wasn’t used to reporting to.

I didn’t turn my nose up at my situation. I stuck it out for a year and reestablished my credibility. After I got to where I wanted to be, I was able to accelerate at a faster pace. I went to firms I wanted to work with and showed what I had accomplished. Not only did this strategy work, but they were more willing to talk to me and weren’t looking at the time I took off.

Mind the length

There’s only one reason to have a resume that runs over one page and that’s if you’re providing supplemental materials such as a deal sheet, portfolio, or work examples. Even if you want to communicate your laundry list of experience to make up for the fact you’ve been out of the workforce, you still need to watch the length of your resume. You only have six seconds to impress the hiring manager, after all.

[Read more: The Three Things Recruiters Look for in Every Hire, Regardless of the Job]

Here are a few ways to get around it: If you’ve had multiple jobs, think about listing the industry -- such as investment banking -- and then note the organizations underneath. This is a better way to list work experience, especially if you’ve bounced around. In addition, don’t get stuck in a chronological approach to your resume. Put recent work under relevant experience, as well as how you’ve stayed active, such as involvement in community events or exams you’re studying for.

Avoid quirky buzzwords

Quirky buzzwords aren’t professional and they don’t do much to fill resume gaps. Don't put “stay-at-home mom” or “CEO of a household” as work experience on your application materials. Not only are these phrases unprofessional, but also they can derail your chances of landing the job. It’s better to be straightforward instead of trying to be hip, especially when applying for corporate positions.

Instead, list how you helped a certain charity to reach their donation goals or your experience as president of an association. Anything that shows sophistication and professionalism during your time off will help you to stand out and get noticed.

Understand that technology changes

Even if you've only been out of the job market for a few years, technology may have shifted dramatically. You need to be thoughtful of where technology was and where it is now, all while educating yourself on being current.

For instance, when I left the job market, everything was done by fax. When I came back, people were more prone to attaching documents via email and using Blackberries. Now, Blackberries are out and iPhones and Androids are in. See what a few years’ difference can make?

While you can't start from exactly where you left off, you can still be realistic and have a plan to reenter the workforce with the same vigor as when you left it. It just takes a little work, resume tweaking, and humility to get from A to B.


Mary Gay Townsend is the Managing Director OneWire Executive Search. Mary Gay has over 15 years of experience in Executive Search within the financial sector. She is one of the founding members of OneWire, the leading career site for financial professionals, and currently runs the firm’s Executive Search division. The team specializes in investment banking, private equity and C-level searches within asset management and portfolio companies. Prior to OneWire, Mary Gay was a Managing Director at FS von Stade Executive Search and a Vice President at Rhodes Associates. Early in her career she worked at Smith Hanley and Smyth Teeman Associates. Mary Gay majored in American Studies at George Washington University and is also a graduate of the French Culinary Institute

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