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I’m going to be a little cold and hard this morning.

Getting back into the workforce after time away can be very difficult in any economic environment. But if you’ve chosen this economy to make your comeback in a beloved career after a multiple year hiatus you’re basically screwed.

The number of discouraged workers, those whose unemployment benefits have run out, has hit all-time highs.

In August, there were 758,000 discouraged workers, down slightly from 796,000 in July but nearly double the 381,000 a year earlier. The July level was the highest since the government began tracking the statistic in 1994, according to James Walker, labor analyst with the U.S. Department of Labor.

I’m telling you this because I don’t want you to go out there, get doors slammed in your face and feel bad about yourselves. It’s just a job-hunting reality right now and if you accept that you’ll have a better chance at beating the odds.

I just got this email from a reader named Bea titled “Can My Career Be Resurrected?”:

I was downsized 4 years ago from the publishing industry. Then I went back to school for a certificate in another field. I ended up finding I had no interest in this field after all. I fell into a terrible depression and I haven’t been employed since. I have now recovered sufficiently to look for work again–at the worst possible time in the past 70 years. How do I proceed? I am thinking of going back to publishing (I was a writer/editor). How can I cover the large gap in my employment history?

Bea has two bit obstacles facing her. Not only did she take time off but she’s also interested in an industry that has been hard hit by layoffs, publishing. That said, there are tactics she can use to make the best out of her situation.

Vivian Steir Rabin, co-author of “Back on the Career Track” and co-founder of iRelaunch, a website that specializes in career reentry, offered these thoughts on Bea’s email:

* It’s critical to maintain a positive attitude and project confidence so don’t let yourself get down about your situation.
* You’ve already taken one of the most important steps—figuring out what you want to do.
* Now it’s time to network and market yourself.
* To prepare yourself for this phase of your job search campaign, develop a short elevator story about yourself, pitching your skills and experience and the kind of work you’d like to do.

As for the gap in Bea’s resume, Rabin suggested leaving the hole off your resume, which I agree with. She also suggests writing a note about why you took time off in your cover letter or email, but this is where I part ways with her advice.

I think this could work with some hiring managers, but telling an employer upfront you had a medical condition of any sort is not a great idea. Especially in this economy, hiring managers want to know you can do the job and don’t want any doubts about it.

Some additional tips from Rabin:

* If you undertook any volunteer or consulting assignments while on career break, put those on your resume. But don’t get hung up about this document.
* Your best bet for finding a new job will be through contacts, not through job boards. Someone will hopefully recommend you for a position. That will go a long way toward compensating for the resume gap.
* Once you have a draft of your resume and a short succinct pitch about yourself, contact the people you used to work with and ask them if you can take them out for coffee to find out about what they’re doing and get their advice. (Find them on LinkedIn if they’ve changed jobs or through sites that track job moves in the publishing world.)
* Start with people you knew well and had a good relationship with. Then ask them to refer you to others and reach out to your own more distant contacts, as your confidence grows.
* Make sure you’re reading websites and periodicals for your industry so you sound up-to-speed on current developments.
* And don’t forget to use college acquaintances as a pool of networking contacts, and to join relevant industry groups on LinkedIn so you’re in the information flow.

Since Bea is trying to reenter a struggling industry, publishing, she’s probably going to have to reeducate herself a bit. Publishing is all about the Internet these days and the more she can look savvy when it comes to using technology the better. There is nothing like taking a class to help boost your skills and confidence.

Do any of you have stories to share on how you were able to resurrect your career after time off?

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