Reentering the workforce can be a challenge no matter how good your excuse is: volunteering, working or studying abroad, starting a family, caring for a sick relative or coping with your own illness, or investing in your future by completing a graduate degree.
Your search can be made more difficult by the poor economy and a bias against people who have large gaps in their work history. Your return to work can even be hampered by your own fears or your subtle (or not-so-subtle) wish that you didn't actually have to buck up and get a job.
But don't worry, you can do it! With these tips, reentering the work world will be a breeze.
Begin updating your skills before you start to look for a job: If you can, start padding your resume a few months before you want to start looking for a job. Volunteer, take an online course, investigate internships -- do anything that can help fill gaps and reboot your life and resume.
Create a resume that is functional rather than chronological: Focus on your skills and successes rather than the precise dates of your employment. Create headings like "marketing experience," "sales successes" or "benchmarks met" and then list your achievements accordingly.
Put yourself out there: After spending all that time updating your resume, make sure it will be found by uploading it to a job-matching engine like Monster.com. Monster has invested heavily in tech innovation, so your job search there will no longer yield hundreds of "so-so" options, but rather a handful of very precise options tailored exactly to what you're looking for.
Be bold. A killer resume may not be enough: To land a great interview, you may have to take the phone into your own hands. Consider making polite and focused calls to companies you are interested in or HR departments. Inquire about jobs you saw posted online, express your interest and ask for an interview. Making a good personal connection might help move your resume to the top of the pile.
Seek advice and take it humbly: Now is the time to listen to your wise friends who are gainfully employed. Have your cronies eyeball your resume, read your cover letter, give you tips on networking and help you practice your interview skills. If you feel like you're in need of a self-esteem boost, take a trusted friend shopping to help you pick out an interview outfit that will make you feel sophisticated and professional.
Be an interview superstar: When you land an interview, arrive ready to outshine the competition. If asked about it, discuss your time away briefly. Don't get bogged down in the details of your year in Belize or become emotional about a loved one's illness. Emphasize your skills and work ethic rather than your time away. Sell yourself as a blank slate ready to jump in and work hard in a new work environment. If it makes sense, draw concrete conclusions between the job you're interviewing for and the things you learned while coping with real-life situations (travel, illness, graduate school) that the competition may not have had to deal with.
Be open to new experiences: The reality of reentering the work world is that you might have to make some compromises. Be open to part-time, project or contract work. These short-term jobs often provide great experience and contacts that can help you land a job that is a perfect fit for you and all of the experiences you bring to the table.
Career expert and best-selling author of Girl on Top, Nicole Williams is redefining the world of work -- making it glamorous, entertaining and relevant to modern women. Nicole founded WORKS by Nicole Williams in 2006 with the vision of building the first media and content company focused on career development specifically for the highly dynamic and powerful market of young professional women. Her Web site, Nicolewilliams.com, is the go-to destination site for modern working women.