Going back to work. It’s not something anyone does just like that. Especially not after having been away from the office, conference calls and colleagues for many years. There are a number of reasons why professionals decide to quit their jobs and leave the workplace altogether. Most commonly known are parenthood, having to look after close relatives and traveling the world. Sometimes people quit for temporary health reasons, a drastic career change even, switching to far less demanding tasks.
But what to do when the kids are grown, the relatives in a better place and the passport loaded with exotic stamps? What if your drive and ambition tell you to seek new challenges? Will you welcome that little voice that says, “I want to go back to work” without a doubt? Without wondering if you’re still qualified enough? And most importantly, will there be a satisfying job for you to return to in a highly competitive economy?
From the moment you decide you want to go back to work, your mind will be filled with questions. And depending on your personality and circumstances, you can feel excited, eager or hesitant, afraid, and insecure. You’ll have to brush up on your knowledge, skills and expertise levels. How are you going to do that? And where?
The bad news is: Looking for work is a job in itself. It takes a lot of time and focus, and a stomach to accept rejection. Because it’s tough out there. In our society, technology advances at a rapid pace, as do the means of communications we use. If you’ve been out of the corporate workforce for a decade or just two years, you can be sure there’s a lot to catch up on. Don’t let it discourage you.
Social media, nowadays, is as important for work-related activity as it is for recreational purpose. Our smartphones aren’t just called smart because of their looks and design. They are capable of functioning as our very own compact mobile offices, complete with file cabinets in a digital basement and communication apps catering to the needs of full-staff board meetings wherever we are. Various options for immediate exchange of information and data can really be a game changer. So, apart from all these exterior elements that come with the new territory, there’s the intrinsic values to reckon with.
And that’s where the good news comes into play. You don’t have to face this challenge alone. The corporate climate is gradually adapting to demands that meet a more sustainable outlook when it comes to handling human resources. For higher educated professionals who want to return to the workplace, programs are available to offer guidelines, feedback and most of the time even a fair chance to get hired. Some programs are developed by corporate firms, others have their roots in educational systems.
Stanford GSB as well as the renowned women-only Wellesley college, recommend the services of iRelaunch, a successful career reentry resource co-founded by Carol Fishman Cohen, a Harvard Business School graduate. She returned to work after having spent 11 years at home raising four children. Cohen recognized the gap between employers and returnees and decided to design a format that would accommodate a wide range of support for all parties involved. Returning professionals, from both genders, are no longer isolated and can now attend group meetings for advice, strategies and a listening ear.
Such career reentry programs have been developed to benefit integration in a financial and legal work environment, but it’s not just the corporate world that’s interested in offering opportunities for returnees. Ten years ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics Division of Workforce launched its own Reentry Project to provide assistance for organizations as well as individual physicians.
You can’t map out everything in life, but it won’t hurt to think ahead once the decision is made to stop working for a while.
Networking is a vital ingredient in the work environment and an activity that doesn’t necessarily have to be abandoned. To occasionally work as a volunteer also bodes well for any future reentry, and it keeps people involved. Learn new skills or enhance the present ones, especially when it concerns parenting. The power of parenthood should not be underestimated, for being a parent can reveal unsuspected qualities such as resilience, tenacity and patience, to name just a few. Traveling and meeting new people, getting to know different cultures broadens a sense of the world and your own perspective. Everything you experience outside of the workplace can actually contribute to a successful reentry later on, whether that will be full-time or part-time.