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Back on the Career Track After a Divorce

Returning to work after a career break, or "relaunching," in the face of a divorce brings special challenges. You may have immediate financial need and feel especially emotionally vulnerable. But you shouldn't be any less strategic than if you were returning to work for other reasons. See this blog post for a summary of the "7 Steps to Relaunch Success," the strategy my co-author Vivian Steir Rabin and I developed for returning to work after a career break as part of the research for our career reentry strategy book Back on the Career Track (affiliate link).

The 7 Steps framework provides an order to the relaunch process and helps you maintain momentum. But if divorce precipitated your relaunch, there are a couple of important tweaks to the process you will want to consider. The first is, because of immediate financial need, and/or a need for benefits, you may have to take an interim, not-quite-perfect job while you continue strategizing for your true relaunch opportunity. Normally, we caution relaunchers not to jump at the first job opportunity because they fear there might not be another. But if immediate income is a necessity, we would opt for this interim step of taking a job to pay the bills and buying yourself some time while you go through the rest of the relaunch process, especially Step 3: Assess Your Career Options.

Our approach to assessing your career options is a process of examining each of your prior, significant work and volunteer experiences and breaking them into components. Identify those components of each prior experience that you love doing and at which you excel. Collect those, and use them as the building blocks for your new career path when you relaunch.

We found that relaunchers who went through the "Assess Your Career Options" process ended up in one of three camps:

  1. they were on the right career path to begin with and returned to exactly what they left
  2. they enjoyed their prior career but felt there was something about it that was now incompatible with their life stage, so they returned to a different role in the same field, or
  3. they realized they were not on the right career path to begin with, so they relaunched in an entirely new direction.

The second tweak to the process is to add extra interview prep because of your vulnerable emotional state, which varies from person to person. The women we interviewed who were relaunching careers following a divorce occasionally reported breaking down during an interview. So if you are interviewing for a number of jobs, prioritize them from most desirable to least, and try to interview for the least desirable position first. That way, you can get the tears "out of your system" without jeopardizing your chances at your top-choice employer. Alternatively, lots of mock interviews with friends will help you prepare yourself emotionally.

The most important point to keep in mind is not to lose sight of your goal. If you take an intermediate, not- so-perfect job to pay the bills, make sure you remain focused on your strategy to make your next work opportunity the beginning of your true career relaunch.

For resources covering a range of topics relating to divorce visit SAS for Women and Divorce360.com.