How to Market Yourself into a Meaningful Job after Years Out of the Labor Market

How to Market Yourself into a Meaningful Job after Years Out of the Labor MarketIn honor of Mother’s Day and in response to a reader’s recent question, I’d like to outline an approach for parents and others who are trying to return to work after a long stint of unemployment or unpaid “employment” (raising kids, care-taking a loved one, etc.). This is a very important issue and one that, unfortunately, some resume writers shy away from since it presents a significant challenge to position someone as marketable when they’ve been out of the paid workforce for a while.

I’ll present 3 sets of suggestions in this article: resume-writing guidelines, LinkedIn profile-writing ideas, and job search strategies, each of which play a role in helping folks in these circumstances (women and men) to return to work on their terms.

Resume-Writing Tips

  • As with a resume, you will first need to decide on your career goal and sculpt your content around the types and levels of job titles you plan to pursue.
  • Identify the top 10-12 key words in your target industry and match any prior experience you possess which aligns with these skills. If necessary, reword your prior experience to use today’s key terms. For example, if you were a Clerk Typist once upon a time, use a more modern title such as Keyboardist or Administrative Assistant instead, and use several of your newly selected key words to describe your job functions.
  • Identify as many achievements as you can for your previous work history. If your prior accomplishments relate to the type of work you want to do next, select 3-4 to highlight in your resume’s summary.
  • Review your experience during your absence from the labor market. What have you been doing which is worth showcasing to employers? Don’t put these items on your resume yet – just jot them down for now.
    • List your volunteer work and include titles as you would for a paid position. Showcase your achievements as you would for a paid job.
    • If you have been active in professional, social, or civic organizations, list them as well. Note any projects or initiatives you worked on and any roles you’ve had in events or fundraising, if relevant.
    • If you completed any coursework, certifications, licensure, or updates to your education during this period, make sure those are captured on your resume.
    • If you initiated any self-study during your period away from paid work, describe it in terms that relate to your career goal, if possible.
    • If you have been caring for children, homeschooling kids, or care-taking elders, these are all experiences which can and should be “translated” into jobs with titles, brief descriptions, and accomplishments.
  • Consider the kind of resume structure and format you may need to best highlight your experience and tell your career story. While a hybrid or combination resume format is often suggested for folks in these circumstances, that type of resume is frowned upon by recruiters in the Midwestern US. On either US coast, however, a combination resume may work for you. Note that a hybrid resume includes a listing of your older experience with dates yet categorizes your achievements in separate section.
  • Depending on how many things you’ve done in recent years that can be “translated” into job-related language, you may be best served by grouping your recent experience into one or more listings that summarize multiple roles or initiatives. If you’ve done a lot of volunteer work, for example, you may want to group it all together, so it stands out more. And if you’ve held multiple part-time jobs, you may want to do something similar, rather than listing those roles individually, which may inadvertently make you look like a job hopper.
  • If you haven’t been engaged in activities outside the home since as volunteer work or education, now is the time to collect resume-building experience. One option is to work for a temp service, so you can update your skills.


LinkedIn Profile-Writing Tips

  • Both your resume and your LinkedIn profile should be age-proofed, which means you will need to identify education and employment dates which need to be removed from both documents.
  • If your prior work experience pre-dates the year 2000, you may want to avoid listing it directly in your Experience section, as doing so may cause your profile (and resume) to be overlooked by Applicant Tracking Systems. You may be better served to showcase your prior experience in a more creative way such as including it in your summary or embedding it within another job description. If you choose the latter route, make sure you label your prior experience as such and include the same kinds of details you would if you listed it like you other jobs.
  • Craft a headline that includes your career goal(s), key skills, a primary achievement, and/or your geographic location, keeping the 120-character count limit in mind.
  • Include your target key words in as many locations on your profile as you legitimately can. This may include your summary, your headline, and your experience, skills, education, and optional sections. If you have obtained a degree or certification during your absence from the labor market, make sure you include relevant skills or coursework.


Job Search Tips

  • Applying for jobs online will tend to put your candidacy at a distinct disadvantage. Networking is a much better job search strategy for you, along with company targeting (building connections within targeted local companies and leveraging those connections to get your foot in the door).
  • Since you’ve been out of the market for a while, it’s imperative that you update and improve your networking skills. Attend local events of relevant professional, social, and civic organizations so you can gain experience with face-to-face networking.
  • Unless you’re looking for blue collar or entry-level roles, you will benefit from not just having a LinkedIn profile, but using it to flush out your network and deepen your connections to folks in your local job market. This may mean joining LinkedIn groups and following the company profiles of local employers.

While plotting a return-to-work after a labor market absence can be a tricky thing, it’s not impossible. If your budget allows for professional support, a career or job search coach or a master resume writer would all be helpful. But if your budget is limited, there is a ton of helpful information, insight, and how-tos on the internet.

Age-proofing your resume and/or LinkedIn profile can be tricky ~ is yours ready for prime time? If you need guidance, schedule your no-cost, no-obligation career consultation today.