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A Game Plan for Relaunching Your Career

Miriam Salpeter
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Are you part of the 2 million people (mostly women) in the "career relaunch" pool? Are you trying to figure out your next career move to re-enter the workforce after taking time to go back to school, raise children, care for family members, travel, etc.? Perhaps finding a new job is significantly more difficult than anticipated.

Mom Corps, a professional staffing and career development firm that caters to professionals looking for alternative work options, released its third annual workplace survey commissioned through Harris Interactive. The survey reports 55 percent of working women surveyed agreed that taking a significant amount of time out of the workforce would set their career back. When it is time to re-enter the paid workforce, this reality really hits home. Many find re-entry to former career levels nearly impossible. However, all is not lost.

With a strategic plan and strong job search focus, it is possible to land a new job, even if you've been out of the workforce for several years.

Allison O'Kelly, CEO and founder of Mom Corps, suggests the following six steps to create your re-entry plan.

1. Evaluate what you want to do professionally. Perhaps you'd like to re-enter the workforce doing the same type of job you had before you left. Maybe your feelings about your profession have changed since you last worked and you'd prefer to shift into a new field or role. It's impossible to land a job before you have a clear vision of what you want to do; it's like trying to find a location without directions or a map. Spend time identifying your goals so you have a clear endpoint in mind.

2. Be sure you can commit to your choice personally. Are you prepared to make the expected sacrifices in your personal life to get the job done successfully? If there are long hours or travel involved, make sure you're prepared to manage those aspects of the position when you do land a job. It's not wise to decide to figure it out later. Plan ahead and apply for positions you know you would be happy doing. "Have realistic expectations and criteria for evaluating opportunities," O'Kelly says.

3. Understand your skills. Make a list of your expertise from previous jobs, community commitments and any volunteer work you've done. Narrow down your top skills and determine what words employers would use to find someone like you to hire. These keywords should populate your résumé and online profiles. "Don't forget to ask your friends to help you identify your strengths. Look for opportunities that match these skills," O'Kelly suggests.

4. Avoid time gaps on your résumé and online profiles. "Fill the gaps in your résumé with strategic volunteering and contract work," O'Kelly says. "Note the word 'strategic' -- look for opportunities that are relevant to the career you want to pursue or will help build skills you are lacking. Résumé gaps are better than irrelevant fluff."

5. Network. Never underestimate the value of every networking opportunity. Network at the grocery store, at the gym and at professional events. Don't bombard your friends with requests for referrals to jobs. Focus instead on letting people know you are ready to re-engage in the workforce. For example, let your friends know you're reading industry news and plugging back into your professional background. If you use Facebook, start posting links to work-related items. Use social media tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ to let your network know when you attend professional events and to share insights people who might want to hire you would appreciate.

5. Look for steppingstones. Sometimes, you need to take baby steps before you can run a marathon. "Your first job when you re-enter the workforce may not meet every single standard you desire, but look at its long-term potential and whether it will get you closer to your ideal career," O'Kelly explains. Incorporate growth potential as a factor when evaluating a possible job. Maybe it is a step or two back from where you'd like to be, but if the company is growing and you anticipate impressing your superiors, you'll be well on your way to a successful relaunch.

Re-entry doesn't have to be overly daunting. Be open to new and different opportunities to leverage your experience, skills and connections in a way that make sense for you, and you may find yourself back at work sooner than you think.

Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer, and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success and 100 Conversations for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to reach their goals.

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