How to make a career comeback at any age - HR Future helps people prepare for the Future of Work and is South Africa's leading print, digital and online Human Resources magazine.

How to make a career comeback at any age

Have you been out of the workforce for a long time and now you’re keen to make a comeback? Do you maybe feel like you’re too old to start a new career or that the odds are stacked against you because you’re a woman?

Whether you had to take an extended break from employment due to giving birth, divorce, and unsuccessful business or whether you’re starting from scratch, many women in South Africa decide to go back to work after facing various circumstances. However, it’s not always as simple as picking up where you left off, especially if your biological clock starts counting against you, and finding a job has proven to be more difficult than anticipated for many.

Most women in South Africa might battle to find employment after taking a break from the workplace for an extended period of time.

With the times and technology changing as much as it does, how you job hunt is crucial to your success. Spamming recruiters and sending your CV to millions of users and the entire cyberspace definitely won’t cut it.

During the G20 summit in Australia, South Africa listed the country’s low employment rate of women as one of its key challenges. It also stated that South African women are more likely to be unemployed, despite obtaining education levels that are equal to or even higher than those of men.

According to new research by Ros Altmann, the Government’s Business Champion for Older Workers, women’s careers are being ‘‘cut off’’ at 45 due to a combination of ageism and gender discrimination.

With so many disheartening factors at play, how does a woman re-enter the job market if she has been out of it for so long? Also, what are some of the key skills women need to refine before they start applying for jobs?

With the above in mind, women who are looking for employment in the current market are urged to shift their approach from the old way of applying, and adjust to modern times. She also suggests that women incorporate the following to assist with their new job seeking approach:  

1. Create a strong online presence:

Get online and update your profiles like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Over 100 000 people use LinkedIn, including CEOs, HR managers etc. Also bear in mind that employers search for candidates online.

2. Don’t just press send

Research has shown that job-seekers need to stop relying on email correspondence only. It has been proven that candidates who make an effort to follow up by phone call after sending their CV receive far more positive feedback, as this shows enthusiasm.

3. Network

As the saying goes - it’s not what you know, but who you know. Consider joining a business networking group so that you can meet and mingle with industry peers and experts.

4. Continuously upgrade your skills

Employers are looking for candidates who keep their job skills current and can remain competitive in the marketplace.

5. Redefine and know what sets you apart

Once you've made your skills relevant again, you will need to find a way to demonstrate your uniqueness and competence as a potential employee. Be clear and specific on what sets you apart from the younger or more mature candidates.

6. Go easy on yourself

Starting a job after a long career break can be challenging and even feel overwhelming at times. You will be faced with the usual stresses of getting to know people and learning the ropes, but don’t let that dishearten you. Don’t try to be superwomen, but instead play to your strengths.

Last, but certainly not least – be bold. Remember that you were once great, and that you still are. Confidence goes a long way, and most companies make employment decisions based on first impressions.

Kay Vittee is the CEO of Kelly.


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