3 steps to take if you’re returning to the workforce after being away for years

3 steps to take if you're returning to the workforce

3 steps to take if you’re returning to the workforce

I just retired from the military, and the biggest obstacle I’m still trying to get over is: What kind of job am I looking for? That’s kind of a problem because establishing a goal is hard when you don’t have a specific objective. I’ve been looking through job pages and coming up with ideas of what’s available, but some of it is Greek to me and/or I’m not sure if I fit the bill.

Advice from Dana

This is a great question and appropriate for any career-changer, including retired and returning military, mothers (and fathers) returning to the workforce, and all professionals reinventing themselves. Here are three main steps you can take:

1. Focus less on what’s available and more about what knowledge, skills and abilities you have and the type of work you want to do:

  • Knowledge: a body of information you know such as human resources, regulations or technical information.
  • Skill: the proficient manual, verbal or mental manipulation of data or things. For example, having skill with operating personal computers.
  • Ability: the power or capacity to perform an activity or task. For example, having the ability to use a variety of laboratory instruments.

2. Understand the roles and careers that match your background. There are so many great, free resources on the Web. Do a search for “matching skills to jobs” and you’ll find many. One is careeronestop.org, a site sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, where you’ll find self-assessment tools.

3. Once you have narrowed the possible jobs, functions and corporate departments that fit your skill set, you are ready to look at multiple job descriptions. I recommend creating a “Job Description Profile” for each job description you have selected. Make a two-column table in Word or Excel. In the left column, list the requirements of the job, one by one. Now, on the right, list your knowledge, skills and abilities, including specific experiences that match the item on the left. When you feel comfortable with your matching descriptions, you are ready to apply!

Just as important is to connect with people doing the jobs that you may want to do. Your highest priority should be face-to-face networking in the industry or business function you want to work in. When was the last business networking function you went to? Look for people in the jobs you are exploring, ask them questions, and visit them in their offices.


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