Tips for Returning to the Workforce: Making Yourself Relevant
Career Confidential-Making Yourself Relevant
Many women take themselves “off the career grid” for a period of time in order to care for small children or elderly relatives. Perhaps you are interested in returning to the paid workforce, but are worried that you have lost your “mojo” or workplace relevancy. Will you be able to fit back in and be an asset to an organization? Of course you will! You are smart, resourceful and hard-working, you just need to update your skills, vocabulary and professional image. Mom Corps has some prep ideas will ease your job search anxiety without busting your budget.
At a bare minimum, everyone re-entering the professional workforce should be familiar with all elements of the Microsoft Office Suite. Word, Excel and PowerPoint have been the standard applications used in professional environments for well over a decade, and any new cloud-based apps like Google Docs and Apple’s iWork are loosely based on the same tools. If you don’t have the latest version of Microsoft Office on your home computer, most local libraries have computers available for subscribers at no cost. Use free online tutorials to learn the basics we suggest below and practice on your own. Remember even if you used these applications a few years ago, you should familiarize yourself with the newest version.
- Word Basic Skills :set up a standard letter, insert graphics, create tables, use bullets or numbered lists, headers and footers
- Excel Basic Skills- set up worksheet with multiple tabs, basic functions like sum and average, sorting and creating basic charts/graphs
- PowerPoint Basic Skills-create a presentation, insert graphics, create charts, use pre-defined templates, set up a slide show, create notes pages, use table options
You should also make yourself familiar with new computer file formats. For instance many documents are now saved and shared in a PDF (portable document format) file. There are also new graphic file formats like .png which will eventually replace .gif and .tiff formats.
Every industry has its own technical specifications. As you browse job listings, make notes of technical terms you don’t understand and take a little bit of time to demystify them. Ask former colleagues to teach you about any new technologies in your desired field. These small steps will make you well prepared to wow your future employer.
Even if you have been out of the office for only a couple of years, it is likely there are new terms , jargon and buzz words for general business and your specific area of expertise. Start reading articles or publications that are specific to your area of interest and start a list of unfamiliar terms that you can research. Just browsing the job listings listed on Mom Corps web site, you can get see a variety of acronyms and methodologies like HCM (stands for Human Capital Management in the Human Resources industry) or RASI (which in Project Management refers to Responsible, Accountable, Supports, Informed as part of defining project roles). Taking time to relearn the industry vocabulary will keep you from being uninformed or confused in the interview process.
Once you’ve beefed up your computer skills and updated your lexicon of industry terms and jargon, take a look in the mirror. Let’s face it…as parents we often spend our time and money making sure our kids are well-groomed and well-dressed , making ourselves lower priorities. Now is the time to put your best foot and face forward. By no means, do we suggest investing in an entire new wardrobe or completely changing your look. Just spend a little time and money finding two great interview outfits that are industry-appropriate. The suits you wore years ago may be completely inappropriate for today’s less structured environment. Seek the advice of your most stylish friend on what to wear or refer to images of modern professionals you see in business magazines or news shows. Find a simple but functional handbag that can hold a padfolio, resume and other documents or examples for the interview . Treat yourself to a great haircut and manicure to really look the part of career woman…your future employer doesn’t’ need to know you spend the last few years driving carpool in sweatpants!
Re-entering the workforce can be a little intimidating, but you can overcome the hurdle of professional obsolescence easily with a little time , research and practice. Good luck!