How to Enter the Workforce After 10-Year Absence

By Lindsey Novak

November 26, 2015 4 min read

Q: It's an inopportune time, but I have no choice and have to re-enter the workforce after 10 years of absence. I was involved in raising my children because I thought they were far more important than whatever I would be doing at a company. I'm sure there are well-trained nannies, but I wasn't able to leave child rearing up to a stranger who, no matter how capable, is never going to put the emotional energy into teaching them or loving them the way I would. I don't care what I missed in the work world, I don't regret my time off for giving to my own children. If I didn't want to raise children, I wouldn't have had them. I didn't want my children to be the sum of whatever a stranger gives or does for them.

It seems to be a whole new game out there and I'm not sure where to start. I've thought about breaking in by getting a regular, minimum-wage job at a large-chain employer, such as a mall retailer. On the other hand, I don't think I can walk in and become a manager immediately because I've been out of the workforce. I also don't know how to handle telling people about my time off. What if my actions offend someone who uses a nanny to raise her children? What if the person didn't have the luxury of making that choice and had to work and leave the children with a relative. They might feel bad about missing out on that opportunity and resent me. I am confused about what to say, and how much to say. I need all the advice there is on this so I do it right.

A: Perfect decisions don't exist because what's great for one person may not work for another. Your concerns, though, are real. Anytime you have strong opinions on a subject, you stand the chance of offending someone when you voice your convictions. When you get to the interview stage, you want to focus on all your skills and what you offer that employer. Different employers have different needs, and you will have to sell each hiring manager on the abilities each company asks for. You become a salesperson the minute you walk into an interview.

According to "What Color Is Your Parachute?" a comprehensive job hunters instruction book, author Richard N. Bolles begins with a "two-minute crash course" in preparing for a job search. He explains that employers changed, job-hunters didn't; many employers hold out for a mythical dream employee; the length of time of the average job-hunt has increased; the length of time of the average job has decreased; finding a job that pays a middle-class salary is more and more difficult; job-hunting is increasingly becoming a repetitive activity; job-hunting has moved more and more online since 2008; job-hunters and employers speak two different languages; and finally, employers hunt for job-seekers in a manner opposite to the way job-hunters hunt for employers.

If you get the interview, Bolles says there are only five questions that matter to employers: 1. "Why are you here? This translates to how much do you know about who we are and what we do. 2. "What can you do for us?" Here is where you tout your skills and all you can do for the company. 3. "What kind of person are you?" Companies want to know whether you will fit into the culture and whether you will be fun to work with or whether you will create problems. It boils down to personality. 4. "What distinguishes you from the others?" Sell your unique qualities. Many people have the same degree, but what you do with your abilities makes you different. 5. "Can we afford you?" If the company wants you, will you accept a salary that fits the budget?

Do your homework before you start your search and enjoy the luxury of being able to wait for the right job.

Email your questions to workplace expert Lindsey Novak at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @TheLindseyNovak. To find out more about Lindsey Novak and to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: Leonard Bentley

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