Eight Tips for Career Re-Entry

Resurrecting your career after a long break is not easy. But stories of those who went through the transition can teach us how to better navigate a way back to work.

No one wants to have to choose between staying on their career path and tending to urgent personal needs that may crop up. But that’s the essential situation faced by countless professionals, given how difficult it has become to return to work after even a couple of years away. In addition to degrading employees’ quality of life, this blind spot in the business world costs companies dearly due to the premature termination of far too many promising careers.

It’s also a major setback to gender equality. Nearly half of all women who leave work to raise children don’t go back, which is especially troubling as women constitute 95 percent of those who take a career break for child-raising or family caring. This statistic was related to us by Julianne Miles, co-founder of a revolutionary firm called Women Returners, which exists to facilitate the return of women to the workplace.

Sadly, those who successfully resurrect their careers after a hiatus are the exception rather than the rule, but we interviewed executives who have done it to find some tips for returners. It never seems to be as simple as picking up where they left off, but the coping strategies they developed made their careers even stronger.

The elusive “second career”

Argyro had no intention of leaving her job as general manager of the Greek subsidiary of a major travel retail company, until she learned she was pregnant with her first child. This came at the same time that her company was being acquired. Her reluctance to be in the post-merger structure, as well as to sacrifice time with her baby led her to part ways amicably with her employer, but she was not planning a long break.

However, another pregnancy prolonged the gap. She mulled starting over with a “second career”. This reflection showed her that what she most enjoyed was “creating beautiful teams of talented people and helping them grow”.  So, she did a second degree, this time in Strategy and HR Management, while still pregnant for the second time.

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