Office Hours: How to Convey That You're Not Irrelevant, Despite Taking Years Off of Work

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May 22, 2024 at 1:24AM UTC
Welcome to Office Hours. We're so glad you dropped by. This new column is an initiative of The Fine Line and Fairygodboss created to address the career questions of women 40 and older. The Fine Line is a lifestyle publication that provides cutting-edge guidance and practical resources for women who are redefining what it means to grow older.
Each month, a Fairygodboss expert will answer a question from one of our readers. If you have a question about finding a job, starting a new career, or an issue in the workplace, please write us at [email protected].

Q: I took 20 years off to raise my kids, and now I’m ready to get back into the workforce. What’s the best way to convey that I am not irrelevant?

A: So you took some time off — OK, two decades off — to raise a family. Kudos to you! That’s a tough job. Unfortunately, it’s not one you can put on your resume. That said, though your workplace experience might be 20 years old, it doesn’t necessarily render it irrelevant. You’re not alone in wanting to get back into the workforce, and you can tailor your resume to look as though you’d never skipped a beat. All it takes is fleshing out your previous experiences, projects, volunteer work, and anything else that shows you know how to commit to something and do your best.
The first, most important thing you need to know is whyyou’re getting back in the workforce. Have a good reason — though an income is a motivator, employers want to know that you truly want to work for reasons beyond a paycheck. The second most important thing is to be honest about your employment gap: You raised a family, and you should be proud of that. Now you’re looking to get back in the game, and you’ve got the commitment and drive employers are looking for.
As for your experiences, yes, they’re dated. But think about what you’ve done in the last 20 years. Did you help friends with their small businesses? Did you volunteer consistently for a cause you are passionate about? Did you participate at your child’s school? You’ve surely done something in the last two decades that built skills that can be applicable in the workplace.
There are also some simple steps you can take to jump back in. Assess your talents and apply to jobs that could use those skills. Take classes and go to seminars that can help you brush up on professional skills. And market yourself. Be your own advocate and let people know that you’re skilled and looking for a job. Networking is key. Talk to the people you know — and the people they know — about your job search. You never know who may know someone looking to fill a position.
If you still fall short when thinking of experiences, consider trying a re-entry program. Some larger companies like PepsiCo and Fitch Ratings offer programs that help women who took time off get back to business. You might also consider temp and part-time work to get some recent experience for your resume before diving into a full-time job search.
If you have a question about finding a job, starting a new career, or an issue in the workplace, please write us at [email protected].

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