Women and Work: How Can I Restart my Career?

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  • Career gaps typically affect more women than men, whether it's due to economic or lifestyle changes, or caretaking responsibilities.
  • When job hunting, explain what the employment gaps on your resume are due to, and highlight how you learned new skills during that time that can apply to the hiring company.
  • Because of changing attitudes about remote work, you may be able to negotiate additional flexibility with your new employer.
  • Changes in skills and responsibilities have upended job roles and requirements. When returning to work, make sure you're being offered a fair wage.

Whether the gap is due to economic, global or lifestyle changes or responsibilities, restarting a career comes with challenges. Here are some tips to help refocus your efforts and build up the confidence as you face this next step in restarting your career.

I stopped working to raise a family/take care of a relative/a family relocation. How do I restart my career?

Returning to the workforce after an absence can be intimidating. Some steps you can take include:

  1. Update your resume. Highlight successes and projects you completed with your previous employers. Make sure your resume is neat, well-organized, and filled with details that show your skills. Focus on accomplishments and successes.
  2. Commit to a broad job hunt. Use websites such as LinkedIn®, Indeed® and Glassdoor® to find job postings. Reach out to your network and both in-person and online.
  3. Evaluate your skills, review job postings to see what they're looking for and how it's phrased. Remember, things have changed and sometimes it's just semantics. You may know how to do the skills, may even have been an expert in it, but the change in labels may make it seem like you don't know what it is. Understand what's behind the skills they're looking for.
  4. Volunteer to learn new skills. Not-for-profit organizations may welcome extra help and assign you tasks that can help build new skills, and expand your network.
  5. Update your skills through online learning and certification programs, and industry related podcasts. Many organizations and sites offer free or low cost learning opportunities, and those training courses help show that you've stayed current for your industry (especially important for older workers).
  6. Stay Flexible. Think about how your experience could apply to different jobs. Consider making a career change to an industry that interests and engages you. What excited and interested you before may have changed, in some cases based on the very purpose of the gap in formal employment. Follow your interests and pursue those areas that stir your passions now. This will also allow you to see how your skills and experience can apply to different industries.

Let people, friends, neighbors, former colleagues and others know that you're looking to re-enter the job market. That allows you to leverage their contacts and networks as well.

Should I explain the gap in my resume?

Yes, and don't just explain it, celebrate the gap. Explain what that gap on your resume is due to, because it shows employers that your job loss didn't occur because of poor performance and that you're not ashamed of it. Highlight what you've learned and accomplished during that time and how those skills can be applied to their needs.

How can I rebuild my network?

Responsibilities pull us in different directions, and when it is away from the workforce, it makes it harder to keep in touch with professional contacts. So, if you're looking to re-enter the workforce, a strong network can help you find a new job.

Don't be afraid to reach out to former colleagues and friends through email or networking sites such as LinkedIn. Share what you've been doing since you last spoke and establish a time to call and discuss your career plans.

Expand your networking to virtual groups within your area of interest and expertise, and also ones that the skills you have can be applied to different areas.

Should I return to my former employer, if I'm able?

If your former employer offers to rehire you, consider these two questions before signing on:

  1. Did I like my former employer? If not, consider leveraging your previous experience to apply for roles at similar companies instead.
  2. Did I like my former industry? If not, consider a career change. Technology has offered working Americans the chance to learn new skills. If you feel comfortable enough, educate yourself and take on a job in an industry that's more interesting to you.

Can I ask for more flexibility at work?

Changing views on flexibility and remote work have opened new opportunities, especially benefitting women who typically shoulder more responsibilities outside of work. If you need more work-from-home or other types of flexibility from an employer, consider taking these steps:

  1. Recognize and state your needs. Don't leave it to your employer to figure out what changes will help you to perform your job successfully.
  2. Explain the benefits of increased flexibility. Whether it's more work-from-home days or a shift in hours, tell your employer why this change will help you to become a more productive employee.
  3. Be ready to negotiate. Don't expect your employer to fulfill all of your requests. Be prepared to meet in the middle and plan for it.

Should I expect a pay cut when returning to work?

When preparing to return to work, make sure you're being offered a fair wage. Research the positions and the industry to find the market salaries for the jobs you are interested in, even if it's a previous one you had before. Requirements and responsibilities change, as do skills. It's important to not only stay up to date, it's also important to make sure you're compensated fairly.

If you think an employer isn't offering a high enough salary, don't be afraid to negotiate your compensation package. CNBC® reported that according to a 2022 survey by Fidelity Investments®, 58% of Americans accepted the initial salary offer, without negotiating, and of those who did negotiate, 85% were successful. If an employer is set on hiring you, they may be willing to give you a salary bump rather than trying to hire and train a new candidate.

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