How to Return to Work After a Career Break: A Master Class Featuring Prepare to Launch U

Returning to work after taking a career break can be nerve-wracking. Doing it during times of economic uncertainty can make your return even more intimidating. Have no fear: in a recent Master Class, we addressed the issue of returning to work in uncertain times with the help of the expert founders of Prepare to Launch U.

It was an amazing session, and we highly recommend watching in its entirety. If you missed it, or simply want a refresher, we're going to share the highlights and best tidbits of advice.

Meet the creators behind Prepare to Launch U

The session began with introductions to the co-founders of Prepare to Launch U, Susan Rietano Davey and Kelley Biskupiak. We got to learn about their impressive backgrounds and combined 40+ years of experience in helping moms and women navigate work-life transitions. This longevity has given them insight into all types of economic conditions: the good, the bad and the ugly. Their advice? You can make it work for you, no matter the conditions.

One thing that stands out about these amazing co-founders is their commitment to helping people navigate the complexities of returning to work not just professionally, but also personally. Let’s face it — going back to work after a pause is exciting, but it will come with a life adjustment. Susan and Kelley have been there, and they work to help their clients find true work-life integration.

3 things that will help you in today's market

Before doing the work of re-introducing yourself to the workforce, Susan and Kelley recommend familiarizing yourself with three foundations that can help you in uncertain economic climates. They include:

  • Understand economics 101: Learning how economic cycles work can help you know what to expect when.
  • Have exceptional "brand" clarity: Your personal brand helps you stand out. Make sure your message is razor sharp and crystal clear.
  • Be open to options and possibilities: Keep an open mind about what possibilities may lie ahead. Be creative in how you look at the job you're trying to land.

What is a hard times toolkit, and why should you have yours ready? 

The most important thing you can do in any economy or circumstances heading back to work is to check your mindset. Know your worth and, even more, understand how to project this confidence. Awareness is key — pay attention to how you talk to yourself. If you have a negative mindset, it will show, so take the time to bolster your positivity about your skills. Know and believe you have a lot to offer to any company.

"The reality is, whether you have a 3 year gap or if you have a 18 year gap, your skills, they still matter, and they still make a difference, and you really are never too old." - Kelley Biskupiak

It’s all about retraining your brain to make connections, finding the positive where you once saw negatives.

Understand your brand

Knowing who you are, what you offer, what you want, and what makes you different will go a long way in job hunting. Susan’s best advice? Be memorable.

"There are some people I interviewed and then two days later I forgot them, and others who I remember 15 years later. You want to be the memorable one." - Susan Rietano Davey

Anyone can learn to be memorable — the trick is understanding how to tell your story. Our brains are hardwired for story, meaning that we are better able to understand, retain, and relate to things that contain narrative elements. When you convey your brand through story, you are helping others connect with you and your experiences.

One approach that Susan and Kelley recommend trying is the STAR method — presenting the situation, tasks, action, results you achieved in a role or project. Steer away from using “we”; instead, use "I" to talk about what you accomplished.

Focus on your audience and who you want to reach 

Understanding how to tell your story is important. It’s also vital that you know how to best tell your story, and this begins with considering your audience. Your story is what it is and it will never change, but learning how to focus on the right details can be very effective.

For example, Susan and Kelley suggest starting with explaining how you loved your work and reiterating that it was a sacrifice to leave. Don’t hide your pause; be upfront about it and relay how it provided you with growth time. Then, share your excitement for the future.

Have a plan

To improve your chances of getting a hiring manager’s attention, always have a strategic plan. Build in tactics and set targets that align with your goals. According to Susan and Kelley, only 40-60% of jobs are ever posted, making the “hidden job market” the place to find opportunities. You can tap into this to find out where the need is. 

Susan and Kelley recommend utilizing your connections. Reach out to old colleagues and contacts, and find “connectors,” even if they’re not in your industry. You never know who might know someone who can help you! Make part of your plan being open to considering options, such as contingent work, internships or returnships.

Own your skills

The best thing you can do for yourself when returning to the workforce is to understand your value and find the best ways to show this. At The Mom Project, we encourage talent to demonstrate their “superpowers” to companies searching for talent. Knowing which superpowers you bring to the table can help you land the next position of your dreams. Share your superpowers with us today!

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