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4 Tips for Returning-to-Work on Your Terms

Whether you want to return to work from a deliberate break (i.e. caring for an elderly parent, working as a full-time parent, or taking a mental health or professional development break) or an involuntary break (pandemic layoff, economic reduction in force), these four tips will help you return-to-work at a similar level, on your terms.

1. Believe you can pick up where you left off.

If you start your search thinking you’ll have to take steps back to return to work, that’s what you will get. Let the market dictate to you if you need to take a step back—don’t assume you have to. If you start off with the right mindset and follow the next three steps, you will be positioned to find a job at the same responsibility/salary level when you left the workforce. It’s very possible—but you have to believe it when you start the process for it to have a chance to come to fruition.

2. Spell out the exact job you are targeting on your resume using a title centered underneath your name/contact information.

Make it super clear what job you want. If you don’t spell out the position you are targeting at the top of your resume and you have been out of formal work for a long period, a reader may assume that you will take something lower to get back in the game. But if you spell out what you want and have the goods to back up how you are qualified, the time off shouldn’t matter. And finding good people is in demand right now, so use your leverage accordingly.

3. Write a resume and LinkedIn profile that showcases relevant achievements in alignment with the job you seek.

When writing your return-to-work resume and profile, don’t simply do a historical inventory of tasks outlining what you did. Instead, choose accomplishments that demonstrate how well you did a task and ensure it speaks to the needs of your target job. Help the hiring manager connect the dots that your abilities can help achieve what they need in their organization. Don’t leave it to the reader to figure it out.

4. Network to find your next job—don’t depend on job boards or third-party recruiters.

60-65% of hires happen through networking according to a compilation of sources of hire studies. And for returning-to-work job seekers, it’s believed to be even higher. Why? Third-party recruiters get paid a fee to find undiscovered talent—and if you are advertising you are available on LinkedIn and job boards, you are discovered and will not be able to generate a finder’s fee by the recruiter. So recruiters aren’t good resources for those not working. And job boards simply have a volume of people applying and so the competition is high. If you email individuals, your resume/communication is landing in a pool of fewer applications. And people hire people.

How do you network if you have been out of work for a while? Just start with people you know and ask who they may know that you should speak to help you with your goal of returning to work. Set a goal of a specific amount of conversations per week (and define a conversation as an exchange over social media, text, phone, or email).

If you end up depending on job boards to post the right job or waiting for recruiters to call you, your period of unemployment could be much longer than you anticipated.

Lisa Rangel is the Founder and Managing Director of Chameleon Resumes LLC , the premier executive resume writing and job landing consulting firm named a Forbes Top 100 Career Website. Lisa is a graduate of the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration.


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