Women can find themselves having an extended break from work for many reasons such as becoming a parent, taking some time out to study, illness, or retrenchment. Some of these situations are the woman's choice while others are unplanned. Whether by choice or not, looking for a new role after an interruption to work can be daunting. Many women take on this challenge with reduced self-confidence and a fear that they have been de-skilled by their time away from work.
There's plenty of sound advice out there about how to best approach job search; treat it as a full-time job, establish a social media profile, find a mentor, develop a killer resume, practice your interview techniques and network network network. You know the drill. And for most women it is a drill. A long, slow, arduous journey of ups and downs, knock-backs, great interviews and interesting leads that go nowhere, and a telephone that just won't ring no matter how many times you check it.
If your self-esteem is already fragile to begin with, it's at risk of being pummeled by the job search process. A shredded ego is not going to have a positive impact on helping you land your dream job. So, how do you turn your job search into an affirming experience and use it an opportunity for development and growth?
Here are four tips that could help
- Remind yourself why you are awesome
Before you do anything else related to your job search, write an affirmation statement. This can be a paragraph, a whole page, or a couple of dot points that confirms why you deserve a fabulous job. Write down what you are good at, what achievements you are proud of, and what qualities make you awesome. This is a helpful start to shaping your resume, but also a positive point of reference when you are feeling defeated during your job search. Read it and re-read it and believe it.
- Learn something new
Learning is a very motivating experience and will give you a sense of accomplishment. It will help keep your skills and knowledge up to date, and you may be able to include it in your resume. It doesn't need to be formal or expensive. Read, go to a conference, do an online course, attend a lunchtime talk, or do some training. Think creatively and aim to learn something outside of your comfort zone. Pick a topic you've always been curious about but have never had the time to pursue. This can bring a new perspective to your area of expertise, or take you down a path you may not have considered before. It can also be a great way to expand your network. Check with your professional association, The Fetch and Eventbrite for interesting events for professionals in your city.
- You need a project
One of the frustrations of job search is feeling like you're on the usefulness scrapheap. This is pretty challenging if you are used to working in a demanding job where you tick off lots of achievements every day. You need a project to work towards so you can do something meaningful and rewarding. It need not be a big commitment of time, just something you find engaging. Ideally, choose a project that builds on your skills and experience. A well-chosen consultancy project will help you make connections with prospective employers and can enhance your resume. More importantly, it will make you feel good. If you can't find a paid gig, consider offering your consulting services on a probono basis. If consulting isn't your cup of tea, think about other projects that might inspire you. For example, interview someone whose job you aspire to and write it up as a guest post for a blog that relates to your profession or sector.
- Go social and have fun
You've set up your LinkedIn profile and got yourself a Twitter handle but you don't understand how to make it work for your job search. Yes, you can use social media to build your reputation, positioning and profile. However, if you approach it as a personal branding exercise it will be as joyless as re-writing your resume for the 28th time. Instead, treat it as an opportunity to connect and hang out with interesting people, and contribute to stimulating conversations. Social media is also a great listening post. If you keep your ear to the ground you will get useful insights into what individuals and organisations are talking about. This can help you shape an approach to them to pitch for work before a position gets advertised. Also, consider other ways to get more social. For example, spend a day a week in a co-working space. This will get you out the house and connecting with other professionals. You never know where these connections might lead.
Job search can be an affirming experience if you open yourself up to learning and doing new things and meeting new people. Treat it as a developmental opportunity and it will be much more rewarding. If you find it hard to stay positive and it is really getting you down, get some professional help: Beyond Blue
Justine Hyde is a senior executive, freelance writer and mum based in Melbourne.