careers

Should I Take a Lower Level Job If I'm Returning to Work After An Extended Leave?

iStockphoto.com |  fizkes

iStockphoto.com | fizkes

 People leave the work force for many reasons, such as having children, performing military service, taking care of ill relatives, or to return to school on a full-time basis. Whatever the reason, when someone decides to return to the work force after an extended period – often measured in years – he or she will encounter additional obstacles unique to those with gaps in their work history [8 Job Search Strategies for Returning to Work After An Extended Gap].

If you were a Director four years ago, you may believe you should automatically return to the same level, or higher, and under certain circumstances, like earning an advanced degree, that may be an achievable goal. In other cases, however, it’s important to prepare for the possibility a return will be at a lower level and/or lower compensation.

Selling yourself and your value as a return presents its own set of challenges. For better or worse, it’s important for job seekers to understand the insider perspective of recruiters and hiring managers.

There’s the perception that you are “out of the loop”, and recruiters/hiring managers will ask, “Is this person’s skill set aligned with current standards and practices?”

It’s essential to consider the reality of the situation. Time off the job can translate into missed skills, and since the starting point is the perception that you are “behind” other candidates, employers will likely focus more on your current skill set and less on your past work experience and accomplishments. For example, if every job is “Salesforce experience preferred” and you don’t have any experience in that software, no amount of impressive metrics on your resume will lift you over that hurdle. Your resume probably won’t make it past the Applicant Tracking System.

And make no mistake – as the returner, your leverage can be weaker than someone who is and has been gainfully employed. After all, an employer may not feel compelled to shower a candidate with money to attract them if their alternative is continued unemployment. Candidates who have been laid off face this same challenge, and some companies may exploit that to their advantage. 

As you develop a strategy to return to the workforce, how can you cancel out negative perceptions and rise to the top of a company’s list of candidates? Here are some important factors to consider.

  • How long have you been out of the work force? If it’s been several years, rapid changes may have occurred. Laws change. Regulations change. Technologies change. Do the research. Study the job postings. Become an expert again.

  • Where are your technical skills today? You’ve done your research and mapped the current landscape. Now it’s a simple game of compare and contrast. Determine if, and in what areas, you have skill gaps and develop a plan to resolve them.

  • Ego. Your ego. Letting go of your past life, or salary, may not be easy, but your number one priority should be to position yourself to get back in the work force. By no means should you work for free, but understand that returning where you were or ahead of where you were when you left the job market may or may not be a feasible option. Focus on the future.

 

As you tackle the search as a returner, consider the following: 

  1. Remember that you have value. It is easy to fall into the trap of self-depreciation, and it will be on your face and in your voice during the interview process. Keep in mind that you would not even be in the game if you didn’t have desirable professional and personal qualities. Be your biggest fan!

  2. Understand where you can realistically re-enter the work force. Self-assessments are an essential tool and effective weapon. Do your homework! If you have clarity on this point, you will be more effective targeting the jobs you want the most. Also, you should note that one of your best tools is Paysa.com, a compensation site that can help you understand the salary ranges for the roles you’re looking at.

  3. Always be training. This mantra is critical to both the unemployed and employed alike. Continuing your professional development – whether working or not – is one of the best ways to bolster a lateral, or even upward, move back into the work force.

  4. Demonstrate positivity. Show your best and most professional self. Positivity is a “soft skill” that can make instant inroads with employers who believe you will be a good co-worker and collaborative team member.

  5. Your next job may not be your last. End up in a lousy job that underpays you? Consider it a springboard to a better opportunity. It’s not going to take long for you to rebuild your toolbox and enhance your marketability. When the time is right, move on to a company that will pay you what you’re worth.


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. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.

Be Your Own Historian (For the Love of Your Resume)

One of the first and most sobering professional life lessons each of us learn is that all those amazing things you know you accomplished in your very-difficult-job-with-a-psychotic-supervisor are hearsay.

 When you leave a job, regardless of the reason or the end game, nobody writes up a glowing account of your crazy, ground-breaking, profit busting corporate exploits, and hands you a spiral bound copy of it on the way out with a congratulatory thumbs up. Instead, you are left to market yourself, and that glowing account you wish someone else had handed you is your resume.

 If you are wise, you’ve kept copies of any written performance reviews, or similar material, and you may have one or two commitments for written references, but past that a record of everything you did quite literally vanishes the moment you leave.

 Once you are the former employee of a company, getting basic information about work you did while you were there may be more difficult to obtain, and you may be left struggling to recount the details of your most prized achievements. However, your professional legacy can live on in the marketing brochure called your resume. However, you must be your own historian!

 I know, I know. Another thing you have to do. You’d rather move on to YouTube and watch a cat video. I get it, because we have to be our own historians as well.

Here’s an example where some good, properly recorded details can make the difference:

Generic: Wrote and published career insights blog.

Kick-Ass: In nine months, wrote twenty-six career insights articles for job seekers and, in line with mission statement to help others find work, published and promoted them across multiple online platforms, increasing overall web traffic by 5%, and establishing targeted brand visibility.

If you document your incredible work, and pay close attention to personal and company metrics, when the time comes to create a world-class resume, all the juicy details of your professional history will be there to mine and include in the most important marketing material you will ever generate.

It’s hard to have too many metrics. Dollar signs and percentages are known crowd pleasers. So are phrases like, “Increased annual revenue by…“ and “Cut operating expenses by”. If you have those types of details at your fingertips, you, or someone you hire, will have an easier time of turning your professional accomplishments into resume gold.

There is a hidden value too – confidence. When your mesmerizing personality is backed up by cold hard facts, you take that professional confidence into your job search, into the interview room, and ultimately into the boardroom.


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.

7 Tips For Navigating Negative Career Feedback

iStockphoto.com |  Feodora Chiosea

iStockphoto.com | Feodora Chiosea

Nobody rolls out of bed in the morning and thinks, “I hope I get some negative feedback at work today.”

No one enjoys criticism, especially professional criticism. When we receive feedback at work, the likely reaction is a (sometimes justified) fear that the feedback is a precursor to unemployment. However, feedback – positive and negative – plays an important role in the overall success of an organization, and the personal development of the employee. The good news is that you can learn how to process and utilize negative feedback to help your career instead of inhibit it.

Corporate culture has evolved into an interactive environment with a constant feedback loop. Annual/quarterly reviews have given way to an ongoing structure that is flexible and nimble enough to resolve issues, whether company-wide or individual, in real time. That means constant feedback.

Here are some tips to demystify negative feedback, help you and your career grow, and help create better work relationships.

  1. Be open to feedback. When you walk into your manager’s office and receive professional criticism, it is very easy to get defensive. Even though the feedback is work related, it feels personal, and may seem like an existential threat to your livelihood. Do your best to be calm, objective about your own performance, and to listen. Take notes.

  2. Remember, the conversation is probably documented. Whether part of a regular scheduled review, or an unexpected performance appraisal, the results will most likely go into your personnel file. It is in your best interests to maintain a professional demeanor throughout the process.

  3. Understand your manager’s position. Chances are your Manager doesn’t like to give negative feedback any more than you like receiving it. However, providing feedback is most likely a requirement of his or her job, and is necessary if he or she has an interest in your career development. Either way, your manager should be giving you feedback, and you should want it as it provides you the tools to move your career forward.

  4. Negative feedback is an opportunity. I know what you’re thinking: “I should want negative feedback? That’s crazy talk!” Negative feedback gives you an opportunity to self-correct and to develop personally and professionally. If you are not receiving regular, valuable feedback, then request it. You need to build that loop so you will control the conversation. It is in your best interests to have reviews that are more about development, and less about performance.

  5. Understand the real message. Managers may not be trained to give feedback in a clear or positive way. The true message, for example, may be buried under a mountain of operational issues, or missed sales goals. But what does the feedback have to do with you? Ask for clarification is necessary.

  6. Perception can be reality. If a perceived issue is surfaced that you believe is off the mark, you must change the perception. Speak up in a reasonable and sensible way. Defend yourself without being defensive (easy, right?).

  7. Compartmentalize the feedback. You’ve walked out your manager’s office. Even the most enlightened employee, who is wise enough to use all our excellent suggestions, is going to feel numb. No one enjoys criticism. To the best of your ability, decompress and detach yourself from the feedback. When ready, process it in as objective a way as possible, determine (to the best of your ability) how you can use it to improve your job performance and, more importantly, advance your personal career development.


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.