As a “trailing spouse” of my working husband, I enjoyed having a long and much-needed break from my career. After all, I have been working nonstop for over 20 years without a gap in between jobs. However, I do want to get back to my career someday and I know employers don’t take kindly to long stop-gaps in your career timeline.
Whether you are thinking of returning to the workforce soon or trying to bridge that gap in your resume, here are some of my tips to help you stay relevant in the workforce as a trailing spouse.
Knowledge is Power
To keep abreast of your industry, subscribe to online magazines and LinkedIn groups. Don’t lose touch with the business world just because you are somewhere far away. It helps to know what goes on around the world and in your host country.
Learn Something New
Nowadays, you don’t need to go to a school to take up a fresh course. There are plenty of free online courses you can take from reputable universities like Harvard, UCLA, and MIT.
Platforms like Coursera, edX, and Udemy offer courses you can pursue in your own time. Some courses may even allow you to add college credits. You can either take certification courses to enhance your previous skills or go for a totally new skill course.
Either way, you’ll benefit by adding a dimension to your resume.
Keep in Touch With Ex-Colleagues
Keeping a good relationship with your ex-colleagues and your bosses is a great way to keep abreast of insider information in your industry. If you ever want to go back to your old job or company, they are the first contacts you should reach out to. Add them on your LinkedIn and keep track of their movements.
Make New Contacts
Even as a trailing spouse, there are plenty of ways to make new friends. You can mingle with the expatriate groups in your interest area. I encountered many job opportunities when I was in the Expat Mothers group.
Don’t neglect the local groups either; you will never know who may approach you for a job. These networks can help verify your existence during your stop-gap.
Another great way to breach the gap in your resume is to volunteer with a nonprofit organization. These organizations can benefit from your past job experiences and skills like marketing, administration, and sales. If you put in serious time and effort, many will write a recommendation letter as well.
Take on Side Projects and Freelancing Gigs
As a trailing spouse, you may not have full-time employment, but nothing is stopping you to take on side projects from your old company.
Many expatriates like myself enjoy freelancing and can build quite a reputation in the business community. I am using this method to fill the gap in my resume, meet new business acquaintances online, and learn new skills. I can also explore different industries outside of my previous job experiences.
Freelancing is, in fact, the best way to dip your toes into the workforce without jumping straight into the sea, before you decide if you want to return to working full-time.
If you haven’t decided to retire and there is a chance you may return to the workforce one day, staying relevant is very important. It also provides you with short-term goals to fill up your days as a trailing spouse and prepare you for that day that you will step back as a career woman once more.
Are you a trailing spouse? What are you doing to keep up with your workforce skills? We’d love to hear from you.
by: Kally Tay