With the national unemployment rate still running at 9.6% (and California’s at a depressing 12.8% as of early July), women who have been out of the workforce are simultaneously feeling more pressure than ever to return to paid employment and more at a disadvantage than ever to do so.Yet almost weekly we hear from women around the country who have overcome the obstacles to reenter the workforce 5, 10, 15, or even 20 years after their last pay check. We’ve found that your ability to return to the workforce successfully has less to do with how long you’ve been out of work, and more to do with your ability to figure out exactly what you want to do professionally -- and to pursue that goal relentlessly through networking and other creative strategies.
Here are five ways women are relaunching their careers in today’s difficult economy:
1. The Volunteer Relaunch. Interested in working for a certain organization but concerned your resume won’t measure up to those of people with more recent experience? Then volunteer and let the organization get to know you before applying. This strategy works especially well for those seeking to return to careers in the not-for-profit, healthcare, academic or government arenas, where volunteer opportunities abound.
- ➢ After a five-year career break, Dawna Levenson sought an administrative role at her alma mater, MIT. After volunteering to help develop an executive education program, she was hired to run it.
- ➢ Volunteering is also a great way to test out a new field. Sarah Harnish, a former litigator seeking to return to work after a four-year career break, volunteered in regulatory compliance at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. After two months, Dana Farber made her a paid contractor, and shortly after that, they named her Assistant Director for Non Clinical Research.
2. The Back-to-School Relaunch. Going back to school is as close to a magic bullet as you can get for returning to the workforce after a career break. Not only can you update your skills and add coursework, a degree, or a certificate to your resume, but you have access to free career services, exclusive job listings and internships, and networking help via professors and fellow students.
- ➢ Belinda Nanda, an IT consultant who had taken a 10-year career break, took IT courses at a local community college to update her skills. She applied for jobs via public job boards and wasn’t getting anywhere, but then she applied for an internship posted at the community college to work on electronic medical records development. Instead of being offered the unpaid internship, she was offered a permanent, part-time, paying job -- exactly what she was looking for!
- ➢ Erika Grinius completed an MBA in a part time program while on a career break, won a summer internship with an online retailer, and was offered a fulltime job with that retailer when she completed her degree.