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36 Ways to Stay Connected to Your Field

This blog post from our archives remains extremely relevant today! Take a look at the way Sandra Day O'Connor stayed connected while on career break, followed by a list of ways to stay connected in a range of fields!

The highlight of our research for our career reentry strategy book Back on the Career Track (affiliate link) was interviewing Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor about her five years as a stay-at-home mom (she was still on the court when we met with her). Justice O’Connor was a master at staying connected to her field during her career break. Her contacts from one of her career break experiences, and her volunteer work for the Republican Party, helped O’Connor relaunch her career in the Arizona Attorney General’s Office in 1965. And we all know what happened after that.

Vivian and I are regularly asked for ideas on how relaunchers can stay connected to their fields while on career break. Rather than just give suggestions, I thought it would be more useful to see a list of actual examples. Here they are, beginning with five from Justice O’Connor:

Staying Connected (by industry)

Examples from Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor

  1. Graded bar exams for the Arizona Bar which kept her current in the law
  2. Set up a lawyer referral network for the local bar association, which kept her contacts current
  3. Was a juvenile court referee
  4. Sat on the County Zoning and Planning Board
  5. Became involved in the Republican Party


  1. Nurse covered one shift every other week
  2. Nurse did phone triage for pediatrician’s offices on occasional overnights – she answered the beeper from home while nursing her baby in the middle of the night!
  3. Physician was camp doctor at her child’s summer camp for a month
  4. Nurse/Lactation Consultant worked “mother’s hours” at breastfeeding education and product supply company while her child was in preschool
  5. Medical social worker volunteered at a hospice
  6. Doctor consults one day a week for home health care company, answering questions for and supervising nurses who make house calls
  7. Doctor explains medical terms and diagnoses for medical reference website


  1. Manager was mentor for business school students trying to make career decisions
  2. Private equity specialist joins angel investing group for women owned businesses
  3. Recruiter founded and leads Career Club from home, except for weekly meetings
  4. Marketing exec created and managed International Night at elementary school – largest community event in school’s history
  5. Finance exec wrote elementary school grant proposal for a technologist in residence, resulting in largest single school grant ever awarded from her city’s local school foundation.
  6. Marketing strategist arranged panel of speakers for software marketing industry association event – one became her first client when she started her consulting business
  7. Former brand manager turned freelance writer wrote a semi-regular parenting column for her local paper
  8. Management consultant focused on education reform. Applied for and received grant to create innovative science fair in a local school district
  9. Financial analyst led strategy committee for her children’s school in messy school redistricting campaign
  10. Accountant was PTO Treasurer and handled PTO’s application as 501c3 which had never been filed
  11. Brand manager started a regional alumni group for her alma mater (actually we know two who did)
  12. Marketing analyst was head of membership for a large women’s volunteer organization, essentially marketing the “brand” of the organization to potential members


  1. Lawyer taught one legal brief writing course at a local law school
  2. Lawyer worked as court appointed arbitrator on selected cases. Other lawyers have volunteered as arbitrators.
  3. Lawyer represented abused women and children pro bono for DC Volunteer Lawyers Project
  4. Lawyer volunteered writing legal briefs for State Appeals Bureau

Creative Fields: Writing/Arts

  1. Novelist writes occasional book reviews for major metro paper
  2. Graphic designer designed logo for an educational non-profit pro bono


  1. Computer Scientist created and designed her children’s school website
  2. Computer tech volunteered to set up and wire PTO-funded computer lab in children’s school
  3. Chemical Engineer developed and led science enrichment program at her child’s elementary school that brought higher level science to three grades


  1. Children’s librarian sat on national Children’s Book Award selection committee
  2. Teacher ran “student-to-student” after-school tutoring program as a volunteer
  3. PhD with a background in literature and art created a special program for her daughter’s 1st grade class based on the art they would see before field trip to an art museum.

Have you stayed connected to your field while on career break? Please share your experiences with us and we will keep adding to the list! It will be a great resource for other relaunchers. Please email us at with your ideas.

©2011, Carol Fishman Cohen & Vivian Steir Rabin at
Reprint by permission only; contact at

Photo Credit: National Archives

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