Q. Ten years ago, I put on hold a high-flying, successful career to become a stay-at-home mom. It is a decision I have never regretted and I am glad to have had the time with my children. However, I am seriously contemplating getting back into the workforce considering my children are now independent. The thing is, I am now in my forties and I’m wondering if I’m kidding myself here. Any words of advice you can offer to help me with the transition?
A. People, and women in particular, sometimes feel the need to give up either their career or family over the other, and their life from then henceforth follows the chosen path, which is not cast in stone.
Circumstances may force one to cut short their employment hiatus or the issues as to why they took the break in the first place have been addressed, as with your case. So your desire to jump back into employment is very valid and very possible. Here’s how you can prepare for the transition.
Assess your reasons: What exactly is your motivation for jumping back into the work force? Is it money? Is it some sense of personal gratification or actualisation? Is it to keep busy? Is it to learn something new?
These kinds of questions will help determine the kind of job you should seek, for example your old job or a new adventure, and to which extent you want to immerse yourself into it. Your motivation will also determine the extent to which you are willing to compromise on the offers given.
Prepare… a lot! Potential employees will always ask why you took a hiatus and why you came back and if you are relevant enough for their business. You must think through your answers carefully because you don’t want to create the impression that you were too good for the market or you don’t care about the changing trends in the market force.
You must convince your potential employer that you are still relevant despite being out for a decade.
Don’t undervalue yourself: Being out of the job market for a long spell can make one feel inadequate. That, however, does not diminish your skills. It just means you are rusty. So leverage on the achievements, accolades and strives you were able to make while working and ensure they are still relevant to the market.
Take online assessment tests, which can help determine what you need to upgrade and what you can refine some more.
It is interesting that you have mentioned the age aspect. Don’t sell yourself short. Women tend to undermine themselves based on the labels society uses against them such as, you guessed it, age. Don’t use it as an excuse to sabotage yourself. You might be surprised as to what employers are looking for.
Research: Find out the latest trends in the market and if you are in tandem with them. As you wait to hear back from potential employers, take refresher courses. If you had a particularly cordial relationship with your former employer, reach out and express your sentiments to get back in.
They can be a good source of information on what your industry requires and who knows, if you were that good especially in a specialist skill, they may just be open to having you back.
Network: Do you have friends in the industry you want to pursue? Engage them on what is required in terms of skills set. Join industry groups such as professional bodies or online groups on social media.
They will provide clues on industry best practices and opportunities. As ironic or even strange as it sounds, consider internship. Offer your services for free, volunteer or go for industry-related activities. This will give you experiential insight and will still look good on your CV.