By | Abhijit Bhaduri |Keynote speaker, Author and Columnist
Five years back, on October4, 2016, I took a career break. I stopped being an employee and became a Dreamer. That was a test of courage. To celebrate our 5th anniversary I spoke to several women and men about how they handled a break in their career. I came back inspired.
Career breaks happen
I spoke to several women (and men) who had to take a break. Sometimes the break was taken voluntarily to explore a childhood passion (like becoming a professional sportsperson) or an entrepreneur. Sometimes it was a desire to become a full-time home maker. Sometimes the break was because of circumstances.
The Tech Recruiter after an 18 year break:
“R” did a Bachelors in Commerce and got married and became a home maker for 18 years. Her brother invited her to manage Admin & HR for his small family IT services firm. She got curious about SQL, .NET, HTML and started teaching herself. After 2 years, in 2016, her brother closed the venture and moved back to US. She was 42 years old. When she went job hunting, people worried if she could report to people who were twenty years younger than her. She finally got a break at Lister Digital as a tech recruiter. That was just the beginning of her career journey.
Managing Info Security after a 10 year break:
“P” was an Electrical & Electronics Engineer who worked at TCS for seven years. In 2009 she took a break to have her first child and followed her husband to US. From 2009-2017, she was a full time mother to two children. In between children’s school and managing her home she was trailing her husband as he moved between US and India. She moved back to India in 2019 for good. She learned French and looked for a job to teach French. She was rejected for being ‘over-qualified’. She started learning Salesforce and landed a contract role for 3 months. From there she landed a role in Information Security and now runs a program for Lister called Hire Her Back.
Many reasons, many circumstances:
“S” was working as a Java Developer in a Fortune 500 company, but was grappling with her infertility treatment. Most people do not understand what it means to the person, she tells me. Then suddenly a miracle happens and she has twins. Three years later she is ready to come back, but the world is grappling with the second wave of the pandemic. The result: a career break.
“N” worked as a Tech Writer for five years. Then her husband moved to Dubai. The visa restrictions made it hard to continue. The result: a career break.
Almost 41% of the workforce is looking to quit, has quit and wondering if they accepted the new job too quickly. Resignation rates are highest among 30- to 45-year-old employees, increasing on average by more than 20% over the past year. Many of these will trigger a career break- especially in the non-tech jobs. Read more
Read about what makes your resume invisible
Career breaks happen for men and women. It hits women harder for a variety of reasons. It is time to think of the talent pool that is waiting impatiently to get in. They are the Boomerangs.
TIPS FOR BOOMERANGS
Learning & Interviewing
Learn hard and train harder: Prepare to learn a skill that is in demand. It ensures the probability of success within a short span. ” I used Sololearn to learn to code. I would listen to a course on Udemy or Coursera when I would go for a walk. Instead of listening to music, I used the time to upskill myself.” Use the interviews (especially when you are rejected), as training opportunities to become better at interviews.
Narrow down the field: “I had prepared myself to re-enter the workforce as a Data Science specialist. In the interviews I would specify which subsection of Data Science I wanted to discuss. That enabled my success.” If the interview is for 45 minutes, request to keep some time to demonstrate your portfolio. “Keep your resume simple but keep a portfolio of your code or webpages easily accessible. I use Github for showing them proof of what I can do.”
Be flexible: “People are more willing to give you a part-time role or take you on a contract for a few months. It takes a few months to find your footing again. Be prepared to report to a younger person. Look at your first job as an opportunity to learn. Be flexible on the salary expected. Last salaries are used as a basis for determining compensation rather than current capabilities or competencies. That is unfair. So use a mini-project/ contract to gauge your salary level.
Find a career transition coach: A career transition is a stressful time. Having someone to walk side by side can be reassuring. “Use the interviews as a market research tool. Find out what opportunities could come up. Sometimes you will be pleasantly surprised to find a role you did not consider. The initial rejections can be disheartening. A coach can be invaluable. Support groups, mentors and coaches enable you to “catch up”.
Policies : Workplace policies are often relics of the by-gone Industrial Revolution especially when it comes to talent policies eg hours worked, or displaying availability status constantly need to go. By shifting policies and processes to focus on outcomes and not physical presence in the office, the opportunities can be increased for people who are still under confident about re-rentering the workforce.
Compensation: Pay people based on skills and potential instead of past compensation or tenure as baseline. Most people have no idea about how much to ask for. Asking for their last drawn salary is unfair. Help them to understand what they can expect to earn and how you are benchmarking their skills. This is an area where boomerangs make the most mistakes. Help them.
Upskill and coach: Coaching programs on how to write strong resumes, how to communicate assertively, how to network, how to use social media are useful skills to invest in. Career coaching helps before anyone even starts applying for jobs. Offer internships as a way to evaluate talent over a few weeks rather than through an interview.
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Acknowledgement: I am grateful to the employees of Lister Digital who so generously shared their experiences of returning to work. Their program Hire Her Back was the inspiration behind this post. Thanks to Geeta Krishna for supporting me with additional research.
I am constantly looking for ideas about what is changing in the workplace. If you like to pitch a story idea for this newsletter, mail it to me at email@example.com
On a personal note, my book Dreamers & Unicorns hit the No 5 spot in the best seller list this week. I shared it on LinkedIn and the post has more than 140,000 views and lots of comments. Thanks for the encouragement. If you see more books from me, you know who is to blame!