Rip Van Winkle Would Be Shocked

by: Joanne Meehl

Today, I spoke with a woman who was referred to me, who has not held a corporate position since 1999. She was raising her daughters, then taking care of her aging parents. Now she wants to -- and needs to -- return to a salaried position.

Her career, until she left it, clustered into two areas.

Certainly re-entry is doable. Even with the 12-year gap, networking is key to her landing. But she has much work to do first.

So as I spoke with her, I found myself saying things like:

"Sure, you could return to either of your former fields, but as you may know, salaries have may not get near the pay you once had." (Her answer: "Really?" Then silence.)

And --

"Technologies have changed a lot since 1999." (She knows only parts of Microsoft Office.)

And --

"Are you familiar with the current issues in your field(s)? The trends, what people are talking about?" (Her answer: no.)

I was afraid to go on, out of fear that my answers would discourage her from even trying to get a job.

I recommended several activities for her, including a variety of sites where she could learn about salary levels today. But I asked her to also talk with at least 8 people currently in her former fields. "Ask them about the field, the industry, what's happened over the last 12 years, what is the technology they use today, what are the salaries, and so on."

She needed to do this to get somewhat caught up, and to get an orientation to 2011, and 2012. So she agreed.

Today, even two or three years away from your career is huge. The speed of change keeps accelerating.

But 10 or 12 years away? I wondered if she felt like Rip Van Winkle, waking up to overwhelming change.

No books or even web sites can update you. People who've been in the field a while can. If you're aiming for a re-entry, they're the people to talk with first. Check local professional associations, for example, for local members you can have coffee with. Keep them as part of your network and when you're ready with your resume and other job search marketing, connect with them again.

If you can show them you've done some homework, they'll be willing to help.


Have gaps? Want to re-enter the W-2 world? Contact Joanne.


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