Put some PEP into your job search

By Jeff Hasenfratz, Managing director, Mindsight Talent Management Services

This is the third article in a five-part series about career transitions

Strategic planning is needed for a return to the workplace

Are you looking to get back into the workforce after completing another degree, having a baby, or taking time out to see more of the world? Perhaps you decided to retire early, but found you had too much time on your hands? If so, your situation is becoming more and more common.

Let's assume that your planned re-entry to the world of work involves a return to the same industry in a full-time role. We'll also assume that you haven't "kept your hand in" by working part-time or keeping in close contact with a number of former colleagues.

After your break, you are fully energised, raring to go and confident that you can take the market by storm. You have probably convinced yourself that you can now bring your employer and clients a fresh perspective and give them the benefit of the new skills and knowledge picked up while you've been away from the daily routine of the workplace.

Fingers crossed, that's exactly what they will think too!

However, some potential employers may question your "market credibility". They may be wondering, and can be expected to ask, about how current your market knowledge is, how well clients and colleagues will accept you, and how sure they can be that you won't decide to take off again. Accept all of this and then focus on reaching a successful outcome by applying the PEP (Prepare Engage Persist) strategy.

Self-awareness is the key to any successful career transition strategy. If, after considering the options, you've chosen to go back to your previous industry, that's fine. If, though you're at all unsure, take the time you need to decide on the best direction.

Clearly, you'll want to get yourself up-to-date on industry and target company developments. Use your contacts and all the resources at your disposal to do this. Also, get introductions and support from industry friends and former colleagues who know your target companies. People who have successfully made the kind of re-entry you are planning are always a valuable source of information. Find them and talk to them.

In particular, "returning moms" should note that a company may see you coming back to a full-time role and not realise you still need occasional flexibility to attend to family matters during regular business hours. It's best to be clear about this in advance. I've known quite a few parents who do need such "life balance" flexibility and, if you're like them, make sure your target companies and preferred jobs offer this.

Perhaps you're a newly minted MBA or EMBA and, having studied abroad, are now heading back home to find work. If so, being considered as properly qualified for a job may not be your main challenge. Instead, a prospective employer may be more concerned about how well fellow employees without your academic credentials will accept you. They may also question the value of your "book learning" in a practical environment.

In such circumstances, you must show you are as willing to learn as to teach, to be confident yet humble. Especially when returning from further studies, concentrate on marketing business theories as "new ideas" or "suggestions" which will help everyone. This is the secret to a winning approach.

If you're a "returning retiree", some future colleagues, and even interviewers, may perceive you as a threat to their jobs. Therefore, it's best to make it clear you are not there to climb the corporate ladder, but to offer support based on your experience. This will increase your chance of being offered the job and, later on, fitting in with your new colleagues.

In order to be well prepared, update your personal marketing tools. Ensure that your CV reflects your experience, including what you have gained and can bring to the company from your time "on sabbatical". Practise your "telemarketing" pitch so that you can readily summarise your qualities when you call people to ask for information or interviews. Make sure you can answer succinctly the inevitable questions about why you left the job market and why you want to return.

Well, it's now or never! You need contacts and introductions, so start joining trade associations and attending events. Volunteer for speaking slots or committee work and identify trade journals to write for. Most importantly, begin to collect information about your target companies and their decision makers, and start asking for interviews. These will help you to get back into the swing of things and are another way of learning.

Even with the overall job market picking up, your re-entry may take longer than expected. Stick with your strategy and don't worry unnecessarily. Your focused approach, executed positively, persistently and politely, will result in success.

Jeff Hasenfratz ( is managing director of Mindsight Talent Management Services, a consultancy offering retention consulting, executive coaching, and dialogue management services in China. He is a Putonghua speaker and a lawyer by training.

Taken from Career Times 28 January 2005
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