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The current primetime soap about housewives has a lot of us talking. The successful format is ranked as one of the top viewed shows each week. The desperation is about many things, but going back to work is not one of them
If you have taken a break from your full-time career, you face the common problem of restarting your career. Some of my recent reader e-mails have requested advice on how to overcome this problem.

The fact that you’ve been unemployed for a period of time is a red flag to companies. "Red Flag" means an area of your background where the employer will press you for deeper and more complete answers. The length of time you were out is usually measured in years, not months. We’re not talking about short gaps in your employment, but rather a voluntary decision to stop your corporate career. It may not always be voluntary because of a lifestyle change. Sometimes events occur (good or bad) that affect your career direction and lifestyle choices. More importantly, it is only a red flag. It’s not necessarily a negative, so good and creditable answers need to be communicated during your interview.

The majority of advice requested is from women re-entering the workplace because they are the greatest number of workers that have taken time off, mostly to raise a family. The following e-mail question sums up the problem for some of our readers.

Dear Headhunter,
I am a 32 year-old woman ready to re-enter the work force in the Healthcare field. I hold a Master’s Degree in Business Economics and I have a solid four years successful management experience in Healthcare. I quit a manger position three years ago to stay home with my small children. During these three years, I was a substitute teacher and a tutor. I also took a 9-month course in Medical Insurance Billing to enhance my skills.

This past month, I have been job hunting for a management position in the same field. Employers seem interested in my qualifications and my skills, but the three-year gap seems to be an issue. How should I address it on my resume? Should I just not mention my teaching experience?

Thank you for your consideration, L.D., mom

Dear L.D. Mom,
Yes, you should list teaching experience on your resume. Resumes should reflect all work experience. It should be positive, not negative, to your next employer that you took care of your family, worked part-time, and went to school. The hiring company wants to feel certain that your re-entry is permanent and you will be a long-term employee. If the company feels you have a casual attitude toward your next job or that you don’t really need the income, they may not hire you. It’s only a red flag that needs a confident answer that you will be a long-term employee. Those three years reflect a well-organized and motivated person.

Good luck on your search.

These tips for re-entry are for everyone to use, both men and women, not just housewives. I’m sure there are stay-at-home dads that can use this same advice. The tips are primarily for restarting your career, but they can also be used for explaining short periods of unemployment or long gaps between jobs.

When you are ready to leave your job, give your company extra notice (four to six weeks) to replace you. Help train the new person so your leaving is smooth. Who knows, maybe you’ll work for the same company in the future. Leave the door wide open for an easy return. The extra notice will get you a good reference check. Get everything you can in writing because people move and change jobs and may be hard to find years later. Ask your boss, peers, outside vendors, and major accounts for letters of recommendation. These letters will be of great value for your re-entry search.

A family crisis or death might require your full-time attention. You may have to help a family business survive or settle an estate. If there is dual income, one spouse may have to relocate temporarily to solve the problem. Be sure to have all the details and dates written down. Did you receive compensation? If yes, be ready with proof. If your memory is fuzzy, you lose.

Taking a planned career intermission can be spun into a strong positive event. Education and enrichment travel will be viewed positively if positioned correctly. Tell the interviewer that this career furlough was a goal set years ago and was well planned. For example, try: “I have worked continually since finishing my education and nine months of travel to Europe was my goal and reward.” Or, “I took this leave to balance my education with my career goals. Going back to school improved my ability to achieve my new career goals.”

“I have been consulting for the last two years.” You better be able to document that statement with paychecks, invoices or written agreements. Without proof, consulting can be just another word for being unemployed.

Sporadic temping can be positively explained as a means to take your time in finding the “right” job. Temping also can be a negative if the company feels you are burnt out or reluctant to commit to a permanent position. Are you just window shopping for the “perfect” job? Get reference letters from the temp agency or a company that requested you on a regular basis. Documents create credibility.

Self-employment statements can be the most dangerous comments during an interview. If you express your experience, in the wrong manner, the company will almost automatically eliminate you from consideration. If your business failed, why should they hire you? If you succeeded, you would not be there interviewing. Are you looking for another grubstake to start a new business? Looking to work for a couple years and be gone again? Is your business is still in operation? (Your spouse runs it…yeah right!) Where are your loyalties?

You might use company time or property to run your business. You must convince the interviewer that the business is gone forever…dead and buried 100%. I recently had a candidate quickly eliminated from final interviews because he discussed his home-based business in an interview. His new job would have been in sales and he would have a company paid office in his home and a company car. The employer would never know which he business was running. If you have an ongoing side-business never mention it during an interview. End of conversation.

RECAP: These tips are to help you plan ahead to ease your re-entry. You must be prepared for tough questions that challenge your answers. Create a paper trail whenever possible to validate and support your decisions.

PLEASE NOTE: emails received become the property of "Dear Headhunter" and may be published unless otherwise requested. Questions may be edited for content and length. All questions will be reviewed, some without a reply.

George Gurney has been a leader in the employment industry since 1976. He founded an executive search firm that conducts domestic and international assignments.  He has won numerous awards for recruiting excellence.  He has been a guest speaker at national conventions and seminars.