It’s been a long break from work – you may have had a child or moved to a different city or country or taken a break for a different reason. Alternately, it could be the first time you are entering the workforce outside home. Along with the excitement of getting back to work is the stress of what it’s going to be like.
Prepare yourself by learning and upgrading your skill set as well as by projecting a positive image. This will help you succeed in gaining work that challenges you and pays what you deserve.
Take a Self-Review
Once you decide to go back to work or enter the workforce for the first time, review your strengths and skills. If you had been working earlier, begin with where you had left off. Don’t presume that you had no skill to add during your break period. There could be skills like the ability to multi-task, communication skills or maybe a short course or project you had undertaken. Review each of these skills before you search for work that suits you. The review prevents you from underselling yourself.
Not a Complete Break
When you take a break, continue to work either through consulting or through freelance work to remain in touch with the domain and the network of people you’ve known. Check with your employer if you can work from home for the company on part-time or project basis. If you are shifting to a different city, seek opportunities in the local office of your company.
Call In Your Contacts
If you have worked before, don’t let go of your contacts. Keep in touch. When you are ready to return, let them know that you are ready to join the workforce again. They are a good source of information and can let you know the available opportunities and the skill set required.
Changes take place, the industry moves ahead and it’s easy to find yourself out of the loop when it comes to what’s happening in the business. Keep yourself updated – read extensively, follow industry research and events, keep up with your buddies while you take your sabbatical. Update yourself with short workshops and courses.
Building your skill set through short-term or long-term courses is critical if you are entering the workforce for the first time. Become familiar with the tools and technology used in the industry.
Go part-time if you can and slip into full-time work once you adjust yourself to the new schedule. In all probability you will have to juggle work and personal lives. If there’s a chance to ease yourself in, take it. If there is a flexible schedule, it might suit you better. Some companies allow you to work one day of the week from home or adjust your daily timings. But, if the company doesn’t have a policy of offering a flexible schedule, you may not be able to ask for it at this point. Do your homework ahead of the interview. If you are opting for your own business, avenues like image consulting offer you great scope to align your business work with your personal responsibilities.
Choose the Company with Care
Search for companies which have a policy of encouraging women at the workplace. Some like Mahindra & Mahindra, Deloitte and many more have a policy of encouraging women professionals who’ve taken a break to enter their work force. If you choose to establish your own business, choose it with care. Some are women-friendly, others are less so.
Choose Your Domain
Assess your strengths and weaknesses. Map these with the industries that are of interest to you. Check whether the industry provides the right fit to your temperament and inclination. Liking your domain and your work is the key to keeping you happy at work.
Prepare for the Interview
Work with a professional in preparing your resume. Make sure you project a strong and positive image of yourself in the resume.
Whether you seek a job or an assignment, since this is your first in a long time, prepare well for the interview. Be prepared to answer questions related to your capability and your future career plan. The company would want to know the contribution you can make in the short and long-term. If you have worked before, prepare a list of your transferable skills that are applicable to the new job opportunity.
If you have started your own business and are making your first few pitches to potential clients, be thorough with your subject and the client’s requirement. Communicate with confidence. It’s the key to gaining your first few clients. You may need to offer a couple of free projects with payment subject to client satisfaction to get a toe-hold. But don’t do it too often.
Build Your Image
Each industry expects a certain image out of its employees, consultants and business persons. Observe the people working in the industry and groom yourself to project that image. It is the key to creating positive first impressions and of being accepted as part of the industry and hence of your success.
Re-entering the work force or entering the work force for the first time later in life is a time of great opportunity. It’s a chance to re-invent yourself. Prepare well both on the professional and on the personal front and set out with confidence.