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Career Coaching by Former Fortune 500 Recruiters

Getting Back Into the Career Game

In the past three weeks, I’ve had three questions about career re-entry:

I had a high-level sales job but took seven years off to focus on family.  I’ve done some non-profit volunteer work.  How do I get back to for-profit and paid?

I sold my company and have been consulting part-time since.  How do I ramp back up to a full-time career?

I retired but want to come back.  How do I start?

Career re-entry is similar to career change in that you are moving into a substantially different circumstance for where you are now.  In the case of career changes, sometimes you change the industry:  the stay at home mom in the above example is moving from education where she has done most of her volunteer work to luxury goods where her target re-entry will be.  Sometimes you change the function:  the company founder went from CEO to consultant and wants to go into investments.  Sometimes you change the geography:  the retiree is coming back to a similar position but is launching a national search and open to relocation.

In all cases, you want to clearly demonstrate how your value translates from one circumstance to the next.  The added challenge for career re-entrants is they sometimes don’t recognize their value and downplay their accomplishments.  While I don’t suggest that you say you were a paid consultant when you volunteered or that you worked full-time when you didn’t, I strongly suggest that you focus on achievement and not pay or process.  For the non-profit volunteer, this means highlighting money raised, events organized, or other specific tangible examples of your value.  For the company founder, this means highlighting the lessons learned from building and selling the company, not just the most recent consulting.

You will need to demonstrate that your skills are current for today’s marketplace.  For the retiree who is returning to asset management, he needs to have been following the markets.  If he’s managed his portfolio since retiring, that’s another clear example that he’s stayed in the game.  The non-profit volunteer needs to know the luxury goods business and specifically identify what department and what role she is targeting (in the language that the target sector understands).

In sum, if you are a career re-entrant, you need to build the bridge from your current spot to where you want to go.  Like the career changer, it is not up to the target company to figure out how your skills translate.  You identify how your skills translate, you position yourself accordingly for the new career, and you give tangible proof that you are already effectively doing the job.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career expert, writer, speaker and co-founder of SixFigureStart (www.sixfigurestart.com), a career coaching firm comprised of former Fortune 500 recruiters.  Caroline is a co-author (along with Donald Trump, Jack Canfield and others) of the upcoming “How the Fierce Handle Fear: Secrets to Succeeding in Challenging Times” due out March 2010; Bascom Hill Books.  Formerly in corporate HR and retained search, Caroline most recently headed University Relations for Time Inc and has also recruited for Accenture, Citibank, Disney ABC, and others.  Caroline is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Professional Development at Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs, a life coach (www.thinkasinc.com) and a columnist for CNBC.com, Conde Nast’s Portfolio.com, Vault.com, Wetfeet.com and TheGlassHammer.com.


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4 Responses

  1. A great example of ways to focus on achievement is to look at the numbers. I had a roommate that was underwriting insurance, but was moving to another job. His original draft of his resume showed him underwriting $10M in loans per month. Remembering that the goal of a resume is to communicate the truths that make you look better than the competition he changed that to $100M+ per year. While they meant the same thing, the level of trust his employers had in him was better communicated.

  2. Thanks for the comment Jeffrey! It’s a great point — recruiters/ employers love numbers because they give a tangible sense of the scope and scale.

  3. John says:

    Very good post. In today’s world people can just work on the internet if they got the right marketing skills office careers are fading!

  4. Thanks for the comment, John! It is true that there are many options to return to work — telecommuting v. brick and mortar is just one example and a good one to point out. People more routinely change entire careers several times in their lifetime. The possibilities are broader for those willing to craft exactly what they want.

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