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Re-Entering the Workforce Post Divorce Part 4 of 4

Rachel Alexander Nov. 3, 2020

{5 minutes to read} Katherine Kirkinis, ED.M., M.A. of Wanderlust Careers, our friend and consultant on this series, routinely works with people who have been out of the job force for as long as 20 years. Long absences from the workforce create particular challenges that can be addressed proactively and intelligently. Technology, work environments, expectations of employers — these are but a few factors that change with the times.

Class – Find One

Even before considering sending out resumes, find a free online or local class to brush up on some basic skills. Computer skills like word processing are a good place to start. Most jobs require some proficiency with Outlook or Word simply to schedule a meeting or draft a letter. At the very least, you need some facility to turn the machine on and off. Or recognize the machine when you see it.

Technology intimidation can add needlessly to a sense of fearfulness and incompetence — of being out of step and out of touch.

In a relatively inconsequential way, and in a safe space, you can build your tolerance for the unfamiliar, grow your patience with yourself, and strengthen your sense of relevance and confidence. And, when you are introducing yourself to potential employers, you can say, “Here is what I have been doing.” You are, in effect, reentering the work world even before endeavoring to land a job!

Start Anywhere – get the juices flowing and move those (possibly arthritic, certainly stiff) joints!

Start with anything about which you are even remotely curious. How do you organize the pantry? When do you plant tomatoes? What makes a good spreadsheet, balanced checkbook, calendar invite, Zoom meeting, website, Facebook post? Open your laptop. There are lots of things to dip into from the comfort of your couch. What is being offered at your local library? What piques your interest? Start anywhere. Getting curious and active will help move your energy in the right direction — the direction of participation and engagement. Nothing is irrelevant or a waste of time because this is first about movement, and then inertia. A sit-up is not an actual Olympic sport, yet basic exercises are a fundamental part of fitness, utilized by all athletes en route to competing.

[Lucy] “You have some ‘splaining to do”

Even though you have been out of the workforce, it is time to bid farewell to that paradigm that you have been doing nothing or been a useless member of society. In fact, you have likely grown, developed, and contributed in thousands of ways that simply have not garnered a regular paycheck — ways that you have not considered because that limiting paradigm was blocking you from asking yourself the right questions. Thank goodness we are here!

People who have been out of the workforce for a while do have to explain what they have been doing during their gap time. The question is not, “What haven’t you been doing,” but “What have you been doing?” This is important. You need not excuse yourself, but rather articulate how you have been spending your time. Usually, people are doing quite a lot.

Maybe you have been substitute teaching, managing the household bills, coaching soccer, organizing the family calendar, caring for elderly relatives, volunteering for Get Out the Vote. Maybe you have planned thousands of meals, arranged holiday travels, tutored your kids through Algebra, designed and decorated a home, worked closely with an architect when you did an addition. Maybe you were helping care for a child with special needs, liaising between the child’s school, advocating for the necessary support and IEP.

What skills have you developed during this period of ‘non-working’ time? Which of your abilities have you depended upon most over these years?

What did you like about what you were doing? What did you feel good about? Your achievements? Challenges?

Katherine gives an example of the useful and marketable skills someone can offer from their non-professional blogging or adroit Facebook posting.

Start brainstorming. Put your discoveries into a Word document, if you’re taking a computer class, or on an old yellow legal pad if you’re not. When you start to keep a record, you will find that you are definitely doing something, and you certainly have a good deal to offer.

Thanks to Katherine Kirkinis for her contributions to this article and the Re-Entering the Workforce series.