I was a long-time writer, broadcaster and indie filmmaker, equally at home on a laptop, in front of a microphone, and behind a camera. I'd always made my living thorough my creative pursuits and in many ways defined myself through my career; but when our son was born, my wife and I decided one of us would need to stay home with him, and since I had the less stable creative gig, I was the one to do it.
I left full-time work to raise my son, and worked freelance gigs in the advertising world, and worked on screenplays and indie film projects when I could. When my son started school, I began to look for a way back into the workforce full time, but it seemed that my "baby gap" made me less desirable to potential employers. I applied for jobs in broadcasting, positions I was more than qualified for, but for some reason I couldn't even land an interview. Finally, I took a step back, widened my search, and took an entry-level content manager position with a travel start-up. Though not an industry I'd ever worked in, I applied my writing skills to social posts and travel articles, and I was at last back into a full-time position.
Ultimately, a person whom I had worked with as a freelancer recommended me for the job I have now, AVP in the Marketing and Communications department of BNP Paribas, where I use the skills I honed as a life-long broadcaster and creative to make compelling video and audio content for a leading global bank.
I've produced dozens of videos and podcasts that I'm very proud of, some of which have received high praise in industry competitions. Most importantly, despite my return to full-time work, my relationship with my son has only deepened. Though I miss spending all day with him as I once did, I believe he benefits from seeing me work hard, create, and learn new things.
We caught up with Guy to dive a little deeper into his relaunch story and the advice he has for other relaunchers...
How did potential employers react to your decision to take a career break to raise your son? How did you describe your career gap to them?
I addressed the fact that I left work to be a stay-at-home dad squarely in my cover letter. I felt it had made me a better person and of greater value to a company: more patient, more empathetic, more kind. Moreover, kids minds are idea factories, and I had been immersed in that world of invention; you would think that is exactly the kind of mindset companies should be fostering. Unfortunately, I rarely got the opportunity to explain my career gap face to face with a potential employer, as the algorithm that pre-selects candidates from the on-line applications almost never let me get that far. Uploading a cover letter was not required in many cases, and that said to me it probably wasn’t going to be considered anyway. In my case, the gap on my resume was filled with freelance work, and so instead of listing a bunch of smaller gigs I strung them all together under one “Freelance Creative” umbrella, and our digital overlords allowed me to pass.
You mentioned that you “took a step back, widened (your) search, and took an entry-level content manager position with a travel start-up.” What advice would you give to relaunchers who are considering taking a position that is at a lower level than the one they left before their career break?
I think it is humbling, starting over. You feel like you’ve proven yourself in an industry, your skills and your value, but in truth that never stops. Being at home with my son underscored that for me: he had to learn literally everything, and usually the hard way. He would get frustrated when he couldn’t yet walk from the couch to the kitchen; there was a lot of failure, but he was never too frustrated to try. When he did it, he was so proud of himself, and more confident for the next thing, and that was a lesson for me. So, I saw taking on a more junior role at a company in a new industry as an opportunity to learn and acquire new tools, with the distinct advantage of having all my old ones still in the toolbox. For me, it was an opportunity to try, and maybe even fail, but without the pressure of a more senior title.
You were recommended for the position at BNP Paribas by someone with whom you had worked as a freelancer. Any tips about networking that you’d like to share?
I don’t think I’m a particularly good networker, but I have strengths and I’m not afraid to show them: creativity, communication, an ability to get to the emotional core of things and to give a unique voice to my projects. I believe that if you show people your talents, what you offer that is distinct from others, they can see how you might fit on a team. And this is where the “not afraid to show them” part comes in: a person I had freelanced with at an ad agency was now at BNP Paribas, and he called me out of the blue and said he was looking for someone for a position, someone with my strengths, and asked if I knew anyone who was looking, to which I said “yeah, ME!”
The job description was for a multimedia specialist, someone who could shoot and edit video, take photographs, record audio, all things I had done extensively; but ultimately it was my writing background, my facility with story, that set me apart from the other applicants who could do all that other stuff too. I’m essentially a storyteller, in whatever medium I’m working in, and that has been true always.
To their great credit, the HR team and my now-managers at BNP Paribas didn't look at me and see a person with a resume gap, or a person with no experience in the financial services industry, but instead they saw a capable person who might be worth investing some time in. Not everyone does this, but they should.
For more information about Guy Patton's career break and relaunch, read these articles in Parents.com and Fatherly.
Download Carol Fishman Cohen's White Paper, "Men Who Relaunch: No Longer a Parenthetical" here.
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