Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

CAREER COMMUNICATION TIPS for JOB SEEKERS RETURNING to the WORKFORCE

Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

CAREER COMMUNICATION TIPS for JOB SEEKERS RETURNING to the WORKFORCE

Article excerpt

The rules of engagement for job search have changed drastically in recent years, presenting serious challenges for women and men returning to the workforce after a long absence. Any job seeker may wrestle with issues such as confidence, communications, business etiquette, and branding, to name a few. For clients with a large gap to explain, the task is even more intimidating. Your client can take heart, however, in knowing that this is the new normal and careers now run in chapters, with very interesting twists and turns. The best companies are sympathetic to the realities of personal commitments and the positive effects of career path reinventions. Let's take a look at how to develop and present the story.

Don't Follow the Pack Into the Black Hole of the Internet

Don't worry about trying to fit these clients into the online application system - their job search should be centered on expanding their network and communicating with those resources. The Internet can be used to conduct research, find companies to target, study job postings to build the list of keywords, and see what's in demand out there.

The return-to-work job seeker should learn as much as possible about the background required for her target positions. Is there anything transferable from her experience? She should reach out to people in the industry, asking for insights. Coach your client to be ready to answer questions about what she's looking for - it might be a specific position, but it's more likely to be a description of the contributions she'd like to make in a more general sense.

Help your clients to focus on what they have done over the course of their lives. Take the experience apart and figure out what it means generically; then make a list of transferable skills to help them realize they don't have to start from scratch to reenter the workforce. What kinds of problems have they solved, what kinds of people have they dealt with, what skills have they developed, and more?

A huge difference from the typical job search is to focus on companies, not listed openings. You want your client to catch decision-makers when they are just starting to feel the need but haven't formulated an opening - or get them thinking about the person in their company who's just not working out but it's been easier to keep the status quo - until your client's letter and resume show up.

It can be difficult to feel like the search is gaining much traction at the beginning. The job seeker should devote most of the time to simply talking to people - anywhere and at any level - to gather intelligence about possibilities. Coach him to reach out to decision-makers so he can be on the radar screen before an opening is announced. You want your client to spark the idea that he would be a valuable business-building or businessretaining person to have on board.

Instead of asking about whether they're hiring, your client should have conversations about how the other person's business works and what they're struggling with. Your client should be naturally curious, listen, and learn. Then the conversation can turn to the possibility of hiring him into an existing position or creating a position that allows him to solve a problem or fill a need.

Resume Strategies

You may be tempted to create a functional resume to rearrange your client's strengths into categories, but that style of resume is not well received in the job market. Recruiters and hiring managers don't like to work at sorting them out and Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) don't read them well. There's an assumption that there must be a negative story hiding behind the resume. A better approach is to use the Summary section to present the client's strengths briefly, include keywords, and open the reader's brain to seeing your client as she wants to be perceived.

Often, a resume provides details going back about eight to ten years, sometimes more, and then includes a very brief description of career accomplishments further back in time. …

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