If You Want to Get Back Into the Game, You Gotta Learn the Rules…

…and most likely, the rules have changed.

One of the most humbling lessons I’ve learned in my most recent job search is this: I’m outdated. Yep, somehow the past ten years have melded together into one indistinguishable color, no matter how hard I try to keep them separated in my head – sort of like my boys’ Playdoh stash. A decade later – which feels like 10 years and 10 days all at once – I’m ready to dive headfirst into the unknown waters of the full-time working world. And of course I remember how to swim. But, look at everyone else in the pool gliding flawlessly, showing off these new strokes! Am I going to look like an idiot, flailing my arms in an effort to keep my head above water? Can I learn those new strokes, so I can move with the flow of the current?

The short answer is: yes. Of course I can! But, where do I even begin?

For me, the “new strokes” I needed to learn are in the social media arena. Of course, I have a Facebook and a LinkedIn account. Aside from posting my boys’ school photos, I hadn’t dabbled much in the social media world, let alone utilize it for business purposes. Until recently, I thought:

  • Only celebrities and other self-absorbed people used Twitter to “twitter” what they ate for lunch;
  • Only teenagers used YouTube to post videos of pranking their friends; and
  • Only crafty stay-at-home moms (which I’m NOT) used Pinterest to post Martha Stewart-like projects with details that make my head spin.

And what the hell is Reddit and Snapchat?

I’m sure that’s just scratching the surface of what’s out there. It seems like the amount of social media websites and apps are multiplying faster than Catholic rats.

So, how does a perfectly capable and seasoned professional – who’s sat on the bench for a while – get back into the game and keep up?

Here are just a few avenues to consider:

1. Setting up Informational Interviews First and foremost, you need to determine your end goal. Do you wish to return to the same field you were in – prior to your professional “hiatus” – but feel as if may not be attainable? Try setting up a meeting – preferably with a hiring manager in that particular field – and ask him or her about the qualifications of their ideal candidate for the particular position in which you are interested. The hiring manager may also be able to provide some insight into any continuing education courses you could take to bring yourself up to speed. Please note: you should reiterate your intentions for this meeting – it is NOT to solicit for a job; it’s merely to gather information and advice. Most people innately like to help others. Just make it clear that you have no other ulterior motives. If you make a good impression – and there happens to be an opening in this hiring manager’s department – BONUS! But go in with no other agenda, aside from heeding advice.

2. Volunteering Regardless of your occupation, chances are there’s a not-for-profit organization that would gladly accept your specific skill sets and talents. This will also give you an opportunity to hone in on some skills – and work some of those “muscles” that haven’t been flexed in a while. Keep in mind that volunteer work counts as work experience, too. Not to mention you’d get to expand your network and contribute to a worthy cause. Here are a couple of articles that discuss this in further detail: http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2012/04/04/how-volunteering-can-help-you-get-a-job

VolunteerMatch posts volunteer opportunities suiting various causes and professional backgrounds. www.volunteermatch.org

3. Joining an Organization That Caters to Your Particular Profession Recently, I joined the American Marketing Association. This allowed me to connect with other employed marketing professionals in the area – those who have been living and breathing the marketing world air and can possibly offer advice and/or a job lead. AMA also provides luncheons with guest speakers presenting various topics applicable to today’s marketers, as well as other free and discounted continuing education resources, webinars and seminars.

Not in Marketing? That’s OK. Bottom line – I’m certain other professional organizations offer a similar format. And yes, these organizations most likely involve a membership fee to access all of their resources. However – assuming you make a commitment to actually utilize these resources – I’m certain you’ll find it to be well worth the investment. Just like a gym membership – you actually have to go and sweat a little to see results.

This site offers a comprehensive list of professional organizations from just about every type of (legal) career and industry under the sun: http://www.weddles.com/associations/

Yeah, I know. Reigniting a dormant career can sometimes feel like stepping up to the starting line of a marathon, thinking: “I need to run how far?!? I know I’ve done this before, but I haven’t ran in so long!” It’s all about finding the courage to take that first step across the starting line. And in order to go the proverbial distance – I’ve found that breaking down the entire excursion into smaller, more manageable units makes it feel much more attainable. Start small if need be. Take those first baby steps. You’ll find the momentum to get there. Just make sure you’re consistently moving in the right direction.

Your Turn

Are you interested re-igniting a career that’s been dormant for a while? Or, have you had success in returning to the workforce? If so, what avenues have you found to be helpful?

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