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The AIU blog shares ideas, information and tips aimed at helping you get ahead personally and professionally, with topics ranging from online learning success to career development.

Ask the Expert: Re-Entering the Workforce

Ask the Expert: AIU Career Services

“With the exception of a couple of temporary assignments, I’ve been out of work since 2010. I recently completed my MBA in Management. What methods would you suggest for me to try to re-enter the work environment?”

The question above, which came in through our “Ask the Career Services Expert” feature on Facebook, reflects a common challenge in today’s workforce. AIU Director of Career Services Tricia Sigler offers this advice:

Transitioning back into the workforce can be challenging. What many transitioners don’t realize is that the preparation for a career search can start even before you are ready to begin applying for positions. Keeping your professional skills active is an important factor in getting back in the workforce. By joining organizations or user groups, volunteering in the community and networking with professionals in your field, you are continuing to build your resume while taking time off work.

When you are ready to start applying for positions, you may want to consider a functional or combination resume format depending on your employment history. If you have experience in the field you are applying in, a combination resume may work well. This style of resume not only provides detail on the different positions you’ve held, but also provides a more in-depth overview of your skills as it relates to your career goals. Using this format, all of the more recent volunteer work and user group meetings you’ve been participating in can easily be showcased to employers.

If you lack experience in the field to which you are applying, a functional resume may be the key. Functional resumes highlight your skill sets that relate to the position you are applying for and place less emphasis on your work history. Whatever resume format you decide to move forward with, make sure your resume has keywords that mirror the job description so you are not automatically screened out by a recruiter or applicant tracking system.

As you apply for positions, it’s important to keep three things in mind:

1) Don’t sit and wait on employers to call you. Do your part in following up on your application with the employer. A quick call to the company to confirm they received your application can be the start of a great conversation! Not only can this help you get an update on where they are in the hiring process, but it also may move your resume up on the list since your name would be fresh in their mind.

2) Use your resources. Please, please, please don’t rely solely on online job boards! These are a great starting point, but you need to do more. Let others know you are trying to re-enter the workforce. Networking can give you insight on positions that are not posted online. You can also provide your resume to your network for them to pass along to hiring managers or recruiters for consideration.

3) Be patient. You’ve made a major decision to re-enter the workforce, and you are more than likely excited and nervous at the same time. Conducting a career search take a lot of time and effort. It is rare for someone to get hired off of a single application or interview. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 34% of unemployed job seekers find employment in less than 5 weeks . So try not to get frustrated with your career search and keep moving forward! Diligence and motivation will be some of your best allies in your search.

Tricia Sigler is Director of Career Services at AIU.