Protips For Those Coming Back To The Workforce After A Break?

Last updated 3 Oct 2016 . 5 min read

The SHEROES Summit is a landmark annual event that has a life of its own--it grows, throbs, energizes, motivates, enlivens, unites and most importantly connects us all, as a community. This year, the LLOYD SHEROES Summit 2016 has had a unique new feature: the Opportunity Desk. For us at SHEROES, it was an opportunity to personally connect with the women behind the profiles, learn more about the expectations behind their questions, and see how we could help them reach their goals. We came face-to-face with some uncertainty, a few assumptions,  and lots of hope and belief.

This is why we had an Opportunity Desk, live, at the SHEROES Summit:

  1. To help the SHEROES community reach its full potential; to help you move ahead, get perspectives, and enable you to create circumstances that will carry them forward.

  2. To help you navigate SHEROES well, and make the best use of the mentorship, and tap the resources we have online.

  3. To understand the evolving needs, and connect at a deeper level with the SHEROES community. This interaction is crucial, and the art of listening is the key to finding the right answers.

The issues raised, concerns shared, and solutions discussed are what we translate into action points at the end of the day. In the Delhi and Bengaluru Opportunity Desks, we handled over a hundred career questions. The most discussed subject was this:

The Returning Professional: These were the women who had skilfully negotiated the work space and handled their professions with ease.Then they took a break, and went off the career radar for a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons included tending to family demands, maternity breaks, lack of support, insensitive workplaces and long commutes.

However, their aspirations remained; as choices expand, career support increases as does the desire for a financial voice.

The Concern: Women want to return to the workforce and take control of their lives. But they don’t know how to negotiate the changing workspace. The jobs they did are no longer there, or the profiles have changed. Their skills seem outdated and they are viewed with suspicion: being casual, inconsistent and unreliable. Worse, many have lost confidence and don’t know where to turn to, for real support and mentorship. They are living a different reality and, at times, have settled into a comfort zone, away from deadlines, targets and actionables. They are now looking for a supportive community to help them move from one phase to another.

Example: We met a woman who left a thriving career in the US to relocate to India, to attend to a medical emergency and take care of her ailing parents. Now, she is dealing with the trauma of the loss of one parent, and is finding the career space difficult to negotiate because of the different work context. That she decided spontaneously to attend the SHEROES Summit to explore the idea of work speaks volumes about her proactive attitude.

Protip: One’s own readiness to take all steps needed to get back to work is crucial. The intention translates to determination that, in turn, helps you take action and reach your goal.

Example: We met a woman in her 50s,  who had never worked on a job but assisted her husband in his warehouse business, which had since wrapped up. The large warehouse was vacant and she wanted to use it to do something productive. She asked us all the ‘How, What, Where and When’ questions. She was inquisitive, open to suggestions and ready to explore options.

Protip: Ask as many questions as you need to--you will always get answers. This will help you understand what opportunities exist, and what the current workplace trends are.

Example: A dynamic young woman who began her flex journey with a growing company. She went on to grow and played a key role in building the company, but came to a point where she was not able to understand her place in the whole revamped set-up and quit. Her need was to talk, revisit and understand the situation to bring about the closure before moving on.

Protip: The big question is always ‘What next?’. The apprehensions dent our confidence more than the circumstances. Look beyond your doubts. Focus on what needs to be done, or the anxieties will sap your life force.

Example: A software engineer on a break, had once worked with all the top tech firms. However, that tech speciality is now obsolete. Her career was stuck in a time warp; she was confused and drained. “I am willing to upskill, but I will restart as a fresher after eight years of experience. How can I accept that?,” she asked.

Protip: It is about accepting the gaps, and finding the skills and steps to improve. It is good to pay attention to the job profile and prospects, especially in high growth sectors. Be flexible and network. Reconnect and talk to everyone--including ex-colleagues and ex-bosses. Attend seminars, workshops and events and be seen. Every connection helps.

Do you want to ask questions on coming back to the workforce after a break? Please do ask in the comments below. Download the SHEROES Career App here.

Monica Majithia
A Life Coach , Psychologist and trained Counselor specializing in Educational and Vocational Counselling. A UGC certified lecturer ,I have researched on gender studies, taught post graduate students and published research articles on women's careers during my Fellowship.I am an active member of an NGO called Bharat Soka Gakkai working in the field of peace ,culture and education .Growth ,Communication and Interaction keep me going and I love to see women work their magic.

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