This week we welcome Elana Konstant, lawyer-turned-career coach and owner of Konstant Change Coaching. Elana’s focus is on people who are making career transitions, which makes her the perfect person to contribute our first guest post.
One of the biggest changes a divorce can bring is the need to return to work following a career break. After taking years out of the workforce, it may seem impossible to become self-supporting. Add to the stress the pressure you feel from your former spouse who no longer wants to support you and seems to think getting a job should be easy. The good news is that there are people out there, like Elana, who specialize in helping make this post-divorce transition.
How To Return To The Workforce After A Break
Even under the best of circumstances, divorce is hard. The same could be said for job searching, especially when returning to the workforce after a long period. Although it can be daunting to add career transitions on top of a divorce, it can also be incredibly empowering to have the opportunity to focus on yourself again.
As a career coach, I specialize in helping women reclaim their professional mojo, whether that’s by changing jobs or pivoting into a new field. For the past few years, I have been teaching a course on “Leaping Back” into the workforce after a career break. After seeing from clients how uplifting the support can be in this overwhelming process, I created an e-course on the topic, leapingback.com. Here are the five primary steps to take to ensure your transition is successful and fulfilling:
Step 1: Assess Yourself
In order to know where you are going with your career after a divorce, you need to think about where you’ve been. What did you like/dislike in your roles prior to your divorce? What are your strengths/weaknesses? What would you do if you knew you would succeed?
Begin to consider and rank the various factors at play in seeking a new position, including salary, flexibility, status, and intellectual stimulation. Be honest with yourself and consider what you need out of your next job and how that meshes with what you want. More than anything, you need to consider these three components in your assessment:
- What are you passionate about?
- What are your talents?
- What is the market need for the combination of these two?
Step 2: Market Yourself
Once you determine your ideal role, tailor your materials to speak to that role and establish your professional identity.
Your resume should address the needs of the position by including key industry terminology from the job description and other sources. Your cover letter should show that you have researched this company/role and how your experience relates. Your LinkedIn profile should demonstrate your accomplishments and career highlights. Research how others in your prior and/or desired field describe their work. Practice your elevator pitch to ensure that you are conveying what you want to convey and customizing it as needed to the audience.
Follow companies on social media and join relevant professional groups to receive updates about events, networking opportunities, and job openings. Networking after your divorce to get back into the workforce is essential to building new professional relationships.
Step 3: Network Yourself
Just like everything is copy to Nora Ephron, I believe every meeting is an interview: school pick up, coffee shop lines, playground chatter, and beyond. The main point is to reach out! If people don’t know that you’re looking for career opportunities following a divorce, they definitely won’t think of you.
Create a spreadsheet to keep track of outreach, notes, and follow up. While you are narrowing your direction, use those closest to you — friends, family members, former supervisors and direct reports (they might be in charge now!) — to ask for feedback about your search, your resume, etc. As you begin to narrow down your search, make your outreach more tailored. The more specific you are, the more helpful someone can be.
By focusing on particular companies and industries, you can secure a relationship with someone who can serve as a reference when opportunities arise. Create partnerships-make introductions, pass along industry knowledge and invites, etc. Thank everyone you meet with for their time and remind them to think of contacts and opportunities for you.
Step 4: Professionally Develop Yourself
The most important component to getting a job following a divorce is having relevant experience. Depending on childcare and financial constraints, you may need to look beyond a full-time position, at least initially. It may not occur to you if you have been out of the workforce for a long time that short-term opportunities can lead to long-term goals.
Leveraging your current resources is imperative as you begin your search. If you plan to return to the legal world, start with bar association pro bono programs or ask a sole practitioner about contract work. If you have a marketing background, offer to launch a new campaign for your kids’ preschool or a friend’s small business. Employers care more about your accomplishments and skills than the exact number of hours worked and income earned. Value this work so that others will as well.
Create opportunities if none currently exist. Write articles about a particular subject matter to garner expertise. Offer to cover maternity or medical leaves, or check out Upwork or Thumbtack for freelance work. While highly competitive, returnships offer a targeted on ramp back into a specific field. Be sure to establish accountability to keep progressing toward your long-term goals.
Step 5: Prepare Yourself
Returning to work after a divorce will be a major shift for you and your whole family. Actively manage the shift by creating routines to increase efficiencies and minimize stress. While it may take a while (or forever…) to achieve true balance, there are measures you can take to maintain some sort of equilibrium.
Quiet your mind and focus your energy through meditation apps, Headspace or Calm. Incorporate short bursts of exercise or yoga into your day with Daily Yoga or Seven-Minute Workout. Keep your body and your brain happy by eating 10 everyday superfoods.
Once you start working again after divorce, especially if you’ve been out of the workforce for some time, your time management skills will be tested. Delegate and outsource, as you will no longer be able to do everything. The goal is to maintain your sanity and health so that you can actually enjoy your new career.