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6 tips for re-entering the workforce and competing with millennials

Sarah K. White | July 21, 2015
Re-entering the workforce after time off can feel overwhelming. If you’re looking to get back into a career after some time away -- and you’re feeling outnumbered by a swarm of millennials -- here’s how to improve your chances of landing the job.

"I would not suggest resting on ones laurels, or assuming that you don't need to grow and develop in the workplace, I think that everybody today needs to be regularly updating their skills and developing their talents and expertise," says Pollak.

If you have the luxury of taking a few months to find a job, you can enroll in some classes, either online or in person. Or find some free resources on the internet to hone your skills, so you can feel confident in the interview.

Take advantage of reverse mentoring

If you really want to know how to go up against a millennial, you should talk to one. Whether it's your children, family friends, or millennials in your professional network, you can glean valuable information from them in a conversation. Chances are, they're going to have some questions for you, too.

"I'm really in favor of what is called 'reverse mentoring' or 'reciprocal mentoring,'" says Pollak, "which is not just finding a mentor, or somebody to give you advice on your job search who has been doing it for a long time or has a lot of experience, but also looking to people younger who are less experienced than you are to see how they view the world."

Emphasize your value
Sometimes the reason companies hire younger recent graduate's boils down to the bottom line. Not to say they aren't qualified for the roles, but after the economic downturn, companies are focused on staying within tight budgets, and that includes salaries. Hiring new and recent graduate can sometimes be less expensive for a company, since millennials are more likely to accept lower paying jobs to get the ball rolling on their career. In fact, wages for recent college grads are currently lower than they were 15 years ago.

You may be content with taking a pay cut when reentering the workforce, but if you aren't, you should be ready to emphasize the value companies will get with your higher salary, says Pollak. Employers will be open to hiring you at a higher starting salary than your millennial counterparts if you can demonstrate to them a return on investment. For example, with your experience, you may require less training and you might be more invested in staying with a company longer term, two things that can incur heavy costs to a company.

Overcome Stereotypes
Returning to work from time off might mean you are faced with certain stereotypes, whether you were home caring for children or a relative, or whatever reason you took time off, there may be hiring managers who make unfair judgments. But remember that millennials are up against unfair stereotypes as well, as they are often lumped into a group deemed "lazy" or "entitled." The idea is not to focus on these stereotypes, or what the hiring manager may be thinking, but instead, be prepared to emphasize the positives of what you did before and after you left the workforce.


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