The post for this week explores another key junction of career start over – reentering workforce after a gap in employment. As with other junctions of career start over we’ve examined on this blog, getting back into workforce after an exit is an ordeal. It’s particularly challenging for people who have exited for more than a year as prospective employers now analyze their skills as outdated. Agreed, in a world where everything changes with a speed of light, employers can’t necessarily be blamed for insisting on finding the big bang for their bucks.
In his recent interview with CNBC Squawk Box, Professor Alan Krueger, a Princeton University academic and a renowned economist with a rich profile in public service, echoes the problem of reentering workforce after a gap in employment.
( see the link here) Krueger is a brilliant man in that he offers what his decades of studies in economic theories could do, and equally recognizes perhaps the key panacea to the problem. He says people need to look into what communities can do to help.
Where I come from in Africa, people rarely connect monetary or public policy to the reason why they can’t get back into workforce knowing that making such connection is often a waste of time. In fact, they don’t have the luxury of government incentivizing employers through tax credits, and no community programs sponsored by the government and philanthropists to help people with their workforce needs. What people have, and often make use of the most, is the community.
The community of friends, families, places of worship, and other networks is, unfortunately, the only but highly efficient system. These networks largely control access to information on government jobs and other employment opportunities. Hence, you have to remain plugged in with the community or you risk survival. I’m not saying this is a better system because it’s not. If anything, it perpetuates nepotism, corruption and inequality. But neither does the system here a perfect one. Despite the so-called monetary policies and other stimulus packages, the gap between the 1% and 99% still remains wide.
Here is my point: to my African immigrant brothers and sisters living in the US, if you survive crossing over that sea and make it here, you could survive no matter what has caused your gap from workforce. Consider my suggestions below:
Be a part of a community and activate the system when it’s needed:
When you are out of workforce for family, health, economic, traveling or others reasons, begin your reentry by activating any of the networks listed below. You’ll be surprised how much of job leads you could get.
–Get connected: identify people with common values and goals and network with them. Remember, common values here don’t necessarily mean speaking the same language.
–Get involved in the community: attend your local community board events and other productive social gatherings (Caution here: keep a focus. Your goal is to network with others. Find ways to enrich others’ lives in a simple but an impactful way.
Don’t only keep contacts of friends you do grocery shopping with, but also get to:
-know your local imams, pastors, or other spiritual leaders as applicable.
-Know your children’ teachers and their school principals.
-Know the friends of your children and their parents/guardians.
-Know your boss and if possible your friends’ bosses.
-More importantly, politics is not always like it is back in Africa. Here you could actually visit your local elected leaders and talk to them. You could arrange to meet with each of those councilmen and women, assemblymen and women, district attorneys, senators, and other elected leaders you see on T.V. Do your research and know the ones that are representing your neighborhood/area. (Note: be sure to package a good reason for your visit or you’d only be talking to their staff every time you go. But even if this is the case, it’s a start.) To get relationship started around here, ask not what they could do for you, but what you could do for them.
Take a stock of all that you’ve done while you were away from workforce once you begin preparation to come back. There are two ways: First is to see if any of your activities during your gap align with the job you are looking for. If so package it accordingly. If not, be prepared to include it in your cover letter in a way that shows how much of value you’ll bring to the prospective employer. Second, if the activities outside of workforce do not align with the job you are seeking, check out my earlier posts on voluntary and involuntary terminations.
Plan a big comeback:
-You can’t afford to be dull when returning to workforce. You’ve got to be sharp. Come back big. Some folks in show business undergo all kinds of cosmetic surgery and other preps to have a strong comeback for a reason. Come back with your ‘A’ game.
Here are my suggestions for a big comeback:
-While your own comeback might not require any cosmetic surgery, you’ll need to renew your mind. Maintain the right mindset. There will be rejections. Don’t get easily discouraged. You’ll need a positive spirit to keep going.
-Explore all the community programs available that could help update and polish your skills. If there is none, you might need to do your research and invest your money to obtain such training. ( If you are in NYC, I can tell you there are a handful. You just have to find them). Email me if you are struggling finding one.
-Practice mock interviews, and revise all the interview etiquettes.
-Join the gatherings of professionals in your field and attend conferences.
-Let a friend in recruiting/HR critique your resume. You may also go to employment programs in the community for help. The flawless way of creating resume before you exited workforce might have significantly changed.
To encourage and to support readers comments, I’ve decided to post on another page the tips that formerly incarcerated candidates could use when entering into workforce. I look forward to rounding up these series of career start over next week with suggestions on how to start over when relocating to US from Africa and vice versa. Catch you next week.
Thanks for reading.