1.      What’s your biggest tip for someone looking to re-enter the workforce post-COVID?

Future proof your career choice.  We’re all hoping for a return to “normal”, however the COVID experience has changed consumer behaviour.  This has decimated some industries and created a boom in others.  Do your research. Depending on your skill set and experience, you may well fare better targeting jobs considered to be ‘in demand’ in the post-covid era. Taking advantage of skill shortages in other areas or free/subsidized re-training opportunities could give you a significant boost in entering a new sector. This silver lining in the COVID cloud could be the opportunity to embark on a career change.

However, if you’re seeking re-entry to the same role you were let go/furloughed from last year – be honest with yourself. Keep your expectations for re-entry realistic. You’ve been out of the workforce for an extended period of time, now is not the time to be looking for career advancement or bumper pay increases. If the aim is to re-enter to that same role, you may find yourself in a dog-fight with many other people in a similar position. As always, you must be ready to articulate the value you can add to your target employer.

2.What are some resume-related and networking tips that might help? How can people get their resumes ready?

Top 2 tips for getting your resume into tip-top shape:

#1 – Your resume is a sales document!  If it’s not, it needs to be. Turn your resume into a clear, concise, and well-structured document that “sells” your skills and experience. Sit down and identify all those instances where you were able to add value to your previous employers.  These could be instances where you saved money, helped increase revenue, improved office productivity, or identified an opportunity to enhance the efficiency of a system or process.  Examples like that help recruiters appreciate the type of added value you could bring to their company.

#2: You must show the employer that you actually have the skills and experience they are looking for.  To do that, study the job description of the role you are applying for.  Have you performed those same duties & responsibilities in previous positions?  If so, do you have that content listed on your resume?  If not, get it on there.  Many mid-large size organization and government agencies are using Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to scan resumes looking for keyword matches to their job description.  If you want to get past that automated system, you need to show it you have performed the activity listed in the job description and have the qualifications they ask for.

For Networking: Get your resume in order, then identify the type of role/company you want to target.  Leverage your own network, use tools such as LinkedIn, or embark on a ‘cold calling’ exercise to find the names of the people responsible for recruiting or to whom you would be reporting.  Reach out, ask for advice on how to get a start with their company or what they would recommend you do to build a career in that sector.  If you’re comfortable in doing so and it is safe to do so, perhaps consider requesting a brief meeting to introduce yourself. Bring your resume.  Don’t put yourself or them on the spot – tell them to hold on to it in case something suitable comes up.

3       When it comes to interviewing, what are your tips for women looking to explain their year off at home? How can they talk about it in a professional way?

Explaining a year-off in 2020 could be one of the easiest employment gaps to explain away because we’ve all lived through a global event that has decimated many jobs, entire sectors, and debilitated whole nations. So, you can tell the truth.  If you were let go, furloughed, made redundant as the company went under, unfortunately not many people would be surprised to hear it.  Remember – it’s not your fault! You were a victim of circumstance that we can all see and fully understand.  Explaining the year off shouldn’t be too hard, it’s selling yourself back into a competitive market that’s the real challenge.

4       How should these people approach salary expectations? How can they highlight new skills they may have gained over the past year, like the ability to work from home?

We all have a ‘number’ in mind for salary, that number you just won’t go below because you can’t. That’s the number to use for a re-entry scenario. If you would like more, consider using that base number as a starting point with try to negotiate a built-in upside/bonus structure based directly on performance and company profitability.

If you’ve taken new courses during your year away, they are worth highlighting.  In terms of new skills, have you really acquired ‘marketable’ skills while you’ve been away?  It’s one thing to show you kept busy during the past year, but if they’re not particularly marketable skills or pale in comparison to the skills used in the work you used to do or expected by the company, I’d suggest not placing too much emphasis on those.  If they’re marketable, then figure out the ways in which those skills could add value to the company you are interviewing with and make sure they know it.

5       Any particulars you think employers might be asking for that would make a job candidate more appealing?

Professional Versatility – In the current COVID/post-COVID climate, an ability or willingness to skillfully adapt and respond to changing circumstances in a clear-headed and professional manner would certainly be of value. 

Innovative/Strategic Mindset: Things are going to be up and down for a while in many sectors. As such many employers could really make use of people who can ‘think outside the box’ and come up with ideas and/or solutions to problems faced by the company to make sure the company itself survives during these highly uncertain times.

6       What career fields do you think will be the most on-demand after all this? Which ones won’t be? For someone considering a career change, do you have any recommendations?

As consumer habits change in favour of limited physical contact, the impact on the employment market could be far reaching. In the current climate demand for staff in industries such as healthcare (essential workers), fitness (personal trainers/home work-out products and equipment), warehouse personnel (home delivery) and software engineering (remote working/digital entertainment/contact tracing apps) appear to be rising. Other jobs likely to rise could be seen in robotics, data science, online tutoring, and customer service representative positions.

Jobs that may continue to suffer if this cycle of “lockdowns” continue are likely to be found in tourism, arts & entertainment, retail, and hospitality due to the current travel restrictions and prohibition of live shows and exhibits.

7       Any final bit of advice for women re-entering the workforce this year?

As with any type of re-entry, get your marketing materials (resume, cover letter & LinkedIn profile) ready to “sell” your skills and experience, and be ready to articulate the value you bring to the target company during your interview.

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