Whether it’s because of taking time off, a career move, or an assortment of other challenges – here’s how to market yourself after time away from the eight to five life.
Unemployed. This stings to write down on job applications or to admit in a job interview. The key to this trying period is to highlight the experience you’ve gained from any services you’ve done – paid or not. Charity work or freelance work; advertise that experience as something you can use to fill in for the corporate void.
What if you haven’t been able to freelance or volunteer? The answer is just as simple – keep up with your industry and position requirements. What’s changing? What skills in your toolbox need TLC, or what skills can you add to your toolbox? Stagnation is the enemy here; it’s important to show that the time while unemployed was used constructively, and not a wasted opportunity.
Job-hopping used to be rare, but with unstable job markets and other factors, it’s more common. Its normalization still holds some stigma, though, and employers expect valid reasons for each jump. There are two channels to address: the first is how to approach it on your resume. This document speaks for you and is the pathway to receiving an interview, so it needs to attract the employer’s focus. A turn-off is to have pages of job-hopping examples, and your resume should not be over two or three pages in the first place. The best remedy is to group comparable jobs. That way, there’s less notability of multiple job changes and more emphasis on the reinforced experience that qualifies you for the position.
The second channel is to prepare for the questions that the interviewer will undeniably have. This is the times to answer and expound on the questions your resume prompted. Did you leave a company because there was a bankruptcy? Was your job among those downsized at a struggling company? Was the company something you felt didn’t represent your personal values, or the company’s values had changed? There is always a reason for leaving a position, and if you stick to the foundation of job-hopping for legitimate reasons, and not just frivolous ones, the interviewer will see that your previous positions were not based on your “instability” but the company’s.
Many people entering the workforce – again – are coming back from being a caretaker. Whether it was for raising a family or providing care for a loved one, this “caretaker” title is something that should never be apologized for.
The advice given for those navigating unemployment in the short term is just as applicable in this situation. If able, keep yourself up-to-date on the industry changes, and continue to educate yourself on new and existing skills. The goal is to capitalize on this; while you were not paid for the “caretaker” position, it was (and maybe still is an ongoing one) a job. Translate the knowledge you gained to qualities that will help you fulfill the position requirements. Companies want experience, but they also want a good fit. Patience, conflict-resolution, creativity, work ethic – the list goes on. All these factor into you being a good fit for the culture and values of the company, and they are a statement about yourself in your work ethic and ability to adapt quickly and easily to new situations.
Entering the workforce for the first time? Does your work experience only fit on a popsicle stick? This experience gap can seem like a death knell, with even entry-level positions that stipulate experience requirements. There are many reasons for lack of corporate experience: recent college graduate, time off for life adventures such as joining the Peace Corps, or going on a church mission.
Oftentimes, a company’s general outlook is to view anything that didn’t pay (from internships to college education) as not “real jobs” because you weren’t on a payroll. The same mindset is applied to charity work; joining organizations like the Peace Corps or individuals taking time to do church missions, some for years at a time, are not viewed with the same lens as three to five years working for X company in Y position.
This corporate mentality is gradually diminishing, as more people either enter the process of higher education or seek to give something back to the world. But for those employers who are still transitioning from that mindset, this is a good time to bring up the correlations between these avenues to a payrolled career. The ability to meet work deadlines? Check. The ability to work with a group, sometimes with difficult people? Check. Time management? Check. Leadership qualities? Check. Program learning and the ability to work within certain parameters? Double check. The list goes on, and people with these competencies are the ones who paid to gain these skills instead of the other way around. These characteristics – willing to sacrifice to learn and better one’s self – are the foundation of a reliable and motivated employee.
Every company is looking for someone to meet their needs, so draw from that list and market yourself as their answer. You may lack experience in certain programs, or you’ve been out of the workforce for either a short or long time period, or you’ve made multiple job changes, but for whichever of these claims, you can outline the experience from the correlating answer to show you’re the best person for the job.