Jumping Back into the Job Pool? Swim, Don’t Sink

By Ron Hamara

The scenario is becoming all too common: The husband, the major breadwinner, is fired or will have to go without his bonus this year. With the family income plummeting, the wife needs to find employment. But she has been out of the workforce for five, ten, even fifteen years. Does she stand a chance of landing a position?

Is this the situation you find yourself in? It has always been easier for women to leave the workforce than to reenter it. Ironically, Lehmann Brothers was one firm that did have a good program to recruit women who wanted to go back to work. With the unemployment rate soaring, you may view a job search as difficult, even impossible. There are no easy solutions and you probably will not find the perfect job overnight. Yet with the right amount of planning and hard work, you can be successful. Here are some things to do:

Overcome mental blocks. You may feel that your skills are stale. “Who would want to hire me?” might be the thought running through your head. That state of mind will be self-defeating. Even though your skills may need to be updated, you still have what it takes to compete in the marketplace. A positive outlook is essential.

Bring the family onboard.
No doubt you have been the one taking care of hearth and home. Announcing that you will no longer be available to drop off and pick up the kids at school, grocery shop, clean, or take the car to the garage, will not be greeted with applause. In order for your job search to be successful, you will need the support of your husband and children. It’s time for a family meeting to talk about what changes will be necessary on the home front to free you up for resume writing, networking events, and interviews.

Target your search. You may have been in the financial services industry before you left the workplace. Obviously, those jobs are now few and far between. Perhaps the job you left, no matter the field, is not one you care to go back to. The time you spent away from the workplace may have reordered your priorities.

Discover your passion. Raising children may have interested you in teaching. Your charity work could have sparked an interest in the non-profit sector. Make a list of job possibilities that really get you excited. Seeking a job that you truly want will help you maintain your energy and enthusiasm.

Update your skills. Once you know how you will focus your search, decide whether you need to update your skills or acquire new ones. You will need to complete this step in order to detail these skills on your resume. Investigate adult education courses at local colleges and universities. These offerings can help you get up to speed in a short space of time.

Refresh your wardrobe. While some workplaces have gone casual, anyone interviewing for a job should dress the part. Obviously you don’t want to break the bank, so shop the sales and update your current wardrobe with a few accessories.

Network with others.
Networking is the key to getting a job. Start with the groups that are already familiar to you. Tell friends and family that you are looking for a job and would appreciate any contacts they might have. (Put aside any embarrassment you may feel for your husband’s situation. Remember, this is about you, not him).  Move out of your comfort zone by joining some new groups, particularly ones that are in the fields you are interested in.

Go on informational interviews.
Tell that important executive you know he’s not hiring, but would still like to pick his brain about your job search. Don’t leave without the names of at least two other people you should meet.

Go online. There are many ways to network online. LinkedIn is the best known online service for groups that share your interests. Joining is free and you can even start your own group to facilitate contacts. On LinkedIn you can search for past co-workers to see where they are now. These contacts could prove invaluable.

Team up with other women. Don’t discount starting your own business. In your networking efforts, you may meet someone who would be a good partner in your venture. There are government grants available for women who start their own businesses.

Keep a journal. Document your job search in writing to keep a record of who you saw when and to maintain your focus. Over time, you may pick up a pattern—what works, what doesn’t—that can help you fine tune your efforts.

Keep up your spirits. Find ways to recharge your batteries, whether that means a lunch with good friends or a run in the park. Looking for a job can be like riding a roller-coaster, so expect some ups and downs.

Ron Hamara is president and CEO of Hamara & Associates. He can be reached at rhamara@gmail.