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Returning to Work Without a Formal RTW Program

Think you need a formal Return to Work program to relaunch your career? Think again!

Jennifer Cupp proved it is possible—and (even better) her “how to” plan is replicable.

Jennifer relaunched in Pittsburgh five years ago. Formal return to work programs are still a novelty in Pittsburgh. Back then they didn’t exist. Her career break proved to be a major obstacle to relaunching her career; her excellent education and 10+ years of experience “didn’t automatically open doors,” she says.

Let’s drop back. Jennifer worked for 10 years in manufacturing and supply chain roles. After the birth of her twins, she was juggling 3 toddlers (under the age of 3) and a full-time career while her husband traveled extensively for his job. She decided this wasn’t the lifestyle she envisioned for her family. Exhausted, she stepped away from her career. While on her career break, Jennifer earned an MBE (Master of Business Education) which provided a possible avenue to teaching. By pursuing a full-time graduate program while caring for three preschoolers, she was still “burning the candle at both ends,” so after earning her degree, Jennifer says she needed some time to recharge. She taught fitness classes once her kids were in school, and finally had the time to focus on her future career goals. After an eight year career break, Jennifer was ready.

But recruiters and hiring managers were resistant, “Sometimes you’re … perceived to be overqualified. Often, you’re up against equally qualified candidates who do not have an 8-year career break,” she says. But Jennifer showed her resilience.

“I approached every interview with optimism, enthusiasm and preparedness,” she says. Projecting confidence was key.

The process was not fast or easy; “The process was very challenging and time consuming,” she said, but 15 months later she landed a job in her field close to the level she left.

During that time, Jennifer developed her own set of Best Practices for relaunching her career. Here's Jenn’s advice for successfully relaunching without a formal Return to Work program:

  • Identify 5-10 companies or organizations you're interested in. Look at their career pages. Add your resume and sign up for alerts.
  • Network. Get involved in your community, make new contacts, and communicate your career goals. Go public with your career search.
  • Be realistic. This will take some time.
  • Try to find opportunities that match your experience level and goals
  • Prepare for every interview. Read the company's annual report, talk with your contacts about the culture or department, ask lots of questions at your interview. Feel confident and deserving!
  • Be open about your career break, goals, and motivation. Your interviewers want to know.
  • Stay focused. The ups and downs of interviewing require tenacity.

Most important, says Jenn, “Use every resource—iRelaunch, networking, LinkedIn, company websites, career fairs and websites.” And remember, it takes time, but it’s possible to relaunch your career without a formal Return to Work program.