6 Tips for Returning or Pivoting to a Career in Tech

Did you leave a technical career behind to care for family or take an alternative path for work/life balance? If you are ready to return or transition to a technical field, the timing could not be better. Despite the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic, the demand for talent in the technology sector continues to grow, and this is especially true in the DC metro area. Explore Northern Virginia Technology Council’s Tech Talent Initiative or Northern Virginia Community College’s Labor Market Research to learn more about in-demand jobs. No matter how you cut it, there are more opportunities than ever for women returning to technical career paths!

OK. The demand for tech talent is out there, but how do you get noticed by Hiring Managers when you lack recent technical work experience?  Here are a few tips to get you started:

Learn from Women Who Successfully Returned or Transitioned to Technical Roles

What better way to get advice for returning or transitioning to a technical career than from women who have succeeded in finding meaning technical work after extended career breaks. Explore a Women in Technology (WIT) membership and/or attend its many wonderful networking events and programs, such as its March 25 Job Fair and Mentor-Protégé Program. WIT’s power is in its members – professional women who are committed to serving as resources and supporting each other in developing professionally.  Tapping into this network will help you explore options, connect with other like-minded professionals, obtain referrals, and learn about industry trends and job opportunities.

Retool to Return or Transition to a Technical Field

STEM professionals in particular face a unique challenge when returning from a career break into a technical field.  With rapid changes in technology, even small career gaps result in outdated skills. Our experience has shown us that returning STEM professionals with a commitment to updating their technical skills are most successful in landing employment in a technical field.  Retooling during your gap is a great way to sharpen a skill, network, gain confidence, and demonstrate an eagerness and commitment to re-enter. Cloud computing and data analytics rank at the top of this region’s most sought-after skills. Click here to learn about an exciting program to prepare returning or transitioning professionals for in-demand jobs in data analytics and cloud computing.

Believe in Your Professional Self

Do WHATEVER it takes to maintain or regain confidence. You bring tremendous value to employers. Not only do they benefit from your diverse skillset, but you bring good judgement, commitment, unparalleled productivity, and trusted communication skills to the workplace. Start to become aware of how you communicate your value. For example, many re-entry candidates begin by highlighting the number of years that they have been out of work. No employer is going to hire you for your gap. Avoid long-winded, defensive, or apologetic explanations with lots of personal details. Instead, shift the conversation to your transferable skills and accomplishments. Be careful not to dismiss your volunteer work because it is unpaid, or prior professional accomplishments because they are old. Think of yourself as the talented professional you are, and people in a position to hire you will think of you as the same. Watch this Amy Cuddy TED Talk for a little motivation and encouragement.   

Express Excitement and Readiness to Return or Transition

Two top concerns of employers hiring re-entry professionals are their readiness to return and commitment to their work.  If you left the workforce due to health issues or to care for aging or sick family members, clearly state to the prospective employer that the issue is now resolved. If you left work to raise a family or to care for children no longer in school or daycare, be sure to indicate that you have the support in place to transition back to paid work. We find that our re-entry and transition candidates, grateful for the job offer and intent on proving themselves, have staying power! Click here for more ideas for responding to common employer concerns specific to re-entry and transition professionals, including the concern that you may be over-qualified.

Update Your Resume and Get Intimate with the Details

Focus your resume on your top 2-3 skills and the most relevant successes, accomplishments, and results related to these skills. If you are pivoting to a career in technology, make sure you highlight transferable skills. Quantify as much as possible, or at least identify the impact of your work.  Your resume should be concise and substantive. Think of your resume as a reflection of the top skills you want to use in the future, rather than a laundry list of job duties. Own your gap, but do not draw attention to it by giving yourself a fancy title like “Manager of Household” or providing too many details, i.e. “took 10 years off to raise four children”. If you are transitioning to a new career, highlight your efforts to learn the new skills required for the role you are targeting. This can be reflected on your resume by highlighting volunteer experience or recent trainings and certifications relevant to what you want to do next. Try not to obsess over your resume, but make sure you are familiar with the details so that you come across as sharp and fresh during an interview. Use this formatting and editing tip sheet for quick reference.  

Consider Part-time as a Transition Option

Unfortunately, the pandemic has had a devastating toll on women. In August-September 2020 alone 800,000 women left the workforce (four times the number of men) to meet caregiving demands at home. One silver lining is that the pandemic has changed how we work, making flexibility a business imperative. Today professionals returning to work have more options than ever before. The notion that you have to be “all in” or “all out” is simply outdated. Part-time may be a great option as you transition back to paid work, as it allows you to ramp up at a more comfortable pace and to meet caregiving demands at home. It can also serve as a great stepping-stone to that dream job! Check out our job postingsfor flexible work opportunities in the DMV area.

Click here for more tips on how to own your gap and re-enter the workforce with confidence!  Don’t forget to REGISTER TO ATTEND WIT’S VIRTUAL JOB FAIR on March 25, 2021 from 3-6 pm. Be sure to “get in line” in the comfort of your own home and chat with a member of our team at our virtual booth! We’d love to meet you and learn about your skills, accomplishments and professional goals!

Sheila Murphy is Co-Founder of FlexProfessionals, a firm that matches experienced professionals seeking meaningful, part-time employment with growing businesses in need of top talent. Featured on The Today Show, Sheila is a career re-entry expert, work flexibility advocate, and seasoned speaker/trainer on a variety of job search and career development topics.
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