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5 strategies to help you get back into the workforce after a career break

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Returning to work after a gap in employment can seem daunting.

While the Covid pandemic may leave you feeling even more overwhelmed, there is a silver lining. Remote jobs are becoming more common, growing more than 4.5 times since January 2020, according to LinkedIn.

"People now have access to opportunities that, in the past, weren't available to them because of geographical limitations," said Ada Yu, LinkedIn's product manager for careers.

While there are a variety of reasons to step away from work, caring for children is a big one — and it typically falls on women. Almost half of working moms take an extended break after childbirth, beyond their maternity leave allowance, a LinkedIn and Censuswide survey found last March. The average break is approximately two years.

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About 60% of mothers who returned to work after a career break said it was challenging to re-enter the workforce, and more than one-third said they struggled to get hired, according to the survey.

Here are five strategies to help you get back into the workforce.

1. Be confident

The most important thing to do when looking to return is to own the gap in your resume with confidence, said Stacey Delo, co- author of Your Turn: Careers, Kids and Comebacks — A Working Mother's Guide and CEO of Après, a website that provides career resources for women returning to the workforce.

"If you're confident in why you took the break, what you learned and now what you want to do next, others will be, too," she said.

2. Don't go it alone

Reach out to past colleagues, classmates and friends to let them know you are open to new opportunities. To alert recruiters, use LinkedIn's "open to work" feature.

"When it comes to your career, just one person opening the door can make all the difference," Yu said.

If you don't have a LinkedIn profile, it's time to start one, said Holland Haiis, a workplace strategist who works with women both returning to the workforce and looking to rise up in the ranks.

If you're confident in why you took the break, what you learned and now what you want to do next, others will be, too.
Stacey Delo
CEO of Après

When reaching out to new connections, personalize the reason you are connecting instead of just clicking the "connect" button.

"Make it relationship-driven, not transactional, even though you need some help," Haiis said.

3. Sell your skills

Don't sell yourself short — you've been using important skills during your break, whether it was in running the household budget, keeping the family organized or helping your child with virtual schooling or homework.

"Women with career gaps have incredible transferable skills, something employers tell us is a priority in hiring right now," Delo said.

"Employers know they can teach specific skills to their work, but transferable skills like good communication, team building and problem-solving skills are more difficult to teach."

You can also gain more knowledge by taking online courses online, such as the free ones from LinkedIn that can help you upskill, or taking continuing education classes at a local college.

4. Update your resume/CV

While there is nothing you can add to your employment history, you can add the aforementioned skills to a skills section on your resume or curriculum vitae. You can also talk about them in your cover letter, pre-screening call or interview when addressing the gap in your employment history, Haiis noted.

Covid-19 could erase years of progress for women: Women in the Workplace report
Covid-19 could erase years of progress for women: Women in the Workplace report

Also add any certifications or courses you've taken, as well as any volunteer work you've done.

Each time you apply for a job, tweak your resume so it is tailored to the specific role, and use keywords from the posting.

5. Be prepared

Research each company you apply to, including looking into its mission statement to see if its vision aligns with yours and how many women executives it has, Haiis suggested.

Also, research the interviewer and look for shared commonalities or connections that you can bring into the conversation. To get a sense of the work environment, the website Glassdoor can give you insight into who is happy or unhappy with the way they were treated at a specific company.

Even if you don't have an interview scheduled, do a mock interview with someone to help you organize your thoughts and get back into the flow of an interview, Haiis suggests.

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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.