Restarting Your Career in Technology

Hosted by reacHIRE and the Career Services team

For professionals who have taken a multi-year break from their tech career, the thought of reentering the workforce can be anxiety-inducing. Despite the myriad valid reasons someone might take a break — whether to raise a family, care for a loved one, or deal with a health crisis — they worry that the time away from work will be seen as a negative, that their skills are out of date, or that technology has changed so much that they won’t be able to catch up. However, in the tech industry, experience, work ethic, transferable skills, and aptitude are always valuable, giving returning professionals a clear path to reenter the workforce — it’s called a returnship.

Returnships are paid internships for experienced professionals looking to return to work after an extended career break. These programs help returners refresh their skills and get current experience while positioning themselves to restart a full-time career. Returnships are offered by a variety of companies and can be accessed directly, or through organizations specializing in connecting returners with the right opportunities — reacHIRE is an organization that assists professionals returning to the workforce by matching them with corporate returnships, cohort training programs, and personalized coaching.

Recently, reacHIRE held a webinar in partnership with the Career Services team to share key steps for returners to restart their careers in tech. Read on to learn more about how to jump-start your return to the tech industry.

6 Steps to Reenter the Workforce

For starters, Andrea Jolly, Tech Recruiter for reacHIRE return to work programs, explained that the returner journey is not linear, and everyone’s path is a little different. As a recruiter, she knows that people take career breaks for different reasons, however, she has identified 6 general steps to help professionals along on their journey back to the workforce. These steps are:

  1. Remember Why You Left: Think about why you took your break from the workforce and really own your story. Don’t be afraid to indicate it on your resume and speak about it professionally during an interview.
  2. Consider Your Past and Future: Think about your life, how you’ve spent your break, and what you’d like your career to look like now. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
    • What types of roles interest me based on my strengths?
    • Am I interested in full-time employment or project work?
    • Which industries — including those I haven’t worked in before — do I find exciting?
  3. Research Information and Skills: Research companies you are interested in working for — specifically, what skills these companies are requiring in the current job market. Some ways to get started include:
    • Reviewing job descriptions on the company’s website and on job boards
    • Understanding what tech stacks and versions their employees are using
  4. Evaluate Your Next Steps: Think about the best path forward, the best fit for your life, and what will make you most fulfilled as you take your next step back into the workforce.
  5. Commit and Upskill: After considering your goals and research, make a commitment to move forward on the path you’ve identified. Here are a few ways to start developing your skills:
    • Identify courses or bootcamps that will help you upskill in needed improvement areas — this is a key aspect recruiters look for in both job and returnship candidates, as it helps demonstrate self-awareness, initiative, and an understanding of the importance of keeping your skills up-to-date.
    • Highlight personal activities or work that demonstrates recent skills usage including volunteer work or side projects.
  6. Find and Lean on Support: Create a community of support for your career reentry to provide encouragement, networking, and accountability.

Tips to Update Your Professional Brand

After working through the above steps and defining the types of opportunities that are right for you, it’s important to refresh your resume and online presence to make the best impression on potential employers.

Tips for Refreshing Your Resume

Keep it streamlined, clean, and concise

  • Limit your resume to 1–2 pages with 4–6 bullets per job
  • List your employment in reverse chronological order (with your most recent position at the top)
  • Devote a section to the tech that you’re familiar with across all your positions
  • Use simple fonts and formats to make your skills stand out and your resume easy to read
  • Highlight transferable skills and soft skills in addition to hard skills — things like collaboration, time management, communication, and empathy
  • Use action words and focus on results and quantifiable accomplishments
  • Devote a section that highlights all relevant training, bootcamps, and certifications demonstrating your lifelong learning mentality
  • Don’t be afraid to indicate where your career break occurred

Tips for Your Professional Headshot

  • Make sure you’re in an uncluttered environment or blur out your background
  • Dress professionally and smile as if you are meeting someone new
  • Ask a friend or family member to take a photo from the chest up (no selfies or mirror pictures)

Tips for Connecting on LinkedIn

  • Create or update your profile with your new, professional headshot
  • Think of your profile as a condensed version of your resume — use the summary at the top to introduce yourself professionally and highlight key points in your work history or important certifications in your profile
  • Network by following companies you’re interested and connecting with people you’ve worked with in the past
  • Comment and like posts to increase your profile visibility 
  • Actively recommend others you’ve worked with and ask them to add recommendations to your profile
  • Set your LinkedIn preferences to show that you are open to job opportunities so recruiters and others in your network know you’re available
  • Join groups (e.g., industry, interest) to meet new people and broaden your network

Once you’ve identified your goals and refreshed your professional brand, it’s time to get out there and start seeking opportunities. Here are some tips to help make a great first impression.

Tips for the Interview

As a recruiter that works with many returners and hiring managers, Andrea shared some additional tips to consider when beginning your journey back into tech.

  • Emphasize lifelong learning: Not only do you want to highlight your efforts to learn new skills and keep up with technology (e.g., bootcamps, certifications), you also want to demonstrate your adaptability to using new tools and adjusting to new environments.
  • Project positivity: Demonstrate that your outlook on the future is both realistic and positive by acknowledging that things change rapidly and you’re willing to do the work to keep pace. Mention any podcasts you listen to or reading you do to keep up with tech trends — it can make the difference when hiring managers are making decisions.
  • Soft skills sell: Highlight your soft skills as well as your hard skills. Combined with your technical abilities, skills like communication, collaboration, and adaptability can help you stand out from other candidates.
  • Reflect your research: Reflect company language and values in your interviews. Visiting the company’s website and reading the About Us section is a good first step, but it can also be helpful to find your interviewer on LinkedIn to get an idea of their background.
  • Develop an elevator pitch: An elevator pitch is a one-minute summary, customized for each interview. The general elements to include in your elevator pitch are:
    • Start with a leading hook
    • Elaborate on your passion for tech and learning
    • Share your accomplishments and achievements in a way that reflects the culture of the company you’re interviewing with
    • End with why you would be a great fit for the role and company

Audience Q&A With Andrea Jolly, Program Director; and Ariel Galipeau, Technical Recruiter

(This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity)

Andrea Jolly: Java and related technologies seems to be the hot one right now … I’ve also seen .Net and C#, those are pretty hot for some of our clients. But really, the other thing that I’ll add is a lot of our clients have different needs, so while one client may have a need for Java developers, another one may have a need for something different and unique … so I always encourage people to, of course, check out the job descriptions.

Ariel Galipeau: The answer is: totally. We have folks with varying career breaks. I think the average is around 5–7 years for a career break, but we’ve seen folks with larger career breaks, like you are saying, 19–25 years. It certainly is possible and doable … and I think the misnomer is that during that period you haven’t been doing anything, which is not the case. We know that you’ve been engaged in your community, upskilling, leveraging your skills in different ways, and building skills in different arenas; so all of that is highly applicable and transferable. So, though it seems like 19 years is a long time, you’ve been building yourself and growing during that period. It may not have been in a professional setting, but I wouldn’t discount that as time that doesn’t count towards this next step in your job search … we’ve seen it happen and we’ve seen folks be successful.

Andrea Jolly: The big thing is that even if you have experience in a certain area, but you’re unsure if you should apply, we encourage you to so that we can actually flesh that out with you in a video interview. I would say that when you’re looking to apply for something and you have your resume set up, and you feel good about it, just go for it! We can always walk through that with you … and if for whatever reason, a role that you apply to isn’t necessarily the best fit at this point, the chances of us having something in the near future that is a better fit for your skill set is pretty high. In addition to that, when you’re looking at upskilling, thinking that your skill set is a little out of date, that’s okay because the understanding across the board between reacHIRE and our clients is that you’ll probably just need a little bit of time to ramp back up, and that’s perfectly normal.

Now that you have the steps to plan your tech workforce re-entry, consider upskilling with UT Austin Boot Camps. Choose the boot camp that’s right for you and become employer-ready in 3–6 months.

To learn more about returnships, you can view a full recording of the reacHIRE webinar here. Interested in exploring other career events like this? Check out the Career Engagement Network Events Hub to get started.

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