careers

8 Job Search Strategies for Returning to Work After An Extended Gap

iStockphoto.com |  Dilen_ua

iStockphoto.com | Dilen_ua

Life happens. And this often means taking several years out of the workforce at the prime of our career to have and raise children, care for infirm relatives, or take care of other personal matters. Returning to work after a gap in employment is difficult, and there are hurdles to overcome. These include unfortunate perceptions by employers that your skills may be rusty or out-of-date.

The good news is that many professionals – including those who have been out of the work force for a significant period of time – rejoin the professional working world every day. While you can’t just walk into your old office, flip the light switch on, and pick up where you left off, by anticipating the most common obstacles and objections you can facilitate your way back into the workforce.

Tip #1: Don’t make excuses for the time spent outside the work force. Perhaps you were the stay-at-home parent and were responsible for home schooling the kids. Or your parents needed to move in with you and you needed some time to get them settled. Own the situation, and don’t make apologies. In an interview, explain briefly how you spent your time, then move on to how you can help an employer achieve their best.

Tip #2: Perform a clear assessment of what you want to do and where you want to go. The transition will likely be smoother if you intend to go back into the same line of work as you were performing before. Making a career switch to a new discipline is, in itself, tricky and risky, and doing so after being out of the work force can be even more so and may involve finding an entry-level role to do so.

Tip #3: Update Your Resume, and Fill the Gap. If you left your profession to be a full-time parent, account for your time with the job title of “Full Time Parent” – no need to elaborate further. Also, you may be surprised how many activities you’ve been performing that are considered work, and you should detail these on your resume. Examples include volunteering on your child’s PTA, holding a board-level role with a nonprofit, an officer role on your homeowner’s association, service as coaching for your kid’s team, or running a side business to generate extra income. These all demonstrate professional and leadership skills.

Tip #4: Modernize Your Resume. Styles change with time, and resumes are no exception. Modernizing your resume can mean everything from the font to formatting, structure, and tone. In the recruitment world, the most recent trend is toward punch, bold accomplishments-driven resumes that feature your accomplishments in short, easy-to-scan bullet points. You’ll want to ensure that your resume meets the current expectations of recruiters and hiring managers. Do your research, and make sure that it’s as “Applicant Tracking System” friendly as possible – learn more here.

Tip #5: Modernize your Skill Set. There are many low-cost resources that can help you get up to speed on the current technical skills and software of your trade. Take advantage of free or cheap online resources such as LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, edX. And don’t forget about your alma mater – many colleges offer low-cost or free courses to their alumni. It also never hurts to modernize your skills in Microsoft Office – Word, Excel, and PowerPoint; it’s still a global standard.

Tip #6: Research, Network, Repeat. How do you learn what is in demand in the current job market, or what new skills will help you make the leap back in the workforce? Job postings use a secret language that, when deciphered, reveal the type of individuals and skill sets employers desire most. Spend time browsing the job boards to see what tools and skills are sought by employers. Call on people in your professional network to get their perspective about new trends in your field, or to learn about potential job openings or other professional career opportunities. For the most part, people are happy to help.

Tip #7: Calibrate your Salary Expectations. When are interviewing, it’s important to know the current average compensation range for your geographic area in your chosen discipline – salary site Paysa.com is an outstanding tool for this. Prepare yourself for employers who may ask you to take a step back in your career relative to where you were before you left the workforce. When assessing offers, only you can decide what is right for you.

Tip #8: Invest in a modern wardrobe. Although that suit from 2004 may still fit, it’s recommended that you get professional attire in line with current trends. It’ll subtly reinforce to employers that you’re current with today’s business environment. And don’t forget a new pair of “interview only” shoes.

Bonus Tip: Many companies embrace the idea of seeking those who have been absent from the workforce in the form of “Returnships.” A relatively new concept, these are structured like a traditional internship, in which you relearn the business while working toward a full-time role. A recent search on job board Indeed turned up more than 100 Returnship job listings.

Philip Roufail contributed to this article.


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.

Seven Signs it Might be Time to Look For a New Job

iStockphoto.com |  kaipong

iStockphoto.com | kaipong

Jobs are not meant to last forever. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American worker will have more than eleven jobs before age fifty, and that number is expected to grow. While some transitions are out of your control, eventually you could find yourself in the wrong job, at the wrong time.

Here are seven signs that it might be time to explore the job market for better prospects.

You and your manager are not aligned on your job requirements and career path. Everyone has a boss – even the CEO of a public company has to answer to a Board of Directors. Do not assume you and your supervisors share a common vision. Some potential red flags:

  • No clear engagement from management in career discussions.

  • Differing ideas about your role, career path, and long-term potential in the company.

  • Lack of periodic performance evaluations or feedback, or your positive achievements are not being officially acknowledged.

  • New management that has a “different way of doing things” and their “own” people. No matter how stellar your job performance, these kinds of shake-ups can fundamentally change the nature of your role. Be aware, these kinds of shakeups may also lead to new internal career opportunities.

You received a poor appraisal. It’s essential to ask yourself, “Why did this happen?” While a poor appraisal is a signal that management is unhappy with your job performance, it does not necessarily mean it is time to leave your job. Ask yourself:

  • What is the message management is trying to convey? Listen closely – if the overriding tone is that they really want to see you succeed, your leadership may be willing work with you to give you the tools to turn things around. If not, you’re in dangerous territory.

  • If your review stipulates areas in which you need to show improvement, are you capable of meeting these new expectations? If they are beyond your capabilities, it might be time to seek a better fit.

  • What strategies can you undertake to turn things around? Systemic issues can be impossible to change, whereas if you are presented with opportunities that are genuinely within your control, your long-term outlook at the company might be more promising.

  • Have you had a candid conversation with your manager about your appraisal? Painful as these discussions are, they’re essential. You may no longer be a good fit for your current role based upon shifting expectations or other factors. Best to know, so you can plan accordingly.

There’s limited opportunity for professional development. Personal growth should be part of your compensation package, providing you with challenging work that helps you hone valuable new skills that you will carry with you throughout your career. If you are bored and unchallenged, or the work is not as rewarding as you’d like, consider asking your manager to evolve your responsibilities in order to get those mental juices going. A dull role with no opportunity to expand your toolbox could signal a dead end.

You’re feeling undercompensated for your work. It’s human nature to underestimate or overestimate one’s value to a company, and even in a job that you may have outgrown it is easy to become too comfortable at the expense of progress. But before you assume you’re underpaid, do your homework. Salary survey sites with validated data, like Paysa, can tell you whether or not you are being fairly compensated for the work you do. Be prepared for what you learn – you may find out you’re earning an above-average salary for the market. Also, remember that your salary is only one piece of the overall compensation picture, and often benefits like 401(k) matches, bonuses, and generous paid time off can make up for a lower base salary. That said, if your total compensation appears to be substantially lower than the overall market, consider seeing what else is out there.

Your personal values no longer align with the corporate values and culture. This seems like an abstract concept until your company asks you to engage in uncomfortable or unethical behavior, and your job is on the line. Or maybe the company shifted from a family-centric culture to a 24/7, get-it-done-at-all-costs environment. Your reputation and sanity are two of your most valuable assets; protect them.

You’re engaged in self-sabotage. Maybe you’re unhappy at your job and you want to leave, but you can’t bring yourself to take action. Instead, you let your job performance slip – either consciously or unconsciously – secretly hoping you’ll be let go and you’ll be off the hook. No matter how justifiably unhappy you may be, it’s not a good idea to allow your job performance to slip for any reason. Stay motivated, stay engaged, and consider looking for a new environment where you’ll be happy to show up to work.

Sometimes you just need to move on. Even the best experiences have a natural life cycle. A certain level of self-awareness is essential. Only you know if your job still aligns with your best-case career scenario.

Philip Roufail contributed to this article.


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.

15 Ways Employers Check You Out Before Saying, "You're Hired!"

iStockphoto.com |  busracavus

iStockphoto.com | busracavus

You want the job. You're qualified for the job. Why can't the company just give you the job?

Did you really think it was going to be easy? Employers want to know who they're hiring, and they're going to be intrusive in checking you out before extending an offer. And companies have many ways to vet job candidates before bringing you on board.

  1. The Resume - Your resume is a spelling test. It's a grammar test. It's a Microsoft Word publishing test. It's an honesty test. Reviewers make several judgments about you just based upon that simple 1 or 2 page resume.

  2. Interviews - These grueling meetings often include the hiring manager, peers, human resources, internal customers, or anyone with a stake in the hiring decision.

  3. Criminal Background Checks - Employers want to know you can be trusted with the keys to the company car, or if you're going to take it straight to the chop shop the first time you drive off.

  4. Employment Verification - Did you really work at the company, in the role you indicated, for the pay you detailed?

  5. Credit Checks - Another measure of trustworthiness. How do you handle your finances? If you've declared bankruptcy or have overdue bills, what does that say about your ability to manage company resources – in other words will your expense report be padded to cover your personal expenses?

  6. Physicals - It's rare, but not unheard of to be sent to the doctor for an evaluation if either your job involves a great deal of physical activity, or if you're considered critical to the organization.

  7. Skills Testing - The job requires you to be good at Microsoft PowerPoint - would you be willing to take a timed exam to see just how skilled you really are?

  8. Psychological / Personality Testing - These come in many flavors, but the purpose is the same - to see how well you’ll fit within the culture of the organization, and your predicted behaviors and predilections.

  9. Polygraph - The lie detector. Legal in several states, another test of your trustworthiness. Don't be surprised to take one of these when applying for positions in security or law enforcement.

  10. References - The company speaks with former supervisors or coworkers to find out more about your work habits.

  11. Informal References - This is when somebody at the company says, "Hey, I know somebody who used to work with that guy at my old employer! Let me get the skinny!" Then they do this without the applicant's knowledge or consent. It’s a gray area, but it happens more often than you’d think.

  12. Deep Background / Character Investigations - Applying to a position requiring access to top secret data? You might get an investigator poking around, asking your neighbors about your most personal details.

  13. Asking Around After The Interview - The hiring manager may ask the folks in the office who interacted with you how you behaved. Better have treated that receptionist with dignity and respect...

  14. Your Social Media - Who says they won't find those pictures on Facebook from your drunken escapade in Tijuana? And do you know what comes up in Google when somebody enters your name? How's that picture on your LinkedIn profile?

  15. Drug & Substance Testing - About that trip to Tijuana...


There's a lot of information about you out there, and companies won't be shy about gathering as much as they can before deciding whether to offer you a job. Be prepared.


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.