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Out of work and eager to get back in the game? Career coaches give their best advice

The majority of those who have left the workforce entirely are women. About 2.3 million women are no longer participating in the U.S. labor force, according to government data. And most of those women are Black and Latina.
Sharon Epperson, senior personal finance correspondent for CNBC, at a Know Your Value event in Philadelphia on Nov. 19, 2019.
Sharon Epperson, senior personal finance correspondent for CNBC, at a Know Your Value event in Philadelphia on Nov. 19, 2019.Anthony Scutro

This article originally appeared on Invest in You: Ready. Set. Grow., a CNBC multiplatform financial wellness and education initiative, in partnership with Acorns.

Hiring in the U.S. increased in February — and the unemployment rate ticked down slightly — but not all workers benefited from the larger-than-expected job growth. The unemployment rate is still significantly higher than February 2020, before the Covid-19 pandemic began.

And some workers are no longer counted as unemployed.

“Over the same time period, more than 4 million workers have dropped out of the labor force,” said Cecilia Rouse, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, in a White House report issued March 5.

The majority of those who have left the workforce entirely are women. About 2.3 million women are no longer participating in the U.S. labor force, according to government data.

Yet, many women who are unemployed or have left the labor force want to return to work — and also want advice on how to get hired. We talked to six career experts for their answers to some common questions.

Q: I feel like I’ve exhausted every employment website with no luck. What should I do to get my resume noticed?

A: Knowing the right people could help your resume land in the right hands. “Having an internal employee recommend you for a job is one of the best ways to break through the crowd and get noticed,” said Jack Kelly, founder and CEO of The Compliance Search Group and Wecruiter.

Before uploading your resume to an employment website, application tracking system or online portal, do this:

  • Pick five to 10 organizations where you really want to work.
  • Mine your network to connect with hiring managers and potential co-workers at those places.
  • Talk to hiring managers, current employees to learn more about what they do and express your interest in the job opportunity.

“Don’t reach out to HR, they’ll just point you back to the application process. Reach out to the department where you want to work,” said career expert Caroline Ceniza-Levine. “Yes, it’s easier to just apply for many, many jobs and feel like you’re keeping busy.

“But ... you’re trying to distinguish yourself,” she added.

Q: When it comes to job websites, what should you be doing in your profile pages or LinkedIn to help yourself stand out?

A: Your social media presence reflects your brand 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Before looking at your resume, “employers are going to Google you and will go to LinkedIn first,” said Jackie Mitchell of Jackie Mitchell Career Consulting. “You cannot be serious about wanting to improve your career or find a job if you don’t have a LinkedIn profile.”

To build or update it, do this:

  • Highlight your professional brand. Make sure you have a current photo that accurately depicts how you want to be seen and what your brand represents.
  • Be personable. In the “About” section, you are the storyteller. Be personable in describing your career path and which future opportunities you’re seeking.
  • Describe measurable results and highlight specific skills. Include your problem solving and pertinent skills.Use keywords from previous job descriptions and current job openings.

Olivia Jaras, founder of Salary Coaching for Women, said that when you think your profile is done, you should ask yourself: “Is it really showcasing you as the inevitable solution, the inevitable answer to that dream opportunity of yours? Or is it obsolete?”

To get a fresh perspective, “ask a high school or college student to look at your profile and see if they can describe what you do,” Ceniza-Levine said. “What you offer should be obvious.”

Also, “request some of the people in your professional network to endorse your skill set,” said Minda Harts, author of “The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table.”

“Lots of people have profiles, but not as many candidates as you think, have taken the time to create a profile that highlights their career,” she said.

Q: What advice do you have for those who have been out of the workforce and now are thinking they want to slowly get back out there?

A: Even if you’ve been out of the work for a while, don’t discount the fact that you’ve likely still been working — caring for children or relatives in the home or volunteering. To a hiring manager, you could have skills that will translate well into a future job opportunity.

  • Talk to people in the industry. Speak with people in your industry to gain an understanding of what the job market looks like to manage your expectations.
  • Volunteer, take online courses. “For the skills you lack, take an online course or pick up some volunteer work with an organization where you have the opportunity to apply those skills on the job,” said Maria Reitan, founder and head coach at Jump Team Coaching. “This also works for skills that have become outdated.” Fundraising, for example, can be a great way to meet people, develop critical pitching skills and really help organizations in need, Ceniza-Levine said.
  • Update your LinkedIn profile. If you don’t currently have skills for the job you are seeking, make sure to include the education, training or volunteer work that you’re doing to get those skills on your profile.
  • Be prepared with your pitch. How would you describe who you are, what you can do and why you’re an asset to this organization? Your pitch should be a 30-second (maybe 1-minute) brief concise story of who you are, what you’ve done in your last couple of jobs (including unpaid work), and notable achievements, Kelly said.

Q: The job search can be daunting. How can you stay upbeat during the process?

A: It is nearly impossible to stay upbeat in the midst of significant challenges if you do not have a positive mindset. To get your mind right, career experts say do this:

  • Know your worth. “If you think you’re not worthy of your dream job, neither will the employer,” Jaras said. Figure out what your dream job looks like and what would need to happen to position yourself so that the employer sees that you are the ideal candidate for the job.
  • Remember your “why.” Why do you need or want this job? What’s the end goal? The job search is a job unto itself. But it’s temporary. It’s a means to an end. “Think of all of the reasons why you want to find a job, why you want to land that dream job, that is larger than the job itself,” Reitan said. “Put a sticky note on your bathroom mirror that shouts your ‘why’ at you each morning.”
  • Take time for self-care. Maintain a daily routine to stay focused and have a semblance of normalcy. Your job search is your current “job,” but remember to also practice self-care. “Find hobbies and activities that allow you to decompress and get your mind off of the job search,” Kelly said. “You can read, do a little yoga, some push-ups, sit-ups, jogging in place, walk around the block or any other activities that you like.”

Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.