Re-Entering the Job Market

You left the IT profession a while ago, perhaps to raise a family, take a sabbatical or care for a relative, and now you’re ready to return. You’re excited about getting back into the workforce but also recognize it might not be easy. With no recent work experience, you wonder whether you’ll even receive responses from employers, let alone attractive job offers.

Although re-entering the job market might have its share of challenges (as all employment searches can), it doesn’t have to be an uphill battle. Taking steps to prepare for your transition and enhance your marketability can greatly affect your chances of securing a new IT position. Here are five critical steps to take:

1. Self-audit your skills. It doesn’t take long for technology expertise to become outdated, so make sure your talents are still in demand. Reading publications such as this one is a great way to learn of developments that have taken place since you left the profession and can help you identify any weaknesses that might affect your chances of finding a job.

As you evaluate your assets and liabilities, don’t forget to take into account any abilities you have gained during your time away from IT. For example, you might have developed leadership and communication skills serving as the head of a school parent-teacher association or become an expert in multitasking and team building through volunteer work. The knowledge and experience derived from such endeavors are valuable, regardless of whether you were paid for the job, and are worth listing on your resume.

2. Fill in any gaps. Do you have expired or outdated certifications? It might be advantageous to earn new ones that are coveted in your desired specialty. Although accreditations won’t guarantee you an easy search, they’ll show you have kept your expertise current and remain committed to learning — both of which can help you get your foot in the door for an interview.

Also, consider taking college courses or attending workshops and seminars to brush up your knowledge. Most IT associations offer learning opportunities through local and national meetings, so it’s worth investigating what’s available in your area.

3. Create a stellar resume. Your resume is a deal maker — or breaker. It determines whether you’ll get a call from a prospective employer, so make sure your document doesn’t scream, “Outdated skill set with no recent experience!” Format your resume to emphasize abilities over chronology. Don’t try to hide gaps in employment. Rather, focus on the aspects of your background of greatest interest to hiring managers. Then, be ready to answer questions about your time off if a hiring manager asks about it during an interview.

Make it easy for those screening resumes to see you have valuable technical expertise by creating a special section that lists your knowledge of particular hardware and software. Just be sure you reference technologies in use, or you’ll seem out of touch with recent trends.

4. Tap into your network. When you’re ready to return to the workforce, inform everyone you know. You might be surprised at who has valuable contacts, so don’t overlook people with no clear connection to IT. Your neighbor who’s a retired librarian might know a local firm’s chief information officer and be able to make a personal introduction. A simple mention of your job search can lead to your ideal opportunity.

5. Research job possibilities. Scan online and offline job postings and talk to recruiters to learn more about what employers are looking for in candidates. Also, review salary studies and government reports to get a sense of current compensation trends, so you’re prepared to negotiate salary when the time comes.

Additionally, you can broaden your job hunt beyond full-time positions and consider project-based roles as you relaunch your career. Short-term jobs can ease the transition back to work and allow you to evaluate prospective employers before committing to a full-time position.

Re-entering the job market can take a while. You might have to make an extra effort to convince employers that you’re capable of succeeding in today’s demanding IT positions. But with a well-written resume, marketable skills and positive mindset, you might find that hiring managers are receptive to learning more about what you have to offer.

Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. She can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.

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