People returning to work after a career break:
I call them “relaunchers.”
These are people who have taken career breaks for elder care,
for childcare reasons,
pursuing a personal interest,
or a personal health issue.
Closely related are career transitioners of all kinds:
veterans, military spouses,
retirees coming out of retirement,
or repatriating expats.
Returning to work after a career break is hard,
because of a disconnect between the employers
and the relaunchers.
Employers can view hiring people with a gap on their resume
as a high-risk proposition,
and individuals on career break can have doubts about their abilities
to relaunch their careers.
Especially if they’ve been out for a long time.
This disconnect is a problem that I’m trying to help solve.
Now, successful relaunchers are everywhere and in every field.
This is Sami Kafala.
He’s a nuclear physicist in the UK,
who took a five-year career break to be home with his five children.
The Singapore press recently wrote about nurses returning to work
after long career breaks.
And speaking of long career breaks.
This is Mimi Kahn,
she’s a social worker in Orange County, California
who returned to work in a social services organization
after a 25-year career break.
That’s the longest career break that I’m aware of.
Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor
took a five-year career break early in her career.
And this is Tracy Shapiro, who took a 13-year career break.
Tracy answered a call for essays by the Today Show
from people who were trying to return to work,
but having a difficult time of it.
Tracy wrote in that she was a mom of five who loved her time at home,
but she had gone through a divorce and needed to return to work,
plus she really wanted to bring work back into her life
because she loved working.
Tracy was doing what so many of us do
when we feel like we’ve put in a good day in the job search.
She was looking for a finance or accounting role
and she had just spent the last nine months
very diligently researching companies online
and applying for jobs with no results.
I met Tracy in June of 2011
when the Today Show asked me if I could work with her
to see if I could help her turn things around.
The first thing I told Tracy was she had to get out of the house.
I told her she had to go public with her job search
and tell everyone she knew about her interest in returning to work.
I also told her, “You are going to have a lot of conversations
that don’t go anywhere.
Expect that, and don’t be discouraged by it.
There will be a handful
that ultimately lead to a job opportunity.”
I’ll tell you what happened with Tracy in a little bit
but I want to share with you a discovery that I made
when I was returning to work
after my own career break of 11 years out of the full-time workforce.
And that is, that people’s view of you is frozen in time.
What I mean by this is,when you start to get in touch with people
and you get back in touch with those people from the past
the people with whom you worked or went to school
they are going to remember you as you were
before your career break.
And that’s even if your sense of self has diminished over time
as happens with so many of us
the farther removed we are from our professional identities.
So for example, you might think of yourself
as someone who looks like this.
This is me, crazy after a day of driving around in my minivan.
Or here I am in the kitchen.
But those people from the past
they don’t know about any of this
They only remember you as you were.
And it’s a great confidence boost to be back in touch with these people,
and hear their enthusiasm about your interest in returning to work.
There’s one more thing I remember vividly from my own career break.
And that was that I hardly kept up with the business news.
My background is in finance
and I hardly kept up with any news
when I was home caring for my four young children.
So I was afraid I’d go into an interview
and start talking about a company that didn’t exist anymore.
So I had to resubscribe to the Wall Street Journal
and read it for a good six months cover to cover before I felt
like I had a handle on what was going on in the business world again.
I believe relaunchers are a gem of the workforce
and here’s why.
Think about our life stage:
for those of us who took career breaks for childcare reasons
we have fewer or no maternity leaves.
We did that already.
We have fewer spousal or partner job relocations.
We’re in a more settled time of life.
We have great work experience.
We have a more mature perspective.
We’re not trying to find ourselves at an employer’s expense.
此外，我们有一种能量 – 重返岗位的热情
Plus we have an energy, an enthusiasm about returning to work.
precisely because we’ve been away from it for a while.
On the flip side, I speak with employers
and here are two concerns that employers have
about hiring relaunchers.
The first one is, employers are worried that relaunchers
are technologically obsolete.
Now, I can tell you
having been technologically obsolete myself at one point
that it’s a temporary condition.
I had done my financial analysis so long ago that I used Lotus 1-2-3.
I don’t know if anyone can even remember back that far
but I had to relearn it on Excel.
It actually wasn’t that hard. A lot of the commands are the same.
I found PowerPoint much more challenging
but now I use PowerPoint all the time.
I tell relaunchers that employers expect them to come to the table
with a working knowledge of basic office management software.
And if they’re not up to speed
then it’s their responsibility to get there.
And they do.
The second area of concern that employers have about relaunchers
is they’re worried that relaunchers don’t know what they want to do.
I tell relaunchers that they need to do the hard work
to figure out whether their interests and skills have changed
or have not changed
while they have been on career break.
That’s not the employer’s job.
It’s the relauncher’s responsibility to demonstrate to the employer
where they can add the most value.
Back in 2010 I started noticing something,
I had been tracking return to work programs since 2008
and in 2010, I started noticing
the use of a short-term paid work opportunity,
whether it was called an internship or not,
but an internship-like experience
as a way for professionals to return to work.
I saw Goldman Sachs and Sara Lee
start corporate reentry internship programs.
I saw a returning engineer, a nontraditional reentry candidate
apply for an entry-level internship program in the military
and then get a permanent job afterward.
I saw two universities integrate internships
into mid-career executive education programs.
So I wrote a report about what I was seeing
and it became this article for Harvard Business Review
called “The 40-Year-Old Intern.”
I have to thank the editors there for that title
and also for this artwork
where you can see the 40-year-old intern in the midst of all the college interns.
And then, courtesy of Fox Business News
they called the concept “The 50-Year-Old Intern.”
So five of the biggest financial services companies
have reentry internship programs for returning finance professionals.
And at this point, hundreds of people have participated
These internships are paid
and the people who move on to permanent roles
are commanding competitive salaries.
And now, seven of the biggest engineering companies
are piloting reentry internship programs for returning engineers
as part of an initiative with the Society of Women Engineers.
Now, why are companies embracing the reentry internship？
Because the internship allows the employer
to base their hiring decision on an actual work sample
instead of a series of interviews
and the employer does not have to make that permanent hiring decision
until the internship period is over.
This testing out period removes the perceived risk
that some managers attach to hiring relaunchers
and they are attracting excellent candidates
who are turning into great hires.
Think about how far we have come.
Before this, most employers were not interested
in engaging with relaunchers at all.
But now, not only are programs being developed
specifically with relaunchers in mind
but you can’t even apply for these programs
unless you have a gap on your resume.
This is the mark of real change
of true institutional shift
because if we can solve this problem for relaunchers
we can solve it for other career transitioners too.
In fact, an employer just told me
that their veterans return to work program
is based on their reentry internship program.
And there’s no reason why there can’t be a retiree internship program.
Different pool, same concept.
So let me tell you what happened with Tracy Shapiro.
Remember that she had to tell everyone she knew
about her interest in returning to work.
Well, one critical conversation with another parent in her community
led to a job offer for Tracy
and it was an accounting job in a finance department.
But it was a temp job.
The company told her there was a possibility
it could turn into something more, but no guarantees.
This was in the fall of 2011,
Tracy loved this company, and she loved the people
and the office was less than 10 minutes from her house.
So even though she had a second job offer
at another company for a permanent full-time role
she decided to take her chances with this internship
and hope for the best.
Well, she ended up blowing away all of their expectations
and the company not only made her a permanent offer
at the beginning of 2012,
but they made it even more interesting and challenging,
because they knew what Tracy could handle.
Fast forward to 2015,
Tracy’s been promoted.
They’ve paid for her to get her MBA at night.
She’s even hired another relauncher to work for her.
Tracy’s temp job was a tryout
just like an internship,
and it ended up being a win for both Tracy and her employer.
Now, my goal is to bring the reentry internship concept
to more and more employers.
But in the meantime,
if you are returning to work after a career break
don’t hesitate to suggest an internship or an internship-like arrangement
to an employer that does not have a formal reentry internship program.
Be their first success story,
and you can be the example for more relaunchers to come.