It has been rather quiet here and this is because I have just returned from maternity break and having twins is literally a handful-very little “me” time. It is good to be back and I will try to post more regularly now and even more so when my post-birth schedule is established.
It seems befitting that today -with an eight month old in one lap, talk of work life balance– I write about returning to the labour market after maternity leave or after a very long break from employment to take care of family needs or other reasons.
I have heard that it is not uncommon for job seekers who have taken extended breaks from employment to struggle with successfully returning to the labour market. One of teh main challenges is that when returning to the labour market, job seekers need to justify the gaps in their CVs and also prove that they are up to date with industry trends and pertinent knowledge.
I will now share with you a survival kit to enable you redevelop your career development strategy and to job hunt more effectively.
According to Civitelli, 2016, there are several interventions that one can undertake in order to compete for career development opportunities after a long absence. Dr. Civitelli has developed eight interventions for returning to work. From these, I have deliberately picked out five which are my top favourite and seem practical and easy to implement. However, before launching into these activities, you may want to carry out an assessment and consider your options. Carol Fishman Cohen did just that, after returning to the work force after 11 years only to discover that her initial love for financial analysis was not where her professional passion lied anymore. “I skipped one of the most important steps in my career re-entry strategy,” she says. “You have to make sure you do a career assessment.” I am completely in agreement with her recommendation. I have worked with some clients who have worked in the same industry, or field or job for decades and suddenly they realise that what they are doing is not what they want to do any longer. They do not feel a drive or passion or the work they do and embark on a change of career path to do something more exciting, more fulfilling, more rewarding. It is therefore no surprise that it is a very critical step to reassess and carry out a career assessment before returning to the workforce.
Among her eight interventions, Civitelli mentions the following:
Think about strategic volunteering as a short-term goal or as a trajectory to your next dream job. This includes developing and expanding your network and becoming “acquainted with people who can serve as references for you and who will say that you are brilliant at whatever focus you […]” identify. Strategic volunteer work can include non-profit work and if navigated carefully, can lead to more permanent work.
The second intervention is getting the word out. People will not know that you are available for work if you do not deliberately inform potential connectors and hiring managers that you are looking for work. Attend social functions that are fun and meaningful to you. This may be in the form of a book club, or a favourite hobby. She emphasizes that you should make an effort at being pleasant to build connections at these events or clubs and when connections have been made, let them know that you are looking for employment opportunities.
Join a professional society in your desired professional field. For me, this is a no-brainer. Professional associations help their members to advance particular professions and interests, therefore, being in the presence of likeminded people is an excellent platform to reconnect and stay in tune with the industry. It is also doubles as a networking platform for active jobseekers through word-of-mouth.
It helps and it is encouraging to read the success stories of people who returned to the workplace after an absence. Civitelli asserts that you can try to find stories that are similar to your own experiences within your professional field, or a field that you are desirous to join, in order to learn what coping strategies they implemented to get back in the game. I concur with this statement particularly because, hearing about other people who have been in a similar situation before you can be uplifting because you can find comfort and knowing that your situation is not necessarily unique to you and that it is possible to overcome the seemingly hopeless situation.
Finally, if all your quests seem to head south, seek professional assistance by consulting a professional career coach or a counsellor.
Fraternising the formal employment scene is not everyone’s cup of tea, therefore if you feel that you are hitting the wall at your every turn, you can consider additional options including:
- Working from home-This is one of my favourites because it helps to ensure work life balance and is flexible. Check out the following link for ideas: http://www.forbes.com/sites/laurashin/2016/01/27/work-from-home-in-2016-the-top-100-companies-for-remote-jobs/#6fd0c1c336f0
- Private business Try one that does not require prohibitive start-up costs . https://www.sba.gov/starting-business/how-start-business/10-steps-starting-business
- Consultancies/contracting. If you are not confident about setting up a consultancy, partner with someone who is an expert in the field, has similar interests and ambition, with experience providing consultancy services. You can either work as an independent individual or as a consulting firm. For tips on how to become a consultant, check out: https://smallbiztrends.com/2013/04/how-to-be-a-consultant.html
On a final note, I would recommend that if you are in the process of transitioning to extended time away from the labour force, stay updated and avoid a large gap in your CV by taking on part-time and consulting jobs in your field of interest to remain competitive. This way, when you decide to return to the labour market on full time basis, your chances to compete for opportunities will be higher. Doing so may also open up a world of opportunities that you may otherwise not have had access to.
Happy job hunting!