Going back to work after a career break can be both exciting and intimidating—especially if you’ve been out of the workforce for more than five years. The decision to restart your career is a giant first step forward. Then comes the process of finding a position that matches both your personal and professional goals.
First, know that you’re in good company: More than 2.6 million women in the United States hold a bachelor’s, masters or PhD degree but do not work outside the home. This is why the need to create new pathways for women to re-enter has never been greater.
But how to get started? Here are five tips to consider:
Focus on your Strengths. Before you begin updating your resume, pause to reflect on your skills. This is not about what you did in your past career, what your title was or where you worked, but rather about what you loved and what made you succeed. Think about what projects made you most proud and what environments you thrived in. What were your best skills? Where did you feel you made an impact? An honest assessment of your skills and strengths is key in helping you decide where you want to go now.
Do a Tech refresh. No matter where you want to work or what you want to do, technology will be a part of it. Take time now to update your tech skills and learn about the important tools that drive business decisions today. Simply updating your social media acumen isn’t enough. Analytics, coding, customer relationship management and Big Data are all huge parts of today's business world. The more you understand these concepts, the more likely you’ll get hired to work on them—or will manage people who do. Look for programs and workshops in your area from companies that offer advanced technology training to non-techies. If kids can learn it, so can you!
Show you can Adapt. Restarting your career doesn’t always mean picking up exactly where you left off. The job you left five years ago may not even exist today—or may command different sets of expertise. There are also new jobs requiring new skills. This can be a hard realization for many re-entry women to accept. When beginning your job search, make sure to show that you are passionate about bringing your talents to the company—not just your former title. This may mean reporting to someone 15 years younger than you, accepting an individual contributor role vs. one with management responsibility right out of the gate, or taking a part-time position in a new role to get your foot in the door. Today’s jobs require a range of skills, an open mind and a desire to contribute where the business needs it most.
Get Ready. Making the decision to go back to work doesn’t mean you're prepared on day one. Consider these questions: Are you up on the latest business news and trends in the industries that interest you most? Are you proficient with today’s business collaboration and communication platforms? When was the last time you presented professionally? It's important to build a “personal infrastructure" to ensure your transition is successful. Don't forget to think ahead to new needs such as afterschool care. Be ready the instant you find that great new role, so you'll have the confidence and preparedness to shine.
Embrace a Team. Once you’ve made the decision to restart your career, be focused and proactive. Realize you’re not the only woman with a resume gap, and make an effort to seek out others who are making the journey back to work with you. One of the best ways to make this transition is with the support of other women. For example, you might consider attending a program like reacHIRE’s that is designed to help women refresh skills, learn new technology and thus, boost confidence. Our graduates, for example, are placed in 4 to 6 month paid positions with a partner company, meaning the journey back into a career is firmly started.
Deciding to go back to work and harness your intellectual capabilities in new ways is exciting. Assess your Strengths, refresh those Technology skills, be open and Adaptable to new and different job opportunities, make sure that you've put in place the infrastructure so that you are truly Ready to hit the ground running, and build a support Team around you to ensure success. In other words, just START!
Addie Swartz, CEO of reacHIRE, is a serial entrepreneur who has dedicated her career to developing products and services that empower women at all stages of life. She created reacHIRE to build a systematic training and placement pathway for professional women to get back into the workforce after a career break. She's also a frequent speaker at leadership and entrepreneurial events across the country. Addie is a mom of two and lives with her family in Massachusetts.