"For the past 2 years I've been finishing my master's thesis and preparing to bring a baby into this world, all at the same time being out of the real work force. Previously, I was employed for 5 years with local government, but would like some advice and new perspectives on how to re-enter the work world. I feel like I need a crash course on how to market myself to get a good job with a desired salary that reflects the achievement of my newest degree."
Be as confident as Leslie.
First of all, huge congratuations on all the big life changes! You are a woman who goes after what she wants and that's awesome.
Buff up your professional profiles and resume
Depending on what industry you want to go in and what job you want to do, make sure that your digital footprint has been built out on the relevant social networks. What I mean by that is, beef up your LinkedIn. If the industry your in has their own networks (for instance, if you wanted to get a job a tech start-up you would create an account on AngelList) then make sure to develop a presence there are well.
Take a long hard look at your resume. It's probably been a while since you've updated it. You will want to make sure you don't overburden your CV with all of the research and academic achievements you've accomplished in the last 5 years especially if it isn't 100% relevant to the profession you are entering. But! Definitely have a section in your resume that outlines briefly the badassery that is your Master's degree and any and all achievements.
Ask for help
There are tons of micro-communities on the web. Whether it's groups on LinkedIn or Facebook, you will be able to find hubs of professionals (especially women's groups) who are already doing what you want to do. Join those groups and start listening. Learn the language of your newly-desired profession. If you find individuals you think would be a good resource, contact them. Ask, 'What skills and experience are recruiters and hiring managers most interested in seeing in a candidate applying for this type of role.' 'What's a realistic salary range.' Get the inside line when and where you can. And don't stop at just one person. Ask as many people as possible. It may be weird to ask people you do not know for help but you really have nothing to lose. You will be suprised by how willing people are to help, and If it gives you better perspective on what you need to land the next job then it will be worth the small amount of discomfort.
Be confident and have a narrative
You've already proven through your accomplishments that you are a boss. Don't think that because you've been out of the workforce or that because you've had a child that in any way makes you a less desirable candidate. When you interview, speak to your strengths, make sure you have your narrative down for why the combination of your public service and graduate education gives you the best perspective to do whatever new job you desire. It's your job to sell your skills in a way that can convince the hiring manager that your background is the perfect fit for what they are looking for, even if it's not the traditional background for that role.
It may seem daunting to re-enter the workforce after so many years in academia, and it is when you don't have any help. Now is the time to look at your network, and ask for help from people who have the ability to guide you. You've contacted us, so it seems like you instinctually know what you should do. Must be that budding mother's intuition. Go get em' girl.
Have a question you need answered? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.