Becoming uncoupled, whether the result of divorce or a spouse’s death, is often a time when people return to the workplace after an extended absence. Whether you’re going back to work as a result of financial necessity, the desire to move on, or because of both, the process can feel like an uphill climb.
However, that doesn’t mean reaching the top of the hill is impossible. In fact, doing so is possible, especially if you put the right plan in place.
Below are nine tips for returning to work after a life change and turning your career aspirations into a career.
1. Focus. Anyone who has ever gone through a divorce or lost his or her spouse knows what an emotional time it can be. But the job search is no place for emotions. Take as much time as you can (even though you will likely need more) before you begin your search. When you do, try and focus on it in manageable increments. As you become more involved, your attention span will increase and the job search may actually become the respite you need from those other, more emotionally taxing areas of your life. Busy is good.
2. Assess. Now that you’re “on the job” mentally, it’s time to assess what it is you would like to do for work. What talents do you have? Skill set? Work experience? Practical experience? Keep in mind, just because you weren’t gainfully employed for a number of years doesn’t mean you haven’t been developing valuable skills during that time. Think about how you’ve spent your days and the tasks at which you currently excel. Broader skills such as time management, budgeting, bookkeeping, and negotiating are accomplished each day outside the workplace. Guaranteed, if you think creatively, your talents will come to light.
3. Refresh your skills or return to school. Now that you’ve assessed your talents and skills, are there any areas that need refreshing? Is there a course of study you’re interested in learning for the first time that might help facilitate your chosen career path? Nowadays, it’s easier than ever to brush up on your skills or advance your education. Many technical schools, colleges, and universities are offering online classes that not only can be completed at home but also are affordable. Guaranteed, with minimal research, you will find that your course of study is available to you.
4. Create a LinkedIn profile. The professional landscape has likely changed since you were first employed. Today, much of the job search takes place online and there’s no better place to start than the professional networking site, LinkedIn. Setting up a profile on LinkedIn is not only easy but also free. Utilize as many of the fields as possible when completing your profile. You never know when the skills born of that seemingly unrelated internship you had during college will suddenly become relevant to a position you’re pursuing now. Linkedin also provides opportunities for prospective employers to find you as well as for you to find prospective employers. Be sure to add a professional headshot to your profile as well. Research shows that profiles including a photo are seven times more likely to be viewed than those without.
5. Write or update your résumé. Once you get your job search underway, you want to be prepared should a prospective employer ask to learn more about you. Creating a résumé can take some time, so it’s not a task you want to push off until someone asks for it. Oftentimes, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of candidates vying for the same position. Being prepared and timely when asked by a prospective employer for additional details may mean the difference between you staying in the running and getting passed over for someone else.
6. Shop. Going shopping for a professional wardrobe before you secure employment may sound counterintuitive, but making this investment prior to the job search will reap you long-term returns. It’s important to dress for success, and doing so doesn't need to break the bank. There are many affordable retailers who sell business attire at affordable prices, not to mention “last call” stores that sell designer pieces at a fraction of their original cost. If you have friends who are in your same situation and money is tight, see about investing in a wardrobe together and sharing. Be creative. As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention.
7. Arrange for childcare. Finding childcare that best fits your family’s needs may be a time-consuming process. Whether you’re hiring a nanny, searching for a reputable daycare facility, coordinating after-school programs, relying on friends and family, or are employing some combination of these options, you want to have all your arrangements made before you begin working. Starting a new job is stressful enough without having to worry that your children aren’t being well cared for. No matter how understanding an employer is, having to leave your office during the middle of a work day for repeated family “emergencies” will not reflect positively on you, regardless of how superior your job performance is. Utilize the time while you still have it.
8. Network. Without a doubt, the best way to secure employment is through networking. Whether you are interacting with professionals who work in your specific field or in related fields, by “getting out there” you increase your likelihood of meeting the people who can help you find employment or know someone who can. Be sure to pay it forward, too, and help others whenever you have the opportunity. No price can ever be placed on the value of goodwill — it’s the gift that keeps on giving. So join professional, interest, and alumni groups and attend the functions they host. Many of these events are educational as well as social. Not only will you meet like-minded people but you will also become more informed along the way.
9. Stay positive. Looking for a job is hard work and can be a job in and of itself. Don’t let the absence of an immediate reward discourage you. If after some time it becomes apparent your plan of action isn’t working, don’t be afraid to tweak it and refuel your optimism for the future. “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.” — Muhammad Ali
Connect•Work•Thrive is hosting its popular Return-to-Work / Career Change Summit on March 31, 2016, in New York City, sponsored by Microsoft. For more information, visit www.connectworkthrive.com.