Career Advice

Back To School Of Another Kind: Four Career Management Reset Activities

It’s that time of the year again – back to school.

And although my oldest of three years is only starting preschool for the first time, very soon she’ll be getting older and then so will my youngest and then they’ll be going back to school again and again, to someday make the working world a better place.

But that’s not the back to school I’m going to talk about in this article.

There’s something much more serious to contend with today.

Consider this – the unemployment rate is still over 9% in the US, even though 117,000 jobs were added in July.

Then consider this – according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the 14 million unemployed Americans, more than 44% have been out of work for 27 weeks or more. That takes a huge toll financially, psychologically, emotionally and physically.

You’ve probably also read the articles in the past two years about how the unemployed “need not apply.” True, the employed always get preference in job searches; their experience is certainly more recent and their skills fresh and up to date. The longer you’re out of work the more likely your abilities atrophy and the harder it becomes to find sound employment, of any kind.

There is hope, however. For those of you unemployed, as long as you’re willing to “go back to school” in some fashion and own your professional development – even be willing to change careers all together – then there is hope for you to again become (and hopefully remain) relevant and employable.

Here are four career management “reset” activities I recommend:

1. Literally go back to school.

Always wanted to get your GED? Finish your 2-year or 4-year college degree? Get an MBA or a Ph.D.? Get professional certification? Then do it. Although education alone is no guarantee for job fit, companies do prefer educated applicants, preferably those with higher education, a college degree and/or professional certification.

2. Update your skills.

Take special courses online or via local community services or paid programs to update your professional skills – everything from social media to computer programming to marketing to business development to management training to – you name it. Stay fresh and stay relevant in the marketplace you’re trying to get back into.

3. Find a mentor. Then become one.

What’s critical about this one is that there are lots of employed professionals in your own backyards and networks who would be more than willing to give you advice and career guidance, even introducing you to potential employers via the backdoor (meaning, it’s who you know as much as it’s what you know). Once you’re gainfully employed again, pay it forward and become a mentor yourself.

4. Find and take part-time or contingent work.

Of any kind. Preferably relevant to your career path, but not necessarily. I say this only because no one needs to bleed out when they’re trying to stay afloat. Sometimes there can be thousands of people applying for 100 slots when a new “store” opens, so why not be one of the more qualified if you’re recently unemployed. Or, take part-time seasonal work or contract work, even if you have to cobble together enough projects to eat.

And here are a couple of related recommendations for employers:

Cross-train your top employees and executives.

Ensure they learn and comprehend all the moving parts of your business. Because if you don’t, your internal mobility will be limited and costly when you need to fill knowledge gaps fast.

Let your employees volunteer and/or focus on personal projects.

This is a great way for your employees to learn other hard and soft skills, all of which will benefit your business. If your employees are overworked and underappreciated, like many currently employed are, sparks of collaborative caring and innovation will fly out the window faster than your declining customer service and revenue.

It’s a scary world today. Global economic uncertainly is keeping businesses from hiring. If you’re unemployed today, do whatever you can to reset and become relevant again in the workplace.

Good luck.