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Common Questions When Reentering the Workforce

Over the last several months, our recruiting team has focused on helping individuals in our wider Sila community reenter the workforce. We started in the fall with resume reviews for veterans. In our conversations with multiple veterans, we realized that people who have stepped back from the workforce also need direction. Did you know that a Pew Research Center study found that almost “one-in-four Americans (23%) say there has been a time when they took leave from work to care for a family member with a serious health condition?” Moreover, according to the same survey, almost 7% of the workforce takes time off for a birth or adoption. That’s in regular times.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we don’t yet know the long-term impact of parents leaving the workforce to care for their children. According to new research by the Census Bureau, “In the United States, around one in five (19.6%) of working-age adults said the reason they were not working was because COVID-19 disrupted their childcare arrangements.” The Census Bureau also found that “women ages 25-44 are almost three times as likely as men not to be working due to childcare demands. About one in three (32.1%) of these women are not working because of childcare, compared to 12.1% of men in the same age group.”

With this information in hand, we presented a webinar, Your Next Move, which offers best practices for reentering the workforce. We received some great questions from our attendees. We hope these answers help you as you search for your next role.

Reentering the Workforce Question and Answers

Q: How do I articulate my skillset for jobs that I’m sure I’m qualified for, but my experience does not explicitly line up?

When working on your resume, we know it is hard to articulate exactly why you are an excellent fit for a role, when it may not be evident to others. We recommend a two-fold approach that provides clear context to the person reading your resume.

First, identify why you want this role and why you know you would be a great fit. Include this in the Summary section of your resume. Share how your previous experience has prepared you for this new role. Remember, this introduction section is one of the first things a recruiter will read. Make it easy for the recruiter to see how your skills are transferrable without requiring them to search through your resume and piece together your story. Please don’t leave it to chance that the recruiter will catch that one bullet in the middle of your resume that speaks to a specific skill!

f you need to provide more context, this is an excellent time to include a cover letter with your resume. The cover letter’s goal is to make it easier for the recruiter to see you in the role. Be brief, but offer a convincing argument as to why you should be considered for the position.

Lastly, make sure that you use similar keywords and phrases in your resume that are in the job description. Again, the goal is to help the recruiter see you in the role you want. If you want to move from marketing to project management, highlight things like your experience running campaigns on time, budgeting, reporting, and managing resources.

Q: How can I identify jobs where my skill set would be a good fit? Any tips/suggestions?

Identifying a job where your skill set will shine is possible; it will just take some creative research. In our presentation, we discussed that it is essential for you to identify your strengths early on in the process, especially if you took time away from the workforce. If you use a tool like CliftonStrengths, you will find yourself with a list of strengths and keywords that you can use when searching for jobs. Themes will float to the top, and using keyword searches; you will start to identify roles that might be a good fit for you. If you begin to see your strengths in the job description, you might be on the right track.

Don’t forget to identify what is important to you in a role. With all of this in mind, you can look at several surveys available online. Something like Payscale’s low-pressure “Best Job for Me” quiz may open your eyes to something you hadn’t thought about previously.

If you are stuck and aren’t having luck, use your network. See if there is someone you trust to discuss this topic. An outsider to your process may bring ideas that you have overlooked. This is also where a career coach can guide you.

Q: How does a cover letter fit (if at all) into the job search in 2021? Can it be replaced by a direct, digital message, or should it be a separate, supporting document that’s attached along with a resume?

Cover letters still have some life in them but aren’t always needed. Submit a cover letter when your resume can’t tell the story you want to tell, like in the answer above. The cover letter’s goal is to get an interview where you can further tell your story.

The format of your cover letter is going to depend on the application process in front of you. Make sure you are reading the instructions provided when applying. Sometimes it’s required, while other times the recruiters request you do not submit one.

Q: How do recruiting managers look at gaps on resumes, and how do I describe why I have been out of work so it won’t be detrimental to finding a new job as I reenter the workforce?

There are two types of resumes: functional and chronological. Functional resumes carry a stigma that the writer is trying to divert the attention away from a resume gap or trying to hide something, so we recommend using a chronological resume and addressing the gap. Don’t try to fool the resume reader by giving yourself a title like Domestic Engineer or Operations Manager. You took time off and focused elsewhere; that’s OK. Be transparent, honest, and be prepared to speak about it confidently.

However, if you do have relevant volunteering experience that utilized business skills, highlight them. Remember, recruiters rarely find a perfect candidate. Most candidates have something that is not ideal, whether that’s a choppy work history, lack of a degree, a gap in their resume, lay-off, appearing overqualified, etc.  Just be honest about the gap and make sure your resume gives enough information to show why you are the right candidate for the role.

Q: How do I not “sell myself short” for my relevant experience and skill set while acknowledging that I am shifting to a new role and am realistic that compensation will differ? In my case, I want to pivot away from PMO responsibility and move to Business Analysis, Product Owner, or Product Manager role.

This is another example showcasing how important it is to understand your strengths and what you can bring to the table. In the presentation, we discussed how using a summary on your resume will help recruiters understand what type of role you are pursuing. In this case, be clear that you are “a Professional with PMO experience seeking a Business Analysis, Product Owner, or Product Manager role.” Be specific about why you are qualified for these positions.

It might be scary to jump back into the workforce, but people are doing it every day. Be thoughtful, transparent, and help others see what you have to offer.

To learn more about re-entering the workforce, we invite you to watch our webinar, Your Next Move.

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