thinking womanNow that the unemployment rate has fallen to 5.3% and may go even lower, many people are considering getting back into the job market after being out for a period of time. Over the years I have worked with many re-entry moms and re-entry dads. After being home with the kids for a number of years, it can be difficult to get a handle on how to find the right path forward. A person’s former skillset may not indicate the career direction of choice anymore. Often the re-entry mom or dad is also battling some self-esteem issues. They will say, “I don’t have any marketable skills.” One guy I worked with recently said, “There is nothing I can put on my resume unless it’s diapering babies and setting up play groups.” That is usually the low self-esteem talking. When we do a fair assessment, there are usually good options to try.
Where do you start when you are trying to chart your course to re-enter the job market?

Here are some tips:

1)    First, think strategically about what people get paid to do.

People get paid to:

ANALYZE AND SOLVE PROBLEMS (e.g., lawyers, doctors, financial consultants, engineers, business owners, plumbers, home decorators, organizational consultants, end-of-life counselors) in a wide variety of fields.

PROVIDE SERVICES (e.g., lawyers, doctors, financial consultants, wedding planners, waitresses, editors, public servants, plumbers, dog walkers, bartenders, closet organizers).

TEACH, EDUCATE, AND COACH (e.g., dance instructors, soccer coaches, professors, kindergarten teachers, technology teachers).

CREATE SOMETHING NEW (e.g., software design engineer, architect, developer of non-profit, entrepreneur).

PERFORM AT A HIGH LEVEL TO ENTERTAIN OTHERS (e.g., actors and actresses, musicians, golfers on the pro tour, stand-up comedians, tennis players on tour, baseball players, football players).

LEAD OR MANAGE A TEAM (e.g., project coordinator for a nonprofit, CEO of a company, manager of a football team, project manager for an animal shelter).

2)    Think strategically about what you are good at doing that people might pay to have you do.

Look for the “ing” words such as:


3)    Consider how much you need to make to be able to feel the job is worth your while.

Think about where your current skills fit in the context of the big generators of higher hourly pay:

Examples of bigger generators are large companies, niched specialized companies, financial institutions, the entertainment industry, sports, government, and law firms to name a few. If you “follow the money” you can usually get paid more, if that is a consideration, depending on the demand for the skillset you bring to the workplace. Low demand equals less pay (e.g., production assistant on the set of a TV show). High demand equals more pay (e.g., lead actor on the same show). If you need to bulk up your skills, do a cost/benefit analysis of the cost of learning the new skill and the potential hike in pay. For example, if you learn to be a sommelier in Chicago you can command a fairly high salary compared to a waitress or greeter. And new opportunities are always opening up, including intense, fast-track training in digital skills. People successfully completing two or three month training courses can command six-figure salaries in some locations of the country.

4)    Think creatively about how your current and past skills can position you in the marketplace.

Take for example a former lawyer with an undergraduate degree in communications who has been home with the children for four years but has volunteered for a non-profit as a social media coordinator and fund-raiser. This person might be very valuable in the role of communications director for a non-profit or for a small law firm. This person might also be able to create a business guiding small companies who are developing their social media and communications strategies. If she adds website design by taking classes to learn how to do this, she might be able to create even more value and leverage her skillset for a higher salary. This person might be useful in the role of the development coordinator for her college alumni association.

5)    Remember to factor in your strong interests and aptitudes so that you will enjoy going to work.

Aptitudes are what you do well naturally. Interests are content areas that hold your attention and motivate you to be engaged. When aptitudes and interests align, your likelihood of success goes up.

Think strategically about where your skills could fit into the market so that your course becomes clearer.