May 20, 2011
NWjobs Career Makeover: Mother of two re-enters job market after years away
Special to NWjobs
Julianne Hake was amazed by all that has changed in the job market in six years.
The Seattle mother of two, 41, gave up her job as an account executive with Satori Software to become a stay-at-home parent in 2005.
Last fall, she decided it was time to re-enter the work force and started sending out résumés. The resulting silence, she says, left her feeling shaken and discouraged as she tried to figure out what she was doing wrong.
“I find myself up against a big challenge — this gap in my employment,” Hake wrote in an email to participate in a NWjobs career makeover. “How [do I] stand behind my choice, yet compete with folks out there who have the more current skill set?”
NWjobs Career Makeover
First in a three-part series
The job seeker
Name: Julianne Hake
* Gap in employment
* Lack of response to résumés
* Lapsed professional network
Paul Anderson, ProLango Consulting
Kristen Fife, employment specialist
Seia Milin, WorkSource Redmond
*Use hard numbers and keywords on résumé
*Maintain professional connections during gaps in employment
*Follow up on interviews/leads right away
Her first makeover meeting was with Kristen Fife, a résumé expert and NWjobs’ Recruiter’s Inbox columnist. In just six years, Fife told her, “the way recruiters do things has really changed.”
Learning that many companies weed out résumés using software that searches for keywords — before a human ever sees them — completely changed Hake’s résumé approach.
“I’m pretty tech-savvy, but I didn’t even think of it in terms of getting scored by keywords,” she says.
Gone is the emphasis on the soft skills that Hake believes are integral to being a good salesperson. Those qualities, such as strong communication and interpersonal skills, will come out in a good interview, Fife told her. Instead, Hake filled her résumé with hard numbers that speak to her sales ability and keywords — echoing the language in job descriptions — that would make a software program notice her.
The biggest lesson Hake says she learned in the makeover is the importance of networking. ProLango’s Paul Anderson, who co-writes NWjobs’ Hire Ground blog, enrolled Hake in his 12-week boot-camp series, which covers topics such as strategic networking, time management and salary negotiation.
Hake realized that maintaining her professional connections during her time away would have saved her a lot of work later, as she tried to track down former colleagues and bosses to find job leads and seek recommendations on LinkedIn.
“It would have been wise to invest some time each week or month just keeping connected to the work world,” Hake says. “This may be a no-brainer for some new moms, but for me at the time, I was so ready to embrace parenthood I kind of let those connections sit on the back burner too long.”
Re-establishing those connections and cultivating them will be the key to Hake’s success, Anderson says.
“What wasn’t working for her was taking the desperate job-seeker approach at networking events,” he says. “She was handing out résumés prematurely, before establishing relationships, so now she’s going to focus first on building trust and credibility.”
Seia Milin, an employment programs lead for WorkSource Redmond, coached Hake on her presentation skills. Milin noted that the lightning speed at which the world moves today, even compared with five years ago, may have caught Hake off-guard as well in terms of her response and follow-up time.
“When it comes to recruiting and hiring, timing is everything,” Milin says. “It’s like a train: You have to be there when it comes. She needs to be more flexible and follow up right away if she wants to be employed.”
Not everything has changed, however. On Milin’s advice, Hake tried one of the oldest tricks in the book: practicing answers to tough interview questions in the mirror. It worked.
“I went into an informational interview, and I had answers for things that used to rattle me,” Hake says. “I knew how to answer in a way that would be successful.”
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