There are various reasons people may stay out of the workplace- from caring for family as stay-at-home parents to disabilities or illnesses. Whatever the reason, for many, a time comes when they are ready to make the plunge, but feel highly anxious at the same time. Needless to say, when you have been out of the workforce for so long you may feel you’ve forgotten what it’s like, don’t fully know what’s changed, and are unsure of whether YOU have what it takes to hit the ground running.
The good news is actually in the popular saying the older you get, the wiser you get. The number one thing, before even job searching, applying, and writing cover letters, is to develop confidence in yourself. You may have been out of the workforce for some time, but you were most likely not in hibernation. Life is your greatest teacher. Just going about your daily tasks for years on end means you subconsciously developed and perfected certain skills. When you set out to return to the workforce you need to identify what these skills and experiences are and how you can make the most out of them in relation to your job search. Do you have a hobby? Did you take any courses or workshops (online or in-person)? Did you volunteer some place or at an event? Volunteering could even include what you informally do within your own circle of family and friends, such as tutoring, organizing fun nights, group trips, etc.
Make A List
Once you have a list of experiences you can highlight, determine how you can make a connection between those skills and what would be your job responsibilities for the positions you are eyeing. For example, a big skill for many people returning to the workplace is organization. And of course, for any job, being organized is a key factor to being successful. Did you manage all our family members’ different schedules? What tools did you use? Many people nowadays use various apps to manage their time. Anything technology related gets a thumbs up. If you’re not very tech-savvy, don’t fret! Do you have a particular hobby you’re passionate about? Emphasize your desire to learn, develop, and excel in your projects. Do you like to organize group trips or family and friend get-togethers? Coordination is your superpower!
You also want to make sure to emphasize soft skills in your cover letter. More employers are beginning to place a high priority on soft skills over hard skills. This works exceptionally well in your favor. It takes us back to our point above: life is our greatest teacher. Soft skills are exactly what make up the bulk of life.
As you can see, just in your daily activities we can find a number of skills and experiences that have helped you become a productive person with goals and the potential to pursue those goals. When writing a cover letter, make sure to read the job description and then go over your list of personal skills and experiences. Identify the ones that you think fit best with the job description. This may be a little difficult if there isn’t a direct relationship, and your insecurities may start to sneak in (“Well, I never specifically worked with THAT software/procedure/etc.…”), but this is when you need to make sure your confidence is taking center stage in your mind. When you feel confident in yourself, you will naturally start finding the connections between what you already have, what you want to get, and how you’re going to get it. Tell your story and be proud of it!
Show You Can Learn
Along with describing how your skills and experiences will help you in your job requirements, you also want to emphasize in your cover letter how you have the aptitude to learn. Career changers and other nontraditional employees are becoming more common due to a number of reasons. So, you’re probably not the first applicant an employer has met who hasn’t had a traditional, linear career path (that piece of information, itself, should put some of your worries at ease). Therefore, make sure to let the recruiters or hiring managers know that you have a strong basic foundation necessary to efficiently and effectively learn and grow the skills needed to do an exceptional job, if given the opportunity.
Job searching can be anxiety-inducing as it is. It can be even more stressful for people who have been out of the workforce. Take a deep breath and take it a step at a time. Be confident and give yourself credit for the person you have become over the years. Your cover letter is an opportunity tell your story and to really shine.