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Personal Branding When You're Returning To Work

Personal Branding When You're Returning To Work

By Pauline Millard, Ellevate Network Content Strategist

It’s never easy to find a job, but when you’ve been out of work raising a family, it can feel as if while you were home, your industry went right on spinning without you.

We asked Ellevate Network members who have worked with women returning to work and they gave us their best -- and very specific -- advice about how to find your place back in the professional world, no matter how long you’ve been out.

How To Answer Questions About Your Career Break

Brevity is the soul of wit, and this is especially true when an employer asks about a job break.

Carol Fishman Cohen, the CEO and Founder of iRelaunch, a career re-entry resource, says to answer the question, but don't apologize. Then move right on to why you are the best person for the role.

She says to try something like, "I took a career break to care for my children and now I can't wait to get back to work. In fact, the reason I am so excited about this particular role is when I worked at xyz company, we faced very similar customer challenges. For example…”

Think Of The Whole Picture

Ellevate Network member Alyssa Gelbard, the Founder of Resume Strategists, Inc., says that when you’re planning to return to work, you need to think of the whole picture, not just your resume. Everything that people can find about you, from your LinkedIn profile to your social media presence needs to be consistent and professional.

Take Advantage Of The Holidays

The holidays are great for networking. There’s lots of socializing and networking is just another word for talking to people.

Over the holidays, there will be plenty of opportunities for you to let people know what you’re up to. Instead of saying, “Oh, I’m just at home all day, mom-ing it up,” try, “I’ve been focusing lately on finding a new role in marketing and taking a few classes.” Putting your professional face forward will leave a great impression. People can’t help you if they don’t know what you want, so be sure to mention you career goals when making the social rounds.

Know What You Bring To The Table

Returning to work when you’ve been out for a bit can be daunting, but focus on what you can bring to an employer. If you were an amazing corporate event planner five years ago, chances are you still are. Go into any meeting prepped to talk about your successes, regardless of when they happened. Employers are looking for hard skills, and those are rarely forgotten.

Don’t Use Weird Titles, Such As “CEO Of Household” Or “Head Mommy In Charge”

Recruiters and hiring managers look for any reason to trim the candidate pool, and a goofy title on your resume or LinkedIn profile will not work to your advantage. Instead, try a simple, skills-based title such as Digital Marketing Strategist or Certified Public Account, even if you haven’t done it in a while. Pretty much anything is better than a novelty title.

Don’t Talk About Your Kids During The Interview

We know you love your children and they are wonderful, charming creatures. But in an interview, don’t talk about them. Alyssa Gelbard says that you never know how small talk can be perceived, and if you’re gabbing about your son’s baseball team now, a hiring manager may think that you’ll be the one always talking about your kid or asking for time off for every school play and tournament.

Keep the conversation professional. If necessary, come armed with topics for the small-talk portion of the interview: current events, the weather, etc.

Be Mindful About Dating Yourself

Depending on how long you’ve been out, it’s possible that the hiring manager or their team may be younger than you. Even though you may think you know more than them, don’t talk down to them in any way or try to be a threat to their role.

Alyssa Gelbard also says to be conscious of what you wear to an interview, especially if you are going to a start up or a non-profit. Not everyone wears suits to interviews anyone, and flashy jewelry could also be a turn off. Research the company on sites like Indeed and Wet Feet to get an idea of the culture.

Also: try not to have an AOL address or even Hotmail, since those are considered older domains. Instead, use a Gmail address, and one that isn’t a shared account with a spouse or for your family.

Update Your Skills, But You Don’t Need A Whole New Degree

If you’ve taken a few years off, you may feel as if your skill set is in the stone age. Technology and software evolve and if you want to be competitive, you need to know what’s current in your industry. Sometimes a class or two can get you up to speed, especially in fields such as graphic design where trends change quickly. Were your last assignments in Quark XPress? Then you really need to learn InDesign, and probably a refresher in Photoshop as well.

Carol Fishman Cohen says that there is something in between getting a new degree and taking a few classes, and that is the Certificate Program. This is a semester or year-long set of courses focused on very specific topic such as data science or landscape design, running a political campaign, or even the basics of coding languages. Certificate programs allow you to update skills in a specific area and signal to employers your seriousness about being a strong candidate.

Always Focus On The Positive

Alyssa Gelbard says that above all, lead with the positive. Steer any professional conversations back to your skills, what you’ve accomplished and your enthusiasm for returning to work. There’s no need to give details about your leave. What’s important now is what you have to offer.