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Insights: How to Get Your Career Back on Track after a Hiatus

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Question

Submitted by: WISE National member | 6-15 years professional experience

[My career hit a snag a couple of years ago. I was laid off from my job and spent the next three years in survival mode, working several jobs to stay afloat. I took a job in the fall because it was a solid, stable situation, but I'm miserable. I want to get my career back on track. I know I can't stay in my current role — there's no future. How can I get back on track without taking entry level jobs and starting all over again?]

Answer

A great question and one that many people face in the course of their working life. First, I would say this — don’t panic!

It can be really challenging when the career you set out to follow gets derailed for a period of time because of situations outside your control. My advice is to do the following:

  • Be clear about the skills and experience you have from current and prior roles and prepare your “elevator pitch.” This is the short statement that you can use during an interview to convince an employer that you have what they need.
  • Prepare a list of companies you want to target that are a good fit for your background.
  • Create a list of people within your network — e.g. colleagues, friends — whom you can reach out to who may be able to connect you to roles or companies you are interested in.

You say that your current job has no future. I am assuming that is because it is not in the field you want to be in? Still, if it is a stable role then stick with it while you map out your next move. It will keep paying your bills which is important, and give you a consistent/stable work history. Also, don’t discount the skills and experience you are gaining in the current job. Every role teaches us something, even if it doesn’t seem so at the time.

As for not wanting to take an entry level role to get back into your prefered job, don’t assume that is what you are going to have to do. It doesn’t have to mean that. Sometimes you have to go backwards to go forward, or step into a different role in the right company to provide you with an ability to move internally when the time is right. There are plenty of options. Don’t ignore those choices though; plenty of people have done that and ended up ultimately in the roles they wanted.

It all depends on the level of experience you have in your desired role. You can easily explain the layoff from a couple of years ago and having to work in roles outside your desired area in order to pay the bills. People understand that.

Don’t rely on job boards. Less than 20% of jobs are advertised. It’s all about who you know and networking your way into companies. Set up appointments. A 30-minute chat is all you need with people you think could help to talk through your background. Target people who are in the role you want and ask to meet them and ask them how they went about moving into that position.Ask about their background; people love to talk about themselves and how they got where they are. Ask them who they think you should meet. Try to come away with at least two names of people to contact if you can.

Finally, don’t forget to follow up with a thank you e-mail and stay in touch with them even after you get a job. People are more likely to help someone who is polite and has shown interest in them. These people are connected and will refer you to their network if you handle the meeting well, and will remember you for future opportunities.

Good luck!

Jane Hollman

About Jane Hollman

Jane Hollman has more than 25 years experience in senior human resources roles at large multinationals and sports across Asia Pacific and the United States. Currently a career coach, she helps business leaders and university students think through their career paths. Hollman is passionate about creating flexible, innovative work places and mentors women looking to start their own businesses. She is also a freelance writer covering the business of sports for publications such as Women Talking Sports.

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