Returning to work after an extended break is one of the toughest challenges for women. I was working as a marketing manager when I decided to take a break from work to raise my child. After a 5-year break, I decided that it was time to focus on my career again, which was both exciting and intimidating.
If you’re a woman who has taken a break from work – be it to start a family, for personal health reasons or just to take a sabbatical – you will definitely be able to relate to this. It took some patience and I did hear a lot of “We’re looking for someone with more recent experience” from various firms, but I didn’t let this get me down. Today, I’ve gotten my career back on track as a marketing manager and I couldn’t be happier.
If you’re in a similar situation as I was, here are some tips – based on my experience – that can help you avoid some of the obstacles that might come your way and enable you to push your career door back open:
The decision to restart my career in itself was the first big step forward. Whether you’ve been out for 3 years or 10, the one question you should definitely ask yourself is “Why do I want to go back to work?” Your priorities and circumstances might have changed, and this may mean taking a completely new route or finding a job that meets both your personal and professional goals. Hence, performing a self-assessment is crucial as it will give you a clear idea about the kind of jobs you should be looking for. This will make your back-to-work journey much more focused.
At my previous company, I had a great working relationship with my colleagues. This relationship helped me a great deal in getting a foot-in-the-door at various firms.
At the outset of your back-to-work journey, get in touch with people who know you and your quality of work and keep them updated about what you plan on doing. Connect with people like your supervisor, reporting head, or manager, who can offer you a job or someone whose reference will be of great value to you when you apply for a job.
It is a fact that a gap in your resume is still seen as a cardinal sin by many companies. So you need to figure out how to fill this gap with the skills and experience that you’ve acquired during your time out of work. If you’ve done a distance education course or a correspondence course during your time out, make sure you mention it in your resume. Did you help raise money for your child or sibling’s school? Did you serve on a committee or board? Mention it!
During my time off, I had served at my son’s school as a pro-bono marketing consultant to help them with their marketing campaign. Adding this on my resume helped me a great deal during my job search.
A gap in your career is definitely going to get the hiring managers question how up-to-date you are with your tech skills. Be confident about telling them what you know and how you keep up with the current tech advancements. You need to tell them that you have a great learning curve and you’re always willing to learn. You can back that up by showing them how active you’ve been on/via the Internet – your profile as a professional, blogs and published articles. Before attending interviews, do your homework, sign up for one of the many online correspondence courses out there and keep yourself updated.
Retunee internships or ‘Returnships’ are an emerging concept in India and across the world, where companies have started offering paid short-term employment contracts to people returning from an extended career break. This could be across a variety of divisions with the objective of providing people a chance to re-enter the workforce.
Many companies in India such as Goldman Sachs, Hindustan Unilever, Intuit, Intel etc. are offering effective Returnee Programs which have helped many professionals get their careers back on track.
Re-entering the workforce after several years does not mean taking a step back professionally. With a good strategy and some perseverance, any woman can turn the next phase of her career into the best professional years of her life.