Have you been out of the workforce for a while due to a life event, layoff, or other reason? Are you ready to return to work but not sure where to start? Whether you are planning to return to the workforce after one year, five years, or even ten years, your #1 challenge is to close your employment gaps. Start by taking an inventory of your existing knowledge and skills. What do you have to offer potential employers? What academic knowledge have you gained through your Walden program? What new skills are you looking to build? The Career Services Center website offers a Career Exploration area with self-assessments and industry research sites to help you identify your strengths and research employers.
Next, seek out strategic opportunities to cultivate new skills. Consider the following activities:
- Join a professional association in your target field and become actively involved. Activities may include volunteering at events, contributing articles to newsletters, taking on leadership roles, or serving on committees. Active involvement in a local chapter can help you connect with other professionals in your target field, gain current references, and apply your academic knowledge in a professional setting. Visit Career Services’ Resources by College, select your college, and view lists of professional associations to join!
- Find a volunteer opportunity that can help you sharpen your skills. Contribute to a nonprofit organization while supporting Walden’s social change mission. Did you know that according to LinkedIn for Good, 41% of hiring managers consider volunteer work experience equally valuable as paid work experience? Explore Career Services’ local and virtual volunteering sites and watch our webinar, Maximizing Career Success Through Strategic Volunteering, to identify the right opportunity for you!
- Create your own experiential opportunities through freelance, contract, or virtual employment. Do you know a small business owner who could benefit from your skills? Is there a temporary agency in your area specializing in your target field? What about researching virtual or flexible positions online? Watch our webinar on Targeting Temporary, Virtual, or Contract Opportunities for out-of-the-box ideas on how to get started!
In addition to building new skills and experience, these strategies can help you gain current references and letters of recommendation, make new connections, stay up-to-date on trends, and strengthen your professional brand. If you are not ready to return to full-time work right away, they can also help you test out the waters and decide which opportunities are right for you.
After you’ve gained experience through professional associations, volunteering, and other experiential opportunities, you will be ready to share your new skills with your networking connections and potential employers. Visit the Career Services’ Resumes and CVs tab for videos and tips on how to enhance your application materials. It’s never too early (or too late) to start taking steps to reach your career aspirations!
Written by Dina Bergren, Associate Director of Career Services