I have not worked in over 15 years. I was a stay-at-home housewife and now I find myself unemployed, broke, and hopeless. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how or where to start. Anita, can you help me?
As long as you are breathing, there is always hope! Many people exit the workforce for extended periods for reasons ranging from raising children to taking care of an elderly parent or life circumstances of all descriptions. It may be difficult, but it’s not impossible to get back into the labor pool.
First and foremost, update your skills. Do you know the basics to work in today’s office environment? Microsoft Word, Excel, and Outlook are commonly used in many companies. If you possess any accounting aptitude, QuickBooks knowledge is valued by many small- and medium-sized businesses. Brush up on computer programs with classes at your local community college or online at sites like Lynda.com and Skillshare.com.
Have you been a volunteer during the last 15 years? Many skills used in the do-gooder arena are transferable to the workplace (think organizational skills from chairing that charity event, or sales finesse to charm potential owners into adopting a dog from the shelter). Use a functional format when creating your résumé; it won’t hide your employment gaps but will focus on your competencies.
Use a cover letter to very quickly explain why you have not worked for a few years, then go on to highlight the skills you have that match the job posting to which you are applying.
As an interim measure or a long-term alternative to a J.O.B., you could join the gig economy. Instead of getting paid by the hour, you can earn money by completing projects or tasks.
If you have talent in bookkeeping, copywriting, data entry, social media, customer service … whatever, advertise your skills on a freelancer site like Upworks.com. You could become a Tasker on Taskrabbit.com, which connects local errand-runners and chore-doers to busy folks willing to pay for someone else to buy their groceries or assemble their latest Ikea purchase. Fiverr.com is an online service where, for a starting price of five bucks, you can offer to do any number of projects, ranging from the expected, like graphic design, to the bizarre (someone will paint a message on his body and video himself dancing in a jungle for $5!). Stay-at-home moms or parental caregivers, even pet owners, can translate their nurturing experience into a gig on Care.com or by word of mouth.
Which brings us to the importance of networking. You may have heard the quote, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Let everyone – friends, relatives, butchers, bakers, candlestick makers – know that you’re looking for work, whether you wish to pursue freelance assignments or a traditional job.
Consider signing up with a temporary staffing agency. By working on assignment in various companies, you’ll discover the types of work you like (and those you don’t care for). Some temporary positions can even turn into full-time employment.
Readers: How have you successfully re-entered the workforce after an extended absence?
Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.
Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed