Unless you’re a celebrity with a PR guru at your disposal, re-entering the workforce after a prolonged absence can be a daunting task.

With no recent work experience and a gap in your résumé, you may wonder if you’ll even receive responses from employers – let alone job offers.  But whatever the reason for the interruption in your work history – raising a family, downsizing, disability, earning a degree – don’t let self-doubt or fear of the unknown hold you back.  Prepare yourself for a great encore career with these tips:

Keep your chin up. Restarting your career, especially in challenging economic times, can test the patience and perseverance of even the most optimistic job seeker.  A positive attitude, however, is a critical component of your job search success.  As you approach each day, make a conscious decision to be happy and hopeful about the future.  You alone set the tone of your job search, so don’t allow yourself to be defined by your absence from the workforce.  If you focus on your skills, your experience and the position you want, you’ll be well on your way to making a great career comeback.

Re-examine the marketplace. As a returning worker, you need to know what industries are hiring for what types of positions.  Start your comeback by conducting online research or reading industry publications to determine the right career options for you.

Conduct a self-assessment. Once you’ve uncovered a few job opportunities that appeal to you, carefully read the job descriptions.  Consider whether or not you have the skills required to succeed in each opportunity.  You may discover that you need additional education or skills training to increase your marketability.

Create a functional résumé. This type of résumé is often the best choice if you’re re-entering the workforce, as it emphasizes your abilities and accomplishments.  Unlike a chronological résumé, which focuses on each job you held, a functional résumé highlights your skills without providing detailed background information on where and when you acquired them.  Although the functional résumé does include a work history section, you can easily explain your employment gap in your cover letter.

Focus on face time. It’s easy to e-mail dozens of résumés from the comfort of your home – but it may not be the best way to land the job you want.  Why?  All other things being equal, a recruiter is more likely to choose a candidate with no employment gap over you.  Period.  As a result, being in the room with a recruiter (as opposed to reducing yourself to a piece of paper) can make all the difference in your job search.  Your personality, passion and confidence are best conveyed in person, so get off the internet, get out of your house and create opportunities for face time.

Set-up informational interviews. If the interview requests aren’t coming in, go out and create your own opportunities by setting up informational interviews.  Unlike a traditional interview (where the goal is to land a job), the primary purpose of an informational interview is to collect information about a job, career field, industry or company.  This invaluable networking tool affords you a low-stress opportunity to:  build your self-confidence; get answers to questions that would not be appropriate in a traditional interview (e.g., salary, benefits, etc.); gain valuable career and company information; establish key networking contacts.

Network, network, network. This may seem obvious, but not everyone does it.  Focus on meeting people the same way you do in other aspects of your life – through mutual friends, former classmates and co-workers, family members, social networking contacts and other professional associates.  Tell everyone you know that you’re re-entering the workforce.  Keep both digital and paper copies of your résumé handy wherever you go.

Ask for new introductions. Even if your immediate network contacts do not know of job opportunities, they may be able to put you in touch with people who do.  Whenever possible, try to meet a new contact in person.  Arrange a brief meeting (15 – 20 minutes) during which you can buy him a cup of coffee and communicate your qualifications and desire for employment.  Ask for the names/numbers/e-mail addresses of contacts this person knows who may be hiring.  Follow-up on these leads in a timely manner and send a personal note of thanks to the contact who referred you.

Point out the elephant in the room. Your employment gap does not define you, so don’t sweep it under the carpet.  Use your cover letter to address your work gap head-on.  Make a succinct, positive, unapologetic statement about what you were doing during your time off work.  Then move on to discussing the skills, qualifications and experience that make you the right candidate for the job.

Consider non-traditional work opportunities to re-enter the workforce. While you’re conducting your search, consider volunteering free hours to support a favorite cause.  Many employers view volunteer work as relevant job experience.  To boot, volunteering allows you to make valuable job contacts and bolster your résumé.

A “returnship” provides another option for making a career comeback.  Designed for professionals who want to re-enter the workforce, a returnship offers the same benefits to both employer and job seeker as a traditional internship.  You can get your foot in the door with a potential employer, while the employer gets free access to your talent and expertise.  So if you have your sights set on a particular company that doesn’t currently have a returnship program, take the initiative and develop a proposition to create one.

Register with a staffing firm.  If you don’t want to make a career comeback on your own, Snelling Staffing Services can be a tremendous resource to help you re-enter the workforce.  We can:

  • effectively end your employment gap, by putting you to work on a temporary assignment;
  • provide advice to help you evaluate your career goals, address your employment gap and update your résumé;
  • help you earn money while you search for direct employment;
  • present you with direct employment opportunities, many of which are unadvertised;
  • bolster your self-confidence during a tough job search.

Best of all, we provide these services at no charge to you.  If you haven’t done so already, make your transition back into the world of work a little smoother.  Contact your local Snelling office today.