If as a candidate you have taken a career break for any reason and are in the process of returning to the corporate world, the advantages of using the following 8 key things are multifold:
1] Updated market knowledge: One needs to do his/her homework and stay connected with what are the trends in the industry and domain that you are applying for. Being aware of the market dynamics, changes in the decision-making process and the people involved is essential. It is always a good idea to make a list of key people in the marketplace (customers, ex-employees) and revive old relationships by calling and/or meeting them to understand the dynamics before you start applying for jobs.
2] Resume with a customised Cover note: Because there has been a career break, the prospective employer will always have a psychological barrier and even being called for an interview might be a challenge. To overcome the hurdle, you need to do a lot of homework on each prospective employer, study their pain points and present yourself in terms of skills, domain knowledge and your experience as a solution provider. Your Resume has to emphasize your success stories and not focus on job responsibilities alone. It needs to be customised and each job application should also be fine-tuned as per requirement of each job.
3] LinkedIn Profile: It is critical to keep your LinkedIn profile updated, well written and acted. If not already done, start making your connections and keep your engagement active on the platform by contribution to relevant discussions. Research the relevant groups and become a member. With the advantage of a professional social media platform, it is easier to keep yourself up the breast of developments in your domain. Recommendations on LinkedIn for your ex-bosses, customers are useful too. Being active on LinkedIn with meaningful contribution creates a positive perception of being up to date with trends.
4] Interview: Three questions will always remain tricky to handle in an interview:
A] Why did you take a break? Honesty is the best policy here. If you are a female and your husband got transferred to another city or country, say so. If one wanted to give priority to parenting since you became a mother, please do mention it. If the company downsized and you were part of a number of people who were asked to leave, please share that. But remember, the art here is not keeping delving on the reason….. instead shift your focus of discussion on excitement for the prospective job by presenting points on how you can add value to the prospective employer.
B] What were you doing during the break? It is always a good idea to keep your skill sets honed in related areas. For example, if you are a young mother and had to attend to your baby, there could be options of making use of your analytical ability to handle your husband’s investments or finances, improving your hobby like dancing or singing, doing volunteer work, teaching yoga and so on. Or it could be some project-based assignment that you did. Creates a favourable impression. You could have taken up freelance consulting assignments which kept you active in the domain with success stories to share. Or if you have pursued any kind of further education, it helps. The point is to demonstrate that while you took a decision to stay away from the corporate workplace, you also kept yourself productively engaged. Again ………. steer the discussion in the direction of how your experience can help in taking care of the pain point of the employer.
C] Why do you want to return to the corporate? One needs to demonstrate with confidence that you are eager to put to use all the experience you gained over the years to a professional organisation and start contributing towards the role for your own job satisfaction. If downsizing was the reason for the break and you have been engaged in freelance or consulting assignments, it can be mentioned that you would now like to take up a career opportunity offering more stability. The concern of the employer would be that you may quit at the next available opportunity. Importantly you need to give the confidence to the employer that you are not looking at this break as a course correction. This is where you are doing in-depth homework on the company and presenting yourself as the most valuable candidate is critical.
5] Compensation: This is an area where most employers feel that they should pay a candidate as per the scale of the position applied for and not necessarily as per the last salary is drawn (say 1 year or 3 years back). As a candidate, it is advisable to keep the compensation part open for discussion and focus on the job profile and career prospects offered. Even it means taking a lower salary than what you earned last or lower than your expectations, keep the dialogue moving forward. Or else, you might be missing the woods for the trees. One can always cover up for the monetary loss over a 1 year period and get back on track. If there is a performance linked variable component in the job offer, it makes the employer feel comfortable working it out. Be open to negotiation of variable pay linked to performance. The biggest mistake candidates make is to get stuck to a specific figure of compensation expected and make that a deciding factor. Sometimes your being flexible on the compensation front can become a point in your favour as compared to other candidates if you have been able to excite the employer about you being the ‘right’ candidate.
6] Energy levels and enthusiasm: Low energy levels and a laid-back body language can seep in unconsciously in an interview when one has been away from work. And can be a major put off for employers. It is advisable to do a lot of homework and preparation on the company, job profile and one’s own ability (past achievements boost confidence) to handle the job and then appear for interviews with excitement, full of enthusiasm and high energy levels. Please remember, there is one thing more contagious than enthusiasm, and that is lack of it.
7] References& Certificates: Strong references from your ex-bosses and decision makers from the marketplace offer a positive influence on one’s candidature. To ensure that the references are of people with a high standing and repute in the organizations they are associated with. Also, be prepared for blind reference checks. Certificates of Appreciation add a lot in terms of building credibility.
8] Confidence in yourself: Last but not least, it goes without saying that confidence in your own abilities is the most important factor in LIFE. While one appreciates it is a challenge during such trying times, all effort needs to be made to keep it intact.
Keep these 8 things in mind and you are well on your way to a successful career leaving the break far behind.
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