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Prior to my career break, I worked 5 years as a Process Engineer in a Semiconductor Fabrication Plant. I met and married my husband who served in the Air Force. After carefully weighing our decisions, I decided for this season to support my husband’s transition from Air Force service to civilian work where he himself reinvented his career. To prepare for my career break, I updated my list of professional references and summarized my professional accomplishments.
During my career break, we moved to a new city and state and our family expanded with 2 wonderful boys. I am grateful for the season of life where I was a full time caregiver for my kids.
Eventually, I was ready to relaunch. It was eye opening for me to realize it wasn’t as easy to reenter the job market after a career break like it was as a new college graduate, and the Houston USA job market was especially competitive at the time. After submitting applications online and not making progress, I knew I had to do something different. My unique challenge was relaunching in a competitive job market where I did not have an existing network due to relocating.
Because of my early roadblocks, I reached out to other STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Math) relaunchers including Salli Cobb (featured on a iRelaunch podcast) from Society of Women Engineers. She shared with me some basic tips, but also gave me a realistic timeline of expecting at least one year for the relaunch process. Most importantly, I felt that I met a friend who could truly understand my relaunch story, who knew exactly what I was going through and gave me hope to commit to the process.
One advantage that every Relauncher has is the time to reflect on their career and define a vision for their next role. I used books such as “What Color is Your Parachute” and “Back on the Career Track” and completed the self-awareness exercises to clearly map out my next role. I focused on researching roles where I would succeed in based on my professional strengths and past experiences.
Early in my relaunch process I had a “job search buddy” and she challenged me to have informational interviews with professionals that had a job function I was interested in. She encouraged me to get out of the house and meet up for coffee, or have phone chats. In these chats I found out what key skills employers were looking for and worked to minimize my gaps.
During my career break, I worked on professional development and completed my Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certification and obtained a Professional Engineer license. At first, I thought cost would be a barrier. However, the surprising thing was when I let my support network know of my goals, they in turn found individuals that were able to lend me study materials and books, which minimized the certification costs.
Lastly, participating in Toastmasters was critical in my relaunch process. Toastmasters is an international organization that helps you improve public speaking. I needed a lot of practice in interviewing, especially in sharing with any future employers about my career break. I am grateful for my Toastmasters mentor that took the time to practice phone interviews with me.
After a significant amount of networking, referrals, and interview practice, eventually I relaunched as a Quality Engineer in a Technology company. The iRelaunch podcast and my community of family, friends and church group kept me motivated to persevere through the process. I am grateful for the hiring manager giving me the opportunity to work within their team.
Although I took a break for only 3 years, my first year felt like a catch up to all the new technologies, software, and processes. My workplace supported mentoring- with their guidance I was able to assimilate into a diverse team. My manager encouraged me to develop my leadership skills and supported my nomination into an 8-month leadership development program. They also saw I had strengths in project management and provided opportunities to grow in the project and program management areas, as well as take on my first manager role.
One unexpected surprise was reinventing myself as a intrapraneur. My company ran a contest on innovation. I submitted an innovation idea in the area of partnership and it was selected out of over a thousand submissions… and I hope to develop it from a pilot into a full program in the coming months.
As a relauncher, I truly believe every person considering reentering the workforce has a story that deserves to be heard. If you are thinking about reentering, feel free to reach out to me directly or use the extensive iRelaunch resources.
Click here to view a profile on Joyce's career and additional advice she has for fellow military families.