4 Ways that social media can support your return to work

Many of you use Facebook every day in your personal lives and you may have completed your LinkedIn profile, but did you know that there are many things you can do on social media to get ahead of the curve in your return to work?

Build your network:

  • On Facebook, you probably primarily interact with your family and close friends but you’re likely to be connected to many people beyond that circle, such as old school friends and former colleagues. You may assume that you don’t have any contacts in your field of interest, but you don’t know who your network is connected to, and who they have in their own extended circles. (Find out how to map your network)
  • Facebook groups can help you to build a support network of people in the same position as you, e.g. there are several working mother, freelancing women and women in tech groups. Whatever your circumstance or background, there’s almost certainly a group for you! Do some research in the Facebook search bar and you will also see suggestions of related groups. Don’t forget that you can easily leave groups so there’s no harm in joining a few to decide which ones are right for you.
  • Twitter and LinkedIn both provide a fantastic opportunity to find and connect with individuals and companies that you don’t know in real life. Once you have found them, get on their radar by engaging with their posts (replying to and sharing their content). Once you’ve established a relationship, if appropriate, try taking it a step further and sending them a private message to ask for information or advice to support your return to work.
  • Sharing relevant posts on your own LinkedIn and Twitter accounts is also a great way of establishing your own voice in the sector and attracting like-minded individuals to you, including prospective hiring managers and recruiters.
  • Did you know that LinkedIn has a huge number of groups? Most of them have a more professional objective than Facebook groups and again, you can search around to find those that are relevant to your industry. Women Returners have our own LinkedIn group where we list the latest opportunities for returners.
  • LinkedIn is also the perfect way to get back in touch with former colleagues if you’re not already connected on Facebook.

Research prospective employers:

  • Most companies will have accounts on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Track those accounts to glean information for use in your job applications and interviews to stand out from the crowd and show that you’ve done your homework.
  • This will also give you a glimpse into company life, helping you to decide which organisations offer the best cultural fit for you and which ones may be more open to applications from returners and/or accommodate flexible working/job share requests, etc.
  • Some companies post new job openings on their social channels and/or have separate accounts for careers.
  • You can add all of the companies you’re interested in to a Twitter list, which you can have a quick scroll through every day for updates. Find out how to use a Twitter list.

Stay up-to-date:

  • This is where the Twitter list feature really comes into its own. Add accounts that are talking about your industry and regularly scroll through the list on the Twitter app on your phone whenever you have a spare five minutes. You can make the list private if you prefer to, although in my experience, nobody minds being added to a list called ‘thought leaders’ or ‘industry experts’ and this may even be a conversation starter!
  • Find and follow relevant individuals and companies on LinkedIn, which has a timeline feature where thought leaders regularly post interesting articles relating to their industries.
  • LinkedIn and Facebook groups can be a fantastic source of discussions around current issues in your sector. Use them to find out the current state of play and join in the conversation when you’re ready! This will be great practice for interviews.
  • Look through job advertisements on LinkedIn to make a list of the most sought-after skills in your sector, and take steps to refresh your knowledge as necessary.

Be proactive in your search:

  • You’ve built your networks, brought yourself up to speed with your industry and filled in any skills gaps. Now it’s time to tell people what you are looking for and ask for help! Write a Facebook status and a LinkedIn update to announce that you are looking to return to work. Be specific about what you’re looking for.
  • Set up job alerts on LinkedIn and mark your profile as being open to contact from recruiters.
  • As a final note, don’t forget that recruiters also use social media to find information about applicants. If you’re applying for jobs, it’s a good idea to complete your profiles, including your career and education history, on both LinkedIn and Facebook, and use a professional photo on all platforms. On Facebook, check you’re happy that any content could be seen by potential employers if they Google you. Check what your LinkedIn profile looks like when viewed by both connections and non-connections, and make sure that you’re projecting a professional image.
Posted by Elaine

How to avoid the Top 10 Return to Work Job Search mistakes

Over the years that I have been working with returners, I’ve noticed how many women make the same job search mistakes that can completely derail their return to work. To stop you falling into the same traps, here’s my summary of the Top 10 and a few tips on how to avoid them.

1. Relying on headhunters and recruitment agencies to find you a role
Headhunters and other agencies are paid for filling specific vacancies and if your profile doesn’t exactly match they won’t be interested. And a long career break labels you as a risky candidate. Do let any headhunter contacts know that you are looking for work, & look for agencies sympathetic to returners, just don’t make this your sole strategy or be deterred by the negative reception most will give you.

2. Sitting at home scanning LinkedIn, job boards and website for vacancies
Only an estimated 20-30% of vacancies are ever advertised, so if this is your approach to finding a role, you are missing out on the the majority of positions that are filled through recommendation, word of mouth and former colleagues. To access the ‘hidden job market’ you need to be more active, start networking and tell everyone you meet about your search.
3. Defining yourself too narrowly by your previous role
It’s easy to restrict ourselves to roles similar to our last job title or specialist qualification. This narrows your options and can make you feel that you’re not qualified for any role that fits with your life now. Instead, look out for roles that ask for the broader skills and strengths you possess within fields that interest you.
4. Sending one application at a time…
If you get excited about having found The Ideal Role and wait to see what happens with it before making other applications, you could be waiting a very long time. Hiring decisions are rarely quick, company priorities can change and you may not ultimately get the job for a variety of reasons. Keep networking, and seeking and applying for other opportunities in the meantime, until you actually sign the contract.

5. … Or making scatter gun applications

Don’t fire off applications or direct approaches to everyone you can think of. You waste time applying for roles that aren’t a good fit for you and you’ll appear unfocused in your application & under-motivated in an interview. Decide what to target and treat each application with care, researching the organisation and the specific requirements of the role and tailoring your application accordingly.

6. Applying for roles that are too junior

If your confidence in your abilities is low, you may apply for ‘less demanding’ roles as a way of easing yourself back into work. The trouble is that you will appear over-qualified to the hiring manager and are likely to become rapidly frustrated once you’re back up to speed. If you have a strong reason for choosing this route, clearly explain the rationale in your application.

7. Looking just for part-time or flexible roles
You might have decided that your job needs to be part-time or flexible. However many employers will consider flexible working ‘for the right candidate’ even though they don’t state it in the job ad. Consider whether the content of the role appeals and whether there could be a business case to do it flexibly.

8. Apologising for your career break

Explain the reason for your break on your CV (eg. parental career break) and in interviews and then don’t dwell on it, justify it or apologise for it!
9. Undervaluing what you’ve done in your break
If you have done something that has built your broader skills or opened new perspectives to you during your break, this is valuable to a potential employer, so don’t minimise or ignore it on your CV.

10. Not asking for feedback after rejections

When you are rejected after online tests or interviews it is easy to blame yourself and to become dispirited. By requesting feedback you can find out what you need to work on to make future applications stronger.
Other useful posts:
Posted by Katerina

How to make time for your return to work job search

Two recent conversations with returners have reminded me how difficult it can be for women to focus on their return to work activity: there always seems to be something more important or time-consuming for them to do.

As former professionals used to managing busy careers, women on career break often fill their lives with activities that keep them busy, engaged and feeling productive. As well as looking after family and home, they frequently take on voluntary roles or small paid projects, develop new hobbies and simply ‘help others out’.

The difficulty comes when trying to return to work: how do you fit a job search into an already busy life? The truth is that finding a new role, especially when you have left the workforce, is a job in itself.  Your return to work will only happen with dedicated time, energy and commitment.

Carving out this space is hard for returners for a number of reasons:

  • you might not be sure whether you are ready to return, so you don’t give it your attention to avoid having to make a decision
  • you don’t know how to get started on your return to work, so you procrastinate
  • you’ve made some small efforts and have been deterred by the response (or lack of) you’ve received
  • it’s the wrong time of year (eg pre-Christmas/Easter/summer holiday)
  • it feels selfish to be focusing on yourself after so many years of putting others first
  • you don’t know which of the other activities to cut out, in order to make space for your return to work plans
Here are some ideas on how you can start to create time for yourself, so you can address some of these barriers, both practical and psychological:

  • Start small – make a date with yourself!  It could be sitting in a coffee shop for half an hour after school drop off, on your own with the purpose of doing your own thinking and planning. If you can do this once, you can start to make it a regular habit and then expand the time you devote to it
  • Enlist a buddy – this could either be someone in the same position as you with whom you can meet regularly and share experiences and ideas. Or it could be someone who is simply there to support, encourage and celebrate with you and keep you on track
  • Give your search a project name – to give it focus and make it more like a work project
  • Sign up for a relevant course – this will enable to you dedicate time to your new direction, introduce you to others who might be helpful to you and signify that you are taking positive steps for yourself
  • Address your reluctance to put yourself first – by trying it out! This post on Banning Selfish may be useful
  • Delegate – perhaps you don’t have to keep doing all the things you currently do whether at home or elsewhere
  • Work with a coach – this will commit you to spending time (and money) on your return to work in a structured way and get you into the habit of giving time to this activity.
Remember that no-one else can do the work required for you, so your return to work will only happen if you give it – and yourself – the time and attention you deserve.
Other useful posts and links:

Posted by Katerina – Co-founder Women Returners