Today, I am so thrilled to have Vermillion Talent sharing some very useful information with us. I have always been a working mom, but I know many of my readers have either taken some time off in the past or are currently on sabatical from being a career mom. Since getting back into the working world is not my area of expertise, I am so happy to be working with someone who has knowledge in that area. Today, Anju is sharing some tips to reclaim your caeer after a break. Be sure to check out their bios at the end of this article!
8 Tips to Reclaim your Career after a Break – It’s Not Just About Dusting off Your Resume
By Anju Kurian, Co-founder of Vermilion Talent
I hear many stories of why women find themselves amid a career break, ranging from the irresistible lure of motherhood, unexpected health issues, relocation, downsizing, or caring for elderly parents. Motherhood is a big one….and the numbers back it up. A 2013 Pew Research study reported nearly 40 percent of women with children take a significant amount of time off work, and 27 percent reported quitting their jobs for responsibilities at home. It doesn’t matter why you took a break or even why you want to re-enter the workforce. The universal factor is the struggle to get back in, a path riddled with waning confidence, isolation, and frustration.
I’d love to share my story and hope that some of you can relate to it. Before I had my first son, I worked as a management consultant for a large consulting firm. We did a lot of work with Pharma companies and my client was in New Jersey. Being pregnant with my first son, I recall crossing over from New York to New Jersey over the George Washington Bridge every day, cringing each time I hit a pothole or bump.
As we prepared for the arrival of my son, the advice poured in. The best advice I got was never say never. Don’t commit yourself to anything. Whatever it is…keep all options open (e.g. napping schedules, pacifiers, co-sleeping, organic food, etc.) because everything is situational. Until you hold that baby in your arms, how could you possibly predict anything? I kept an open mind, especially about my plans to return to work.
I finished out my maternity leave and took a leave of absence. I realized that my old consulting lifestyle was not suitable for this chapter of my life. So, we decided that I would stay home full-time with my son. I dabbled a bit with some freelance project work, moved 2 houses during this time, had my second son and stepped up to volunteer for some wonderful organizations. I have no regrets and am confident it was the best decision for my family. That being said, I was so immersed in this life, I did not consider how I would get back to work at some point.
GOING BACK TO WORK
Fast forward 9 years, my youngest started kindergarten and I went back to work. How did I do it? Quite frankly, I muddled through it, reading up on industry developments, and brushing up on technology changes (Microsoft Office had changed and no one told me!)
In the Fall of 2012, I re-connected with a former boss and went back to management consulting. When I went back to work in 2012, career re-entry was not a topic. I didn’t know anyone who had gone back to work after a career break, especially in the field of management consulting. Unfortunately, I was disconnected from my previous employers and I knew I would have to figure it out on my own. I took the first opportunity that presented itself and set aside my initial plans to “explore” and plan the next stage of my career. This lead me to the next chapter of my career as a “returnee.”
MY AHA MOMENT
After being back at work creating roadmaps for large companies to execute their visions, I had an “aha” moment – there was no “roadmap” for professional women like me to transition back to work after a career break. This was a void for many and there was a need to create this guided approach to re-entry. Ultimately, this led me to co-found Vermilion Talent along with Anne-Barbara Lemmens, an expat from the Netherlands who faced the realities of career re-entry from a different perspective, due to relocation.
THE ROADMAP to RE-ENTRY
Every day, we meet talented, accomplished women who share how overwhelming and isolating the re-entry process is. It doesn’t have to be. Before applying for a single job and falling into the “black hole” of unacknowledged applications, we recommend you step back and get your house in order. We have travelled this road with many Vermilion members and along the way discovered a few tips worth sharing:
Write It Down
Write down your intent to get back to work. You don’t have to have all the answers at this point. You want to kick-off the process without necessarily sharing it with the world. Some say, saying it out loud can prevent you from moving ahead.
Be honest with yourself. Do you have clarity on what it is you want to do? If so, wonderful, keep going. If not, it’s time to do the hard work and get uncomfortable. Identify what you know and what you don’t know. Identify what you want in this stage of your life and the core values to guide you. You may have changed and your industry/job function may have changed or in some cases may have disappeared. Will you stay in your previous field, trying a new path, or even exploring entrepreneurship? Be realistic about the terms of your re-entry such as income requirements, geography, travel etc.
Do a Skills Audit
Again, honesty is key here. Once you have clarity on your target role, inventory what may have changed in this role/industry and identify what education, professional certifications or strategic volunteering roles can fill the gap. Then, do it. Be a learner and commit to not only building your knowledge base, but also your confidence. This will give you the vocabulary and confidence to join the conversation in your field.
Find Your Resume
Now that you have clarity on your goals, take stock of your resume. First, find your resume (yes some of us may have to do some deep digging here), and dust it off. Is it current and modern? If it isn’t take a stab at updating it and adding any relevant experiences and transferrable skills you developed during your career break, for example, through volunteering. Modernize your resume and make sure it has a summary on top and is crisp, clear and relevant.
Do a Social Media Audit of Yourself
Google yourself and make sure your search results reflect your professional identity. The way employers vet potential candidates have changed. Often, after a 30-second resume scan, employers go straight to Google, Facebook and LinkedIn. Any available information forms the next layer of your e-impression. Does your LinkedIn profile reflect your personal brand? Is there a professional picture? How many connections and recommendations do you have? These form a first impression before you meet anyone face to face.
Dip Your Toes in the Social Pool and Jump In
Being “social” no longer means happy hour. Social media is here to stay and embracing it (even just for professional purposes) is critical in building your personal brand, establishing credibility, and expanding your network. Research what social media channels/forums are relevant to your profession. A LinkedIn profile is essential and LinkedIn offers much more. Explore LinkedIn groups and start following industry leaders and companies you admire. You can continue from there to explore Twitter, Pinterest, Quora and other industry specific forums.
Practice Your Elevator Pitch
By this I mean, get your 30 second intro ready to talk about your skills, your background, and what you want to do next. Practice it everywhere. It will get easier and don’t forget most elevator pitches rarely occur in an elevator; they happen in “real life” at dinner parties, grocery stores, or on a soccer field! Remember that this is a conversation, not a monologue. Most importantly, listen and follow up as appropriate.
Show Up and Work It With Confidence
It’s time to shut down your laptop and get out of the house. Attend educational and networking events to connect with other job seekers and potential employers. Sites like meetup.com, EventBrite and the event calendar of relevant industry/trade organizations are all useful to find places to network. Networking doesn’t have to be a dirty word, it’s just , which we as women are great at!
Most of all, stand up tall and communicate with confidence that you are serious about getting back to work. Remind yourself of the inherent skills you bring to the table that have been honed over the years such as communication, professionalism, maturity, and emotional intelligence. This is an asset. With many baby boomers retiring, employers are looking for mature talent to take on leadership roles and adapt to working with the millennial workforce. Our partner companies tell us they greatly value talent and functional skills, but place a premium on candidates with a portfolio of “soft-skills.”
Rediscovering your professional footing can be isolating, but it doesn’t have to be. We invite you to join the Vermilion Talent community to access a guided approach to career re-entry. It is an art and we work with our members to navigate each stage of this process. For more information, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
ABOUT VERMILION TALENT
Vermilion Talent is a social enterprise brought to life by the experiences of our founders in re-entering the workforce after a career break. Our mission is to empower women to fulfill their potential in every chapter of their professional lives. Together with local companies, resource providers, and our partners, we have created a platform for women to get back to work. We curate resources and offer rich programming to prepare our candidates for career re-entry while working with companies to access our under-tapped pool of talented professionals. This unique integrated model increases access to quality talent for companies, career opportunities for members, and delivers a guided approach for re-entry for all parties.
Anju is a management consultant with over 15 years of experience working with companies on their Customer Relationship Management strategy initiatives. Most recently, she worked with senior IT leaders to create, manage and measure IT success. She left a career in management consulting to care for her young sons.
In 2012, she made the transition back to work and found consulting opportunities that offered the right balance between challenging work and flexibility for her family. Yet, all around her, she noticed a pool of talented moms who were struggling to make the same transition. Having been through it, she enjoys telling her story, advising others on how to navigate re-entry, and partnering with companies to create opportunities for Vermilion Talent members.
Vermilion Talent is a natural extension of what she loves to do – helping women rediscover their footing in preparation for their next career opportunity. Anju resides in New York with her husband Tom & their two sons, Jonah & Evan. She holds a BBA from St. Mary’s University & an MBA from the McCombs School at the University of Texas-Austin.
Anne-Barbara is a management consultant with extensive experience in Transformation and Strategy implementation projects. She started her career as an international tax attorney with Deloitte and moved into management consulting working for large multinationals such as Philips and TNT Global Express. She moved from the Netherlands to NY last year with her family.
The transition was an eye-opener. Anne-Barbara was a working mom in the Netherlands and realized it was difficult to create the same arrangement living in NY. She met many women in the NY area facing the same challenge, expatriates struggling to transition into the workforce due to relocation. This is how Anne-Barbara got involved with Vermilion Talent.
She now lends her expertise and enthusiasm in connecting local companies with Vermilion Talent’s talented and professional pool of women. AnneBarbara resides in New York with her husband Godfried and 2 daughters, Madelief & Anelot. Anne-Barbara holds a Masters in Tax Law & Corporate Tax Law from the University of Leiden, Netherlands.