8 Tips for Selling Yourself After You’ve Been Out of the Workforce
Embrace the gap.
It’s no surprise that women sometimes opt out of the workplace to take care of their families. According to a study from the Pew Research Center, 10 percent of highly educated mothers (with a Master’s degree or higher) are staying at home with their families. A 2014 survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 49 percent homemakers (often women) would be much more likely to work if they could work from home, and 31 percent would be much more likely to work if their job included childcare. Of course, those aren’t the only factors—often, women choose to stay at home because they don’t feel they have enough opportunities for growth at their current company (compared to their male counterparts).
While many remain stay-at-home moms, an estimated three million women are looking to reenter the workforce, according to Jennifer Gefsky, a co-founder of Après, a newly launched digital recruiting platform for women heading back to work. For these women, heading into an interview or crafting a resume can be an intimidating experience. We spoke to Gefsky and Fox Business Network anchor Cheryl Casone, author of The Comeback, about how women can confidently sell their skills, embrace the gap, and land the job.
This is Gefsky’s number one piece of advice: “The gap is there and you should not feel bad about it,” she says. “It's a good thing to stay home and care for your children or elderly parents; that shouldn't be viewed as a negative by a company.”
Cassone agrees: “Tell the truth,” she says. “There’s nothing wrong with being a mom. It’s not a vacation.”
“One of the mistakes that women reentering the workforce make is [thinking]: ‘They’re not going to ask me about that paper I wrote in college,’” says Gefsky. “Guess what? They might, so you better refresh your memory, and practice your answers looking in a mirror.” Gefsky says that, unfortunately, women reentering the workplace are often under more scrutiny than other prospective employees. Companies want to make sure you’re committed and ready to return, and up to speed on the latest technology advancements and industry expectations.
One of the most important ways women can prepare is to bolster their social media presence. Just like college graduates should consider cleaning up any party pictures, women returning to work should make sure they’re proficient in the latest social platforms—especially LinkedIn. Before you start interviewing, “you’ll want to start posting content that’s of interest in the sector that you’re looking to get back into,” Gefsky says. “Companies are going to look you up.” You’ll be able to better sell yourself if the interviewer knows you have been actively researching and engaging in your desired industry.
You can bring up time with your family if the employer asks. But remember that the job interview is an opportunity to discuss what you’re looking for in a career (while making sure to also emphasize the value you’ll bring to the company). Casone suggests phrases like: “I’m looking for new opportunities” or “I’m looking for new challenges” or “I want to be part of a team.” These sentiments, when personalized to the particular job, will demonstrate that you’re committed and ready to reenter the workforce.
While you can certainly sell yourself to an employer, it helps if you have a friend or old colleague who can put in a good word. “Networking is more important than the resume,” says Casone. You don’t have to be the most well connected person in the industry—you can find contacts on the PTA or in your child’s soccer league.
Even if you haven’t worked in an office for a few years, you’ve likely still honed important talents and skills any company would value. These include: multitasking, organization, budget management, and excellent people skills, to name a few. Both Casone and Gefsky agree that time spent on a volunteer board or on a fundraising team left you with many transferrable skills that you can spin in a workplace setting.
“There are women in my community that raise money for our school district that every employer out there would be thrilled to have because they are incredible,” says Gefsky. “They raise hundreds of thousands of dollars and they are complete go-getters and that's value to a company.”
What you say is just as important as what you do in an interview, says Casone, who believes body language is crucial to landing the job. “Eye contact is important,” she says, because it projects confidence. Make sure to keep your arms uncrossed and sit up straight with shoulders back. And don’t nod your head too much—that can actually project insecurity, says Casone.
You can't sell yourself to someone else until you are confident in your self. “Don’t have the attitude that they are doing you a favor by giving you a job,” says Casone. “Once you go back to work you’re going to be doing them the favor because you’re bringing skills to the workplace that a lot of people don’t have. Remember that.”