Last Thursday, I participated in the iRelaunch Conference at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. The focus of this day was on people who have had a noticeable gap in their employment history and are now trying to “relaunch” into the workforce. The large majority of the participants seemed to be professional women who had taken time to raise their children, but there were others who had family and personal medical issues, as well as other issues. From the initial introduction, I learned that the largest constituency in the room was lawyers but there were professionals of all stripes.

The organizers were Carol Fishman Cohen and Vivian Stein Rabin, who were both careers relaunchers and co-wrote the book Back on the Career Track: A Guide for Stay-At-Home Moms Who Want to Return to Work. They not only shared their stories of triumph in returning to the workforce, but also brought in voices of others who have relaunched (both employees and employers).

Here are some of my key thoughts from the day:

Relaunching Takes Preparation: if you’ve been out of the workforce for a number of years, it will probably take more time to get all your preparation in order before starting a job. Don’t put it off!  Do your research.

Reassess Your Goals: While you might have been quite clear in where your career was going a number of years ago, you might have a different perspective on it now. Do some self-assessment to get clear on what you really want right now. Of course, I can help you on that if you need.

Know Your Value: You will be offered a job for what you have, not for what you don’t. Do your research and understand what it is that’s needed and look to describe how you can fill that gap. When I work with clients with a disability/challenge, I always emphasize to them to talk about what you can offer, and not what you’re missing or can’t do. Emphasize the positive!

Make It Easy on Recruiters: There was a recruiter panel, and what became clear to me is that they would like to help this population, but too often candidates don’t present themselves in a way that makes it easy on recruiters to help them.  You need to understand what the recruiters needs are, and them give them what they want.  (As a side note, I don’t think that they are always clear about how you can help them.  Two of the recruiters said that they felt that you should bullet everything on your resume because they need to see it quickly.  Well, I’ve come to realize that resumes can suffer from Death By Bullet as much as presentations can suffer from Death By PowerPoint.  I don’t think that bulleting everything gets them what they want, but that’s how they understand it. You can see my comments on resumes here.)

Networking Is Key: You need to be able to talk with many people about your experiences and get them to know you as more than just a piece of paper.  The more people who know you and your value, the more you’ll be able to impress others you don’t know yet.

You Are Not the Only One: There were probably 200 people at the conference, and many of them had similar stories, and they can share their successes too. As I like to say: You’re special, but you’re not unique!

So, what are you doing to explain your situation to others?