The Answers To Readers’ Questions

By Gerald Walsh ©

I receive a number of questions from readers. In today’s blog, I am going to talk about re-entering the workforce, the best length for a cover letter, and how long a job search should take. 

Q. I have decided to take a few years off while my children are young but anticipate re-entering the workforce maybe five or seven years down the road. Is there any strategy you would recommend I follow so I don’t fall too far behind?

A. You are wise to be thinking about this because skills that are marketable now might be obsolete by the time you re-enter the workforce. I would suggest you take the following approach:

First, ensure that your skills remain current while you’re out of the regular workforce. You can do this by taking courses, attending workshops, and reading material relevant to your occupation.

Second, you should try to maintain as many work-related relationships as possible. This will be difficult because you will not be at work physically, but do your best to meet people for lunch, attend networking events, and connect through social media.

Third, if time permits, you might consider doing part-time work from home. It will keep you sharp and help maintain (or build) those much-needed relationships.

Q. How long should my cover letter be and, assuming I reply by email, should my cover letter be in the body of the email or should I send it as an attachment?

A. A properly crafted cover letter will be at least one page long, perhaps two. And remember: You will never have to worry about boring the reader if you inject personality into your letter and focus on how you can solve the employer’s needs.

It helps to format the letter too by using lots of white space and properly-bolded headings.

Personally, I like to receive one document that combines the cover letter and resume. So simply merge the two together and attach them to the email. The subject line should read, “Cover letter and resume of ________(your  name)”. This avoids the requirement for the employer from having to open and print two documents.

Q. How long will my job search take?

A. Even though this question is on the mind of most job seekers, unfortunately, I cannot answer it  with any precision. However, one thing is certain. We tend to under-estimate the amount of time it will take us to get anything done. So, be realistic in your expectations.

Even the shortest job search will take between two and three months as it takes at least that amount of time for a company to post an ad, interview candidates, check references, convey an offer and then bring the person on board.

Other factors that can influence the amount of time it takes to find a job include your level of seniority, salary expectations, your network of contacts, demand for your skills, and most importantly, the level of effort you put into your search.

Although some people fall into jobs by good luck, I am convinced that the harder you work at finding a job, the quicker you will find one.




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Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and author. During a 25+ year career, he has interviewed more than 15,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. He is the author of PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @@Gerald_Walsh and LinkedIn.