If you’re thinking of re-launching your career after time away from work, this step-by-step guide from our top recruiters can help ease the transition.
Returning to work is daunting, whether you’ve been out of the workforce for two years or 20. To help you jump-start your search after an extended break, we asked recruiters at Morgan Stanley to share tips on how to get back into the workforce, something our Return to Work program has helped nearly 400 people do in nine cities across the globe since launching in 2014.
Think about what you want to prioritize: Greater personal fulfillment? Intellectual challenges? Learning opportunities? The salary and benefits? 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, including part-time roles. Identify which professional skills these positions leveraged. For example, running or participating in the local PTA or a religious organization's council board gave you management and leadership skills; raising funds for charities required sales and marketing savvy; caring for a child or aging parent helped build time management, organizational and listening skills.
Now that you have a good understanding of your professional skill set, including those skills gained while away from the workforce, determine which ones need a refresh. You might also cosider taking some courses at a local university or through a service like LinkedIn Learning if you're looking to transition into a new career.
Research any new-to-you technology tools and platforms, as well as updates to standard software programs that are used in your field of choice, and develop a basic-level understanding.. You might consider visiting an online learning site like 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 and corporate newsletters, such as Morgan Stanley's 5 Ideas financial newsletter. These communications will help keep you up to date on company news and connect you with free resources, networking opportunities and programs, such as Morgan Stanley’s Return to Work initiative. Build a LinkedIn profile to connect with professionals, find job listings and showcase your unique experience. You can also follow industry thought leaders on Twitter to familiarize yourself with news trends in fields that interest you.
There's no one-size-fits-all resume format, but it doesn’t hurt to look at a few different layouts and research advice on which ones are most approprite for roles in your industry. You can also consider the following tips:
- Be concise. If you’ve had an extensive career, focus on the highlights. 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
It's human nature to be nervous, but practicing for your interview will help enormously. Know your resume and have specifics ready to share so you don't stumble or provide vague responses. Come up with one or two achievements from your time at each of your previous employers and 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 each company's culture. Morgan Stanley, for example, seeks candidates who not only have the right skill set but also believe in our firm's core values.
Your time away from work is meaningful and helped shape who you are today. 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 while casting your exerience out of the workforce in the most compelling way possible. And if you are looking to broaden your horizons, present your previous experience, both traditional and not, as something that adds to your value as a candidate and be ready to demostrate your passion for moving into a new area.
Learn more about Morgan Stanley's Return to Work program.