Whether you’ve been caring for an aging relative or enjoying some well deserved R&R, you’ll encounter a mountain of resistance if you attempt to re-enter the IT workforce without a strategic plan. IT professionals face unique re-entry challenges because of the rapid changes in technology and employers may be skeptical about your ability to regain your prior form. After all, Tiger Woods continues to struggle and he was only away from pro golf for about 20 weeks. Here are some tips to get you ready.
Prepare for Re-Entry: Research the latest trends and create a list of skills and competencies that employers are demanding. But you’ll also need a network of staunch supporters, because it’s very difficult to re-enter the workforce without references, referrals and moral support. Employers may give you a chance if you’re referred by someone they know and trust.
Why not kill two birds with one stone by connecting with former managers, professors and colleagues as part of your research project in addition to attending meet-ups, conferences and trade shows?
Once you’ve done your homework, map your skills to the current job requirements and close problematic gaps through webinars, boot camps and by earning certifications. Remember that acquiring new skills will not only boost your confidence, but provide updated experience for your resume.
Instead of trying to reclaim your previous title and role, put aside your ego and try a new career. For example, it may be difficult to work your way back into a development role because of technology and market changes. But targeting project or vendor management might be the best way to capitalize on your leadership and communication skills and vast project experience.
“People are like rats because they keep running up the tunnel after the cheese, when they should be trying something different,” said Patti Wilson, managing principal of The Career Company, a career coaching firm based in the Silicon Valley.
Wilson cites a former IT manager who finally became a successful consultant after abandoning his original search for a similar position, then blogging about his technical solutions and working the speaker’s circuit.
Develop a Strategy: High-profile companies are flooded with resumes from IT candidates who are actively employed. Blindly submitting resumes will be futile. So work your referrals and target small- to mid-size companies or non-glamorous industries that are willing to consider non-traditional candidates.
Consider an internship, contract work or apprentice under a former boss. You’ll not only update your technical skills but allay employer fears about your lack of recent work experience.
“Volunteer to work a couple of short-term projects for free,” advised Wilson. “Do anything you can to get your foot in the door and acquire recent experience.”
Anticipate Objections: When you’re ready to write your resume, remember that a functional or blended format is best for re-entering professionals, but since some employers will only consider a chronological work history, take a proactive approach by placing recent courses, internships or volunteer projects at the top of the section and offering a brief reason for your extended hiatus.
But don’t ramble when the subject arises during interviews, provide a short explanation then focus on why you’re ready to return to the workplace. Ask former colleagues to vouch for your character and work ethic because the IT manager will be wondering if you’ll head for the door the minute the going gets tough.
Be Flexible: You may need to take a transitional job to segue back into the workplace or accept part-time work or a contract-to-hire gig. But as long as you remain flexible and persevere, you’ll get there.