Career Outlook Tips from Top Instructors: Let’s Get Back to Work!

Business Instructors: Gilma Anderson, Linda McKean, and Jonnetta Thomas-Chambers

Introduction: Jeff Nazzaro

With more COVID-19 vaccines getting into more arms every day and boosters on the way, Americans are steadfastly redeploying to the workforce. US Department of Labor statistics show that total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 943,000 in July, lowering unemployment by 0.5%, down to 5.4%, marking a steady decline from the 15% of February 2020’s pandemic peak. Some 60,000 of those jobs are in professional and business services, but that segment remains down over half a million jobs since the peak, which means there are plenty of people on the sidelines, with lots of space for them to return. It’s time to get back to work.

UCR University Extension instructors typically enter their classrooms directly from years of experience in industry and thus, are perfectly situated to help guide their students into the positions or promotions they seek. Experts in their fields, they combine their professional know-how and networking skills with a spirit of seeking top-notch, industry-specific education through life-long learning. Here, three of our best offer their best bets for jumping back into the workforce and/or jump-starting your career.

UCR University Extension Instructor Gilma Anderson Gilma Y. Anderson, M.S., Industrial Organizational Psychology, has extensive experience in workplace productivity, management, developing employment tests, writing structured interviews, completing job analysis studies, and training human resources professionals to interpret item analysis data and statistical information. Ms. Anderson has done training in both classroom settings and online.

“If you are thinking of reentering the workplace you are probably experiencing a bit of stress and anxiety. If so, you are in good company. Most of the world can relate to you! Although some of these emotions cannot be completely eliminated, you can successfully reenter the workplace by keeping the following in mind.”

  • Re-engage face-to-face. COVID-19 accelerated our shift to remote work, but it has not reduced our desire for authentic connection. It’s time to reconnect to build relationships and trust. You might want to consider taking a Crucial Conversations course, as sensitive topics filter into the workplace, and managing and redirecting conversations is key to healthy relationships. If you are a supervisor or aspire to be one, try a leadership development course. Relational components, like conflict resolution and providing effective feedback, distinguish great supervisors and coworkers.
  • Redefine and engage in networking. In networking, we are more likely to remember those who are genuinely interested in and have helped us rather than those with a dazzling elevator pitch. Try to come across as interested, rather than interesting. Ask memorable questions such as, “What brings you the greatest sense of accomplishment at work?” instead of, “How long have you worked here?” How can you serve others? Can you lighten their workload, recommend a useful blog, or help with their social media page? Who can you congratulate or invite to a professional event? Where can you volunteer? People you help will be willing to return the favor. The key is sincerity.
  • Develop a strengths-based resume. It is important to get through a company’s recruitment filters by using as many key words from the job description as you can. Once employers have your resume, most will only spend a few seconds looking at it. To stand out, make every word count. Begin with why you are fit for the job. Focus on how well you have performed tasks—share results or accomplishments. Use phrases like, “Received recognition for . . .,” “Increased participation by . . .,” “Developed X leading to an increase in Y,” “Increased customer satisfaction by . . .,” “Helped students accomplish goals by. . . .”
  • Stand out in an interview. When interviewers say, “Tell me about yourself,” they don’t just want general information. They want to know why they should hire you. Use this opportunity to tell them why you are qualified. Describe how you fit into their company’s culture and how your skills match the job description. Be clear on what you have to offer and be ready to prove it. When you say you have a certain strength, back it up with a real-life, demonstrative example.
  • Create or update a LinkedIn account. Most organizations use LinkedIn for recruitment and even scout those who have not applied for jobs with them. Create an account and keep it updated. Like you did in your resume, write statements that quantify your accomplishments and highlight how well you perform the tasks you do. Don’t be shy. Use testimonials where they apply. Have you received great feedback from others? If so, ask if you can quote them on LinkedIn.

UCR University Extension Instructor Linda McKean Linda McKean, M.A., Management, Consultant, has worked in the Project Manager capacity since 1997, leading large projects with significant impact on the financial status of the organization. She has led projects for Rolenn Manufacturing and was a Corporate Technical Trainer for Bourns, Inc., presenting Project Management trainings in Asia, Mexico, Malaysia, China, and Brazil. Ms. McKean is also a Certified Six Sigma Green Belt, and a Six Sigma Black Belt.

“The most important thing for individuals who are entering the job market after being out of the market for an extended period of time is to be prepared. Below are some of the key areas they need to be aware of and/or for which they need to have answers ready.”

  • Network, network, network. Seek out important networking and professional organizations within your field of expertise. These are valuable resources to help identify and pursue job openings and other opportunities for professional advancement. Find out which professional organizations in your specific field are most influential with industry leaders. Discover the key networking platforms and events, both on social media and in person. Is there a particular conference or trade show that offers vital networking opportunities? Make sure to be there.
  • Reflect on your current situation. Ask yourself why you have not worked for an extended period. This is in all probability one of the first questions you will be asked, and you need to be able to answer it with poise and confidence rather than stumbling over a list of reasons and justifications hastily patched together on the fly. Make sure your answers are truthful and to the point. Resist any urge at sharing too much personal information that you think will bolster your case but that will only make you sound needy, and compromise your privacy.
  • Be self-aware and self-appreciative. Know exactly what it is you bring to the job for which you are applying. Equally important is that you know what the prospective employer can provide for you. Companies want to know how they can help a person grow—and so should you! If you have not fully investigated this area, you are missing a valuable opportunity to share a win-win situation. Knowing what questions to ask shows a company you have done your research and are fully invested in your job search, career, and, ultimately, them.
  • Brush up on essential skills. Project Management basics are critical in today’s professional environment. Regardless of the type of job you are applying for, a fundamental Project Management background could be the deciding factor in whether you ace the interview or not. It is obvious that good computer and Internet research skills add value to your resume. The more software platforms and applications you are comfortable working in, the more you will stand out. Excellent written and verbal communication skills remain a major advantage in the workplace, as do leadership and team-building skills.
  • Never stop learning. Continuing your education is going to help you attain and keep your new position, as well as develop key skills for future career growth. The job market is an ever-changing environment. Technology is constantly growing. Business and management practices are always evolving. To remain marketable and current, further education and training should be an important component of your professional life.

UCR University Extension Instructor Jonnetta Thomas Chambers Jonnetta C. Thomas-Chambers, M.A., Human Resources Management, works with emerging and experienced human resources professionals and organizational leaders, impacts learners from more than eleven countries, and has training curricula in the United States, China and South Africa.

“Finding your next job is an important task and requires a serious investment of quality time. Think about where you are right now and where you would like to be in the future. These last eighteen months have taught us all something. Draw from your experiences during this time and use them as the basis for self-reflection. What is it you really want to do? Recall the job or career you have always dreamed about pursuing—and go after it.”

  • Location, location, location. Does it still matter? Consider specific companies and industries of interest. Will you work on site, virtually, or some combination of both? Can you travel? What kind of compensation, benefits, and organizational culture are you seeking? In which work environments do you thrive? Which seem to stunt your momentum? The answers to these questions will help you search for a job that fits your preferred lifestyle, allowing you to offer the best version of yourself to, and be a better fit for, the organization.
  • Do your research. It is crucial to have the essential skills prospective employers seek. According to global research firm Gartner, Inc., “HR leaders are finding it increasingly difficult to quickly find and develop talent with the most in-demand skills” and “58% of the workforce needs new skills to get their jobs done.” Understand which skills are in demand by reviewing the latest research, analytics, and job advertisements.
  • Perform a self-assessment. How many of those in-demand skills do you possess, how well can you execute them, and how do you know? Is the proof in a recent performance evaluation, in customer accolades, or in in-company testimonials? To help validate your self-assessment, consider this: If current or previous employees were asked about the effectiveness of your skills, what would they say, how would they rate you, and would it match your own self-assessment? It is easy to under- or overvalue your skills. Having input from others can confirm or challenge our own skill ratings.
  • Embark on education’s lifelong journey. At UCR University Extension, we promote the value of continuing education in our students’ professional lives. This means preparing you with in-demand skills right now, while equipping you to be an effective strategic decision-maker, change agent, and team player. Our students complete certificate programs and transition into new jobs and careers; others improve their workplace performance and gain promotions. Along these journeys, students become family, and it is not uncommon for them to return for additional support—networking, letters of recommendation, or taking additional courses, and earning new skill-based certificates.
  • Make a winning move! Partner with UCR University Extension to quickly reinforce and build skills while filling in gaps to increase your job-readiness. Our courses are designed to deliver the skills employers want, today, led by a team of instructors who provide caring, challenging classroom environments to increase your confidence and equip you with the necessary tools to drive your career and transform your life! We provide industry-driven resources, experience-based insight, peer interaction, and opportunities to practice key concepts learned through simulations, case studies, projects, and solution-based action plans, all based on real-world business challenges.