When it comes to returning to work after a significant break, it can be incredibly daunting and overwhelming. We will look at how coaching can help those returning to work, by assisting in vital steps like preparing a resume, polishing your digital profile, interview tips and confidence building.
Reasons for leaving work
It is believed that 43% of highly qualified women voluntarily leave the workforce after having children. In an oft-cited report in the Harvard Business Review, it was also revealed that one in three women who left work between the ages of 41-55 did so to care for a parent or another family member. Meanwhile, 17% of women gave up their role because they believed their work was not satisfying or meaningful, and 6% felt the workload was too overwhelming. Most importantly, the report found that 93% of women who left their jobs did fully intend to return to their careers; however, only 40% managed to re-enter the full-time work force.
In contrast, 29% of men who leave their jobs do so to change careers. A further 25% take a break to earn a degree or pursue other training – while 12% take a step back for family reasons.
Returning to work after children
Did you know that some companies have introduced coaching programs to help manage leaves and returns? According to Forbes, Ernst & Young, MetLife, and Etsy are among the companies that have implemented programs whereby coaches help individuals clarify expectations and create action plans. Interestingly, Ernst & Young found there was a 14% increase in women returning to work from maternity leave after their liaison with a coach (the program is offered to men taking paternity leave too).
Outside of the office, several nationwide initiatives have been established to help women return to work after kids. For example, The Mom Project is a community platform that links up with companies to design better workplaces for moms, and helps new mothers remain active in the workforce after childbirth.
Resources like the On Ramp Fellowship (for lawyers) and Back to Work 50+ (for older job candidates) are also available to help make the return to the workforce straightforward and seamless.
How to re-enter the workforce
A logical first step when returning to work is to enlist the help of a professional to help create an action plan.
Dr. Tara Trout, the founder of Skyline Psychological Services, specializes in working with young professionals, encouraging them to improve their interpersonal interactions and leadership skills. Dr. Trout believes that reconnecting is the first step towards kick-starting your career again.
“Reconnect with previous employers and coworkers who know and appreciate your work,” she advises. “They might have some leads or give great recommendations to potential new employers. Reconnect with your own skill set and education; engage in some independent learning as a refresher and to catch up on newer trends and information within your field. Go to networking events for both learning and connections.”
Finding a career coach after a career break or college graduation
There are many ways that a coach can assist you in navigating the transition back to work.
“A career coach can help you deal with the change process and establish a new normal,” says Nicole Wood, CEO of coaching company Ama La Vida. “When someone makes a drastic life change like going back to work after kids, exiting the military, or retiring from a long career, it can be a shock to their identity. For so long, their identity has been tied to their previous role, and so a career coach can help to redefine their purpose and get excited about this new journey.”
Ditto with newly-minted college graduates, struggling to identify how to get their start in the working world.
“The working world is very different from life in college. There are fewer rules, no summer breaks, and less clarity around the path to success,” Wood says.
“A career coach can help graduates maintain structure and establish goals, build healthy habits around their new work schedule and responsibilities, and more gracefully adjust to their work-life,” Wood continues. “A career coach can also help them avoid common mistakes, envision a long-term path; see past the tasks of today and maximize their experience so that they are building a strong skill set for the future. The coach can support them to gain clarity around their long-term goals so they feel less fixated on the minutiae of their current responsibilities.”
How to stay relevant in the changing world of work
In this increasingly digital-focused age, one of the most important steps when returning to work is to ensure that you are visible to recruiters online. It is vital that you are ‘marketing’ yourself and your skill set in an engaging and professional manner.
A recent article posted by employment website Glassdoor.com revealed that 80% of recruiters will research and vet a candidate’s social media and LinkedIn, and according to this survey, 46% of recruiters said they often eliminate a person based on their online presence alone.
The importance of a professional online profile in the digital age
Did you know that a staggering 590 million people have accounts on LinkedIn? Leading expert David Petherick, aka Doctor LinkedIn, said that missing out on this opportunity to showcase your skills will impact the opportunities afforded to you.
“Invisible, inactive people don’t get invited to job interviews, don’t get shown new opportunities, and don’t get to prove their ability,” Petherick says. “Your offline networking is still important, but online, you need to be professional in your approach. And active is a key element here – a slick looking profile on LinkedIn or Twitter is all well and good, but it’s important to be regularly sharing, commenting, and adding value for your network to build credibility.”
Petherick, who advises professionals at every stage of their career on how best to present their experience on LinkedIn, says that if your digital profile appears static and unengaged, hiring managers may draw that the same conclusion applies to you.
“A LinkedIn profile needs many factors to have real strength, but if I had to choose one distinguishing factor, it would be writing an effective summary,” Petherick says. “Aside from your headline, the summary may be the only part of your profile that gets read. A good summary is a combination of a business introduction, an elevator pitch, and a brief personal history – as well as working like telling a story, and acting like a smile and a wave across a room. It’s an opportunity to start a conversation. If you sound interesting and open, people will respond. Plus, you can make it easier to connect, call, email or click through on media or web links included in your summary. Missing out on a summary is like meeting someone, but not actually speaking to them or making any eye contact.”
Once you’ve got the summary perfected, don’t just focus on yourself and your achievements on your LinkedIn profile.
“Talk about the real problems you can help solve for real people. Focus on the pain you can remove from a process,” Petherick advises. “Cite specifics about how you improved something. Answer the very common question that every viewer actually has in mind when viewing a profile: what can this person do to help me?”
Your professional photo, too, should showcase you in the best light: literally and figuratively speaking.
“Remember to smile,” Petherick says. “The human brain process images up to 42,000 times faster than words, so a clear, well-lit photo where you look welcoming and confident, has a deep subconscious impact. You should invest in a professional headshot because you only get one chance to make a first impression.”
How to nail an interview
A strong, in-person first impression and a winning interview are still your calling cards in the working world. Enlisting the aid of a dedicated interview coach or expert can be an invaluable investment when preparing to return to work.
Amie Thompson is the Founder and Head Coach of Sound Interview, a service that offers interview and resume coaching via Skype. Thompason acknowledges that the interview process can be a “drain on job seekers’ confidence”.
“It’s hard to get feedback from the hiring managers, and once the interview is over, most people can think of one hundred things that they wished they would have said differently. Getting stuck in this cycle can be frustrating,” Thompson states.
As an interview coach, Thompson provides immediate and direct feedback to clients on what they are doing well and what they can tweak. This ultimately provides them with a repertoire of meaningful ‘stories’ and points that they can tell during an interview to demonstrate their qualifications for the position.
“Stories are important because they show employers, with evidence, that a candidate can do the work instead of just telling the hiring manager they have great attention to detail or are an awesome team player,” Thompson says.
“I always take some time to focus on the most hated question – “Tell me about yourself” – and provide custom feedback to the client to address areas they can improve,” Thompson continues. “I can also provide coaching on building rapport, body language, asking questions, and even salary negotiation depending on a candidate’s needs.”
When it comes to preparing for the all-important first interview, Thompson recommends assuming that the hiring managers like you and aren’t out to trick you.
“Be friendly,” Thompson offers. “Job seekers often forget that they have power during an interview too. They get to check out the hiring manager and figure out if the company will offer work and an environment that they’ll enjoy. Prepare some strong stories that you can tell during the interview and try to recall any specific metrics that can show results. Be sure to tell them that you’re excited and interested in the job.”
“Get to know the hiring manager as a person,” Thompson says. “One of the best ways to build a strong rapport is to find some common ground that you can use to connect with the other person. Small talk before the interview is critical. Asking about upcoming weekend plans or the last weekend can be an excellent way to get someone to open up. From there, show interest with open-ended questions. Hiring managers typically don’t love interviewing either and will appreciate the chance to talk about things that they enjoy.”
Returning to work is often the biggest challenge that people will face in their professional life. Remember that the famous saying, ‘No man is an island’ rings particularly true here. At every step of the way, a professional career coach or a dedicated returning to work organization can help make the transition back to work as plain sailing as possible.