BRANDING YOURSELF WHEN RETURNING TO THE WORKFORCE There are many reasons that result in leaving the workforce temporarily; be it childcare, the desire to travel, or a reduction in force. Ultimately, if you decide to re-enter the workforce you will have to brand yourself differently than if you were actively employed and looking for a new position. Here are 7 steps to get you started: Step 1: You will need to identify your strength areas – and work on them. Sit down and spend some time figuring out what your assets are, and what you will bring to a future position. Once you have identified your strengths, think of real-life examples where they would be relevant and beneficial to your dream job, and will help you show your worth in an interview. Step 2: Get a certification or take a refresher course if it’s relevant. For some careers, like nursing, refresher courses are available to brush up on required technical skills so that future employers know that you are current with your knowledge and skill sets. This can be very important for technical positions, so identify if there is a course or certification that will make you more marketable, and get it! Step 3: Be technically competent. In the marketplace it’s very important to stay current with technology, and at the very least, be proficient in the Microsoft office suite. If your desired position or industry is known to use other specific software, make sure you are up to date on those skills and be prepared to demo them if asked. Step 4: Always be professional. It is important to be mindful that all communications you write, including emails, should be coherent and professional, as you and your writing skills are a reflection on your new company. In addition, when speaking on the phone, either to a member of Human Resources, or an external recruiter, always talk and act in a way that reflects how you want to be seen in the workplace. Step 5: Network. If you go on networking lunches or for coffee, dress professionally. You want your image to always represent your brand – a qualified professional. Also be mindful of what you order, be it coffee or food. Order something simple, coffee with milk and sugar, as opposed to a double shot with extra foam, 3 squirts of hazelnut, and 3 Splendas. It’s important to realize that every part of every interaction is an insight to others about you and your brand, and what they can expect while working with you. Step 6: Join Social Media. At this point, you need to be active on professional networking sites like LinkedIn, because if you aren’t, you are eliminating the opportunity for recruiters to actively search you out. Once you have created a LinkedIn profile highlighting your relevant work history with key terms and buzz words (which recruiters use to search for their desired candidate) you are creating the opportunity for someone to find you and invite you to throw your hat in the ring for a position you may not have found on your own. Step 7: Be prepared to speak about the reason you left the workforce. Recruiters will want to know why you decided to quit your job and take some time off, so come prepared. Regardless of your reason, the most important thing to do in this situation is be confident in your explanation and your choice. Tell the recruiter how this was the right thing for you at the time, and what you learned from it. As long as you can speak intelligently about your time off and your motivations, it’s possible the recruiter will see you as a risk taker, who can make tough decisions and live with the consequences – a potentially positive attribute in the workplace. When you reach the point where you are invited to interview for a position, it is critical that you know your value and you can sell it. Remember that you have years of priceless knowledge and experience, and as a result you will bring a unique viewpoint to your work. Stress your previous relevant experience, and how it will be an asset to your future team, regardless of a lapse in employment. Knowing your worth is critical to re-entering the workforce, so never forget your value, and get ready to sell yourself! Have a question on how to brand yourself? Ask Carol, or follow me on Twitter @CarolEichengrun