In today’s cut-throat world of job market, finding the right job is a nightmare - a prolonged and tough process for many. In such a scenario, women considering returning to work after a career break could be daunting and the challenging.
The anxiety and apprehensions of having to compete with younger candidates and trying to keep up with their zeal and ambition could be unnerving. What distresses more is trying to keep abreast of those, vying for the same position, from their current high-flying top positions, without having to explain any time gap in their CVs. With such daunting sentiments, women on a career break are often battling with lack of confidence, after spending months or even years out of their industry.
Here are some guidelines on resuming job hunt after a career break. The entire process could be an uphill struggle, especially with the evolving job market, accessing career options is not what you should begin with. You should analyse your decision to go back to work, as it can seem like an overwhelming and confusing task if you’ve been at home with kids or elderly relatives for very long. I suggest break your analysis down, for example, your appetite for work, your child care or elder care responsibilities, and the kind of support you have from spouse and family. Once you’ve figured answers for such questions, you can begin your job hunt. Furthermore, while you may have very fixed ideas about the type of work pattern you want, you might need to be open to or focus on being flexible. Here are few tips to get you started:
Explore your network: After having worked for years, before you went on a career break you might have built a strong network of professionals – Tap your network; it is one of your strengths. Your network comprises friends, family, former employers, and colleagues. Over and above that you can also explore social networks sites and your connection in platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn. These social networking sites today have become a hub of employment, with many employers advertising jobs on these sites.
Tap flexible work-friendly workplaces: Instead of being adamant about working with established Blue-chip companies, try organisations that offer flexible work hours for working women. Additionally, apart from exploring options outside, it is also important to explore within, to ascertain what field interests you the most and the best firms to work for in terms of flexi timing. There are various niche job sites now that focus on companies offering flexi timings and have work environment conducive for working women. However, this doesn’t mean that you should not consider the firms that you wish to work with. Check websites of those firms and look at their HR policy, like their attitudes to flexible working. Companies with good policies on flexible working usually advertise it and list out what they have to offer. You could also consider companies that offer a range of different types of flexible working, starting from flexi-timing and compressed hours of working from home, job share, etc.
Consider the boom of startups and smaller companies: Women who have been on a long career break need to understand the startup culture. A small company with 10 to 20 employees, where most of them are fresher or juniors, with a couple of co-founders, mostly need few senior people in the company who can serve as team leads, riding on their maturity and experience. Hiring senior professionals in these companies is mostly difficult because of two reasons – firstly, most seniors prefer to do jobs with larger companies, and secondly, many companies at this stage can’t afford the salaries of seniors.
This is a situation involuntarily customised for women who have been on career breaks. Firstly, because they wish to work part-time, their salaries are comparatively lower, which makes them more affordable. Secondly, smaller and newer companies would be more accommodating, in terms of the needs of a working mother.
Ride on your strengths: Instead of depending on the employers to identify your potential, highlight it to them. There is a list of skills that startups and smaller companies would look for, typically because their junior employees are missing those, viz.
- Maturity: Maturity in life and in a professional set up are two different virtues. Professional maturity comes only through experience, which women on career break bring with them.
- Leadership skills: If you have ever been designated as a team lead in your past jobs, highlight it. It is a valuable skill!
- Communication skills: If you have good communication skills and have done presentations in the past, then you have a valuable skill.
- Ability to handle customers: Junior employees mostly cannot be dependent with handling clients directly. Therefore, any customer facing experience with good communication skills must be highlighted during interviews.
- Hiring skills: Seniors in startups and small companies are generally seen spending a large fraction of their time interviewing or other hiring activities and this is a skill that most juniors will not have. All these skills can be put together to pick newer talents easily.
Making an allowance for such skills and experience, women on career break must realise their value in the job market. All they need to do is identify and highlight their strengths, approach the right companies, and be confident.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)