How to Relaunch Your Career Successfully
You used to be so confident, successful in your career, juggling life responsibilities and bringing home a paycheck. But then came a career break, an extended period of time where for family or other reasons you left the full time workforce. Now there is a gap in your resume and a sense of professional unease has crept into that opening.
Carol Fishman Cohen and Vivian Steir Rabin, the founders of iRelaunch, the back-to-work organization, have been there. It is easy to forget when watching these two high-energy, confident professionals lay out a step by step plan of how to return to work, that as the mothers of a combined nine children they have walked the walk.
Cohen and Rabin have researched and written a smart book on the subject (Back on the Career Track, 2007) but far more than that, they are two moms who each took extended career breaks and came back roaring. Rabin refers to her time off as “reproductive hibernation” and admits that during her cave years she lost all touch with her professional life and contacts. She and Cohen realized that they were pioneers in a growing demographic, parents who had left the workforce only to return in midlife, their skills out of date and their confidence dented.
The professional return to work cohort is huge, by iRelaunch’s estimate nearly two million strong, and from an employer's perspective relaunchers are an attractive hire with maternity leave behind them, fewer spousal relocations, a mature perspective and an abundance of energy and enthusiasm.
Are you ready and what do you want to do? If you have been out of the workforce for an extended period of time, both of these questions may be tough to answer.
When Cohen returned to work after more than a decade at home with her kids, she started at Bain Capital because her background was in finance. During her time off she had not examined whether her career goals or area of interest had changed. After a year at Bain Capital she recognized her mistake and has spent years interviewing women and employers developing the tools to help others avoid this pitfall.
Cohen advises everyone to take a career assessment and examine what you like to do and where your skills lie. Relaunch has a readiness quiz free on their website; it is a guided tool which will let you take a long hard look at yourself. As Cohen points out, we make career decisions at a very early age and a career break gives us a pause to reasses if the decsion was correct.
Learn Confidence and Update Skills
Confidence comes in part from competence and experience and those re-entering the working world may feel themselves lacking in both. Cohen suggests that relaunchers consider going back to school for a few courses or even a degree, looking for a paid or unpaid internships, earning a certificate or attending relevant conferences to get current. Universities and community colleges have executive education and career retooling weekends, weeks and semesters. They offer hundreds of courses covering every conceivable job category, most of which can be taken in an abbreviated period and many times, online. In a recent shift, some universities even have dedicated programs to help their alumni reenter the workforce, complete with individual counseling.
While you are taking steps to ready yourself for the job market, Cohen advises returners to volunteer in ways that add bulk to your resume. That means no more snack duty for the soccer team. If you are looking for a job in PR, volunteer to do publicity for a large tournament in your town. If you are looking to get back into health care, volunteer at a local health fair or at a hospital. Find volunteer activities, consulting projects or temporary work that can be resume builders.
Credit Image: iRelaunch