As I jump back into the search, I’m feeling rusty. And I’m confident I need to work on this before I get any job back in this field.
I am exploring the fears I face as I continue my job search in a field I have worked in for the last 20 years. In the original post, I identified three fears that grip me and have influenced my job search over the past few years. Some of the fears are decades-long, while others are more recent fears. But all of them have influenced my career development.
As I jump back into the search, after taking some time away from that field, I want to confront these fears head-on so I can move on — and move ahead.
One of my fears involved the changes to the field I used to work in and how I could stay relevant after so many years away.
To be honest, I feel a little rusty. And I’m confident I need to work on this before I get any job back in this field.
The World Made A 90-Degree Turn
Since 2018, when I last worked in higher education, the world has changed. In some ways, I kept myself from learning new skills because I didn’t have access to the tools, for other skills I just lacked the motivation. I know this is true for me and others. Not only for higher education professionals but for everyone. As I shared in the original post:
Since writing my initial article, the US Supreme Court has made a decision that impacts reproductive choices across most of the country. Inflation has impacted families and added to the stress of making college affordable. Rampant and unpredictable gun violence impacts us all. And entering college students may face any other unpredictable institutional responses to the ongoing COVID pandemic. And these are just the most obvious experiences I can think of!
My peers who continued working in higher education during the pandemic had to learn any number of innovative responses to the pandemic and will need to pivot daily to deal with all of these other issues.
And I didn’t learn any of this. And currently, I am not learning how to do any of this.
Naming the Strengths I Have to Manage This Experience
I have sat on this named fear of mine for the last couple of weeks. Mostly because I have let my deficits define how to approach the problem. Like other industries, our professional associations offer paid professional development opportunities. But I had to leave these associations because I couldn’t afford the membership dues while unemployed.
The new industry I worked in for the past year, workforce development, has different strengths it requires of its staff that does not translate into my original field.
And with a terminal degree, I am not likely to continue my education with more classes that lead to another degree.
All I could think about for the past few months is what I was missing.
But last night, before I fell asleep I asked myself: What would I tell me if I asked myself for advice on this topic and I answered:
“Well, you told me what you’re lacking, can you focus on what you already have?”
As I drifted off to sleep, I could hear myself naming my strengths, both indicated by the CliftonStrengths assessment from Gallup and from the other strengths assessments I have taken over the past 20 years.
Just focusing on my strengths made me feel better. And it was the first time I have relaxed in weeks.
What the Experts Say
Author Nick Papageorge from Recruiter.com recommends that people re-entering the workforce after time away consider the following advice:
1. Brush Up on Your Skills
A lot can happen in the span of just a few years. If you haven’t kept up with new developments in your field, you have likely fallen behind the competition. Keeping your skills relevant will boost your chances of landing a job when the time comes. Consider taking a few classes, reading some good books, and scouring the Internet for information on the latest trends in your industry.
2. Weigh All Your Options
The job market is tough, and it can be difficult to find a decent job. While you may have your hopes set on a particular role at a particular company, it would be wise to weigh all job offers that come your way. What may not look like a perfect fit at first may turn out to be an excellent choice.
3. Consider a Career Change
Before you apply to the same sorts of jobs you held twenty years ago, consider the person you are today and whether or not the career that you once had is a good fit for you now. When re-entering the workforce, many people use the opportunity to change careers. That may be just the ticket for you.
4. Don’t Hide Your Employment Gap
Employers will see right through your attempts to hide a long gap in employment. Instead, be upfront about your employment gap and demonstrate how you have been using that time to take classes, get involved in your community, keep your skills relevant, and generally improve yourself as both a worker and a human being.
5. Tell Others About Your Job Hunt
Networking is important for any job hunt. Casually telling others about your search for employment could help you out quite a bit. One of your friends or family members might have information on a new opportunity you may have otherwise missed — and they may even be willing and able to refer you, which will greatly boost your chances of success.
Author Meg Guiseppi with Executive Career Brand offers the following advice for people re-entering the working world:
- Start with volunteering. Volunteer work can help you get up-to-date on skills you’ll need for your new job, and will expand your network.
- Do some freelance work. Freelancing will build your work portfolio and minimize employment gaps on your resume and LinkedIn profile.
- Ask others about their experience. If there are other people you know who transitioned back into the workplace after a long break from employment, ask how they were successful. You may find you can use their same strategies.
- Take refresher courses. If you feel your skills are outdated, consider a refresher course so you can feel more confident in your abilities and can speak about your knowledge on your resume and during an interview.
- Get a certificate. Relevant certifications can elevate you above the competition and show that you are serious about continuous education.
- Focus on your soft skills. A major differentiator between candidates is the unique attributes and soft skills they offer to any workplace, so focus on things like adaptability, communication, time management, and creativity. Explain to the hiring manager how your particular soft skills make you an ideal fit for the position.
Feeling Less Rusty
What I want to do over the new few weeks, as I wait to hear back from employers about recent applications, is to look at how my current strengths can help me learn on the job and how I’ve used those strengths in the past to learn other desirable skills.
For instance, in my first workforce development position, I had to create a curriculum in two weeks about an industry I had never worked in before with clients I had no immediate experience teaching. It was daunting but I believed in myself and tackled it with research and my core skills.
The first approach was clunky and had to be revised for the second cohort of clients. But the curriculum is still being taught and had earned rave reviews from the clients. On my skills, I can always rely.
I also want to look at certificate programs to learn some other critical skills missing from my portfolio: financial skills, crisis management, supervision, and management.
My instincts for helping others are hardly ever wrong — well I don’t always listen to my own heart first. But when I take the time to listen to my own advice, it has not failed me. I am good at what I do, helping others, and maybe right now I need to consider myself my own client.
Career Coaching for the Mid-Level Career Professional
I have worked with entry-level and mid-level career professionals for nearly ten years, helping them reconsider their strengths and ways to learn new skills. I know I can help you, too! Let me know if there is anything I can do to support you as you develop new skills related to job searching, advancing your career or re-careering.
Schedule an introductory meeting so we can discuss a plan that works best for you.