If you’re thinking of re-launching your career after time away from the workforce, this step-by-step guide from our top recruiters can help smooth the way.
Returning to work is daunting, whether you’ve been out of the workforce for two years or 20. To jump-start your search after an extended break, we asked recruiters for Morgan Stanley’s Return to Work program to share tips on how to get back into the workforce.
Think about what you want to prioritize: The salary? Greater personal fulfillment? Intellectual challenges, or some combination of these? Being aware of your priorities will help clarify whether you want to go back to your previous career or use your skills to segue into a new field.
You may have been away from the workforce for several years, but don't underestimate the value of roles you held during your career break. Write down the formal and informal part-time jobs you’ve held while away from the workforce. Identify which professional skills these positions leveraged. For example, running the local PTA, church council or synagogue board gave you management and leadership skills; raising funds for charities required sales and marketing savvy.
Jot down your professional skills, including those you gained while away from the workforce. Determine which ones need a refresh. You might also need to take some courses if you’re looking to segue into a new career.
Update your technology skills. Make sure you can use the latest versions of the most common computer applications, like Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel. Find out what technology is used in your field of choice and take courses if necessary. Visit Coursera for an extensive selection of free online courses.
Networking is probably the most important skill to master when hunting for a job you want. Start talking to people about your interest in returning to work and think creatively about who might be able to assist you. Call former colleagues; talk to neighbors, friends and acquaintances; tap your college or graduate school alumni network. For additional networking tips, check out iRelaunch.
Scour job sites and sign up for career-oriented email feeds and newsletters. These digital channels will connect you with free resources, networking opportunities and special programs, such as Morgan Stanley’s Return to Work. Build a LinkedIn profile to connect with professionals, find job listings and showcase your experience. Follow industry thought leaders of interest on Twitter to familiarize yourself with news trends in your industry of choice.
There's no one-size-fits-all resume format, but it doesn’t hurt to research the latest examples of resume samples for roles in your industry, and consider the following tips:
- Be concise. If you’ve had an extensive career that won’t fit on one page, keep the length manageable. Two pages are better than four.
- Show that you’ve been active while away from the workforce. List all volunteer activities and the professional skills they required, plus the relevant courses you’ve taken and any technical skills you’ve acquired.
- Circulate your resume to other people for feedback and proofreading. Typos and formatting inconsistencies will say a lot to a recruiter about your attention to detail.
- Include a cover letter. It’s a good place to highlight the fact that you are career-oriented and that your time outside of the workforce has given you additional experience and perspective that’s made you an even better candidate.
- Know your resume so you don’t fumble with vague responses if you’re asked to give examples or recall instances. Come up with one or two achievements from your time at each of your previous employers.
It's human nature to be nervous, but practicing for your interview will help enormously. Rehearse your answers to the most common interview questions with your family or friends. Think about how to tell your story and how your skills, learned both in and out of the workforce, are particularly suited to the position.
Know what’s happening in your desired industry and research the main players. Visit their websites, read articles about them and make time to research their culture and core values. Morgan Stanley, for example, seeks candidates who not only have the right skill-set but will also thrive in the firm’s culture.
If you’re looking to go back to your old career, then apply to jobs that match the skills and competencies of your last position. And if you are looking to broaden your horizons, present your previous working experience as something that brings added value to the new position you are seeking.
Learn more about Morgan Stanley's Return to Work program.