Reader's Choice - Re-entering the Workforce

Posted by Amanda Wencel on Thursday, January 26th, 2017

Reader’s Choice Question:
I’ve been out of work for 6 years raising my family.  I have education and work experience, but it is all from 6 years ago and every posting I look at says that they are looking for recent experience.  What should I be doing to make myself more attractive to employers?


Thanks for your question!

I get asked this one a lot and so I’ll answer it based on someone who wants to go back to work in the same field that they did prior to taking time off.  My first response is to always take a look at your education and see if it is still relevant today.  So much can change over 6 years whether it is within the industry, with technology, with requirements of certifications.  Research jobs that are posted currently in that industry and look for what qualifications are necessary to fill the role.  What pieces are you missing?

At that point, if you are missing required certifications or courses, you will have to make some decisions as to whether you have the time, finances, and availability to go back to school to obtain them.  Talk to guidance counselors at colleges or trade schools to find out if they offer the courses on-line or flexible, so that you can be working while upgrading your qualifications.  Look at local libraries and employment centers, as many of them offer upgrading on computer skills for minimal costs.

If you don’t need to go back to school to upgrade or re-certify, or schooling is not an option for you, then you need to start looking at how you can translate your experience from your time off into the jobs that you want to apply for.

Here are some things to think about when you are gathering your information:

1. What volunteer work have I done over the time that I have been out of work?  Make an expansive list - volunteer work could be school or organization committees that you were involved with, fundraising experience, community involvement (i.e. Big Brothers/Big Sisters), etc.
a. How does this specifically relate to the positions that I want to apply for? 
b. What direct skills and transferrable skills have I gained from this volunteer work that I can translate into the jobs I’m seeking?

2. What new skills have I learned while being off over the past 6 years?  Make a list of hobbies that you took up and what skills you may have learned from those hobbies that could be applicable to the types of jobs that you are seeking.  This information can be included in both cover letters and resumes to show that you’ve been developing your skills while at home.  For example, perhaps you’ve become interested in writing and have started a blog.  In these times of social media marketing, this could be valuable to employers!

3. Who has been my network over the last 6 years?  Identify people in your network that know your skills and attributes and could attest to the type of person that you are.  Tap into those people to let them know that you are looking to get back into the workforce!  Networking is the best way to find employment, and even better when you have an actual referral for a position.  The referral system can especially help those that have been out of work for a period of time, as the person referring them will often speak to the personal side to draw the employer in.

4. Reconnect with former colleagues.  Ask their input on what changes have happened in your former position or if they see openings coming in the future.  Get a gauge from them as to what the employer may be seeking now, that they didn’t necessarily need back when you were working there.  Talk to them about issues the company is having, and look for creative ways that you can solve their problems – this can be a great conversation starter for your cover letter!

I hope this information is helpful for you to start developing your experience “bank” that you can then channel into a marketing resume and tailored cover letter.

Here are a few more resources that you may find helpful:





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