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Getting Back in The Game: How to Return to the Workforce After a Break for Caregiving

Getting Back In The Game After Caregiving

In our work in support of caregivers, we often run across professionals – typically women, but not always – who have taken one or more years off work to care for a failing parent. In trying to understand their efforts to re-enter the workforce, I realized that there is an on-going challenge for all talented professionals who need to find a job after an extended break.

200 Success Stories

Carol Fishman Cohen is CEO and co-founder of iRelaunch. If you want a bit of inspiration – and guidance – check out more than 200 success stories of experienced professionals who re-entered the workforce posted on the iRelaunch website. These stories reinforce that there is a pathway and employers are becoming more aware and accepting of caregiving gaps.

Getting the Basics Right

Professionals get often get stuck on some of the very basics. Carol told me, “If someone is returning to work after a career break, there is always the question of how to discuss the ‘gap’. We recommend language that identifies the reason for the career break succinctly, indicates it is now resolved, and then moves on immediately to why the person is such an excellent candidate for the job.”

Focus on the Positive – The Past is Now Resolved

For example, Carol suggests a caregiver might explain, “Yes I took a career break to deal with a family-member health issue that is now resolved, and I can’t wait to get back to work. In fact, the reason I am so interested in this particular position is because of the work experience I had at X company where we faced very similar customer challenges.” Then go on to give an example of this experience.

Caregiving will become even more recognized and supported in the coming years with the commitment of the Biden Administration to overcoming the pandemic and addressing the caregiving crisis.

 In other words, don’t get stuck on the break you just went through. Think ahead AND the value you can/will bring to your employer. Caregiving creates empathy and emotional intelligence. You are amazing.

Focus on what your prospective employer needs, which is to find an engaged, capable and excited employee. In this respect, re-entering the workforce is not that much different from finding your next job. It’s all about explaining your skills and experiences in the context of what a company needs.

 Carol is also the author of the acclaimed HBR “40-Year-Old Intern” article series, in which she explains that Wall Street firms and leading law firms are waking up to the fact that there is an incredible reservoir of untapped talent that has left the workforce. She writes about return-to-work programs called “returnships” that  companies like PWC, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs have launched to smooth the path back for talented professionals.

She quotes Caren Ulrich Stacy of one such program, The Onramp Fellowship, who said, “This year marks the fourth consecutive annual decline in the number of mid- to senior-level female associates in large law firms. We need a way to replenish this pipeline, and fast.”

 Mindset is crucial. You are not a person with an unexplained gap in your career. You are a talented professional who has demonstrated character and compassion in stepping away, temporarily, from a profession you love. Now, you are bringing your expertise back to your career, and you are also bringing a deeper understanding of life’s challenges and opportunities.

 There are a few time-tested tips I can offer.

  • Reach out to others via social media such as LinkedIn as well as through personal networking.
  • Rekindle old relationships and start new ones.
  • Don’t just look for a job; look to become involved on numerous levels with other professionals and volunteer.

 TIP: Most opportunities come from weak connections, such as the college roommate of your former colleague’s next-door neighbor. Let people know that you are seeking an opportunity.

Be positive, negativity will repel opportunities.

Positivity and optimism will attract opportunities.

Never pass up a chance to make a new connection or start a conversation. You never know where or when the next exciting stage of your life will take off.

About the Author:  Nancy C Everitt, MBA, PMP, CAPS

Nancy C Everitt, MBA, PMP, CAPS is the Founder and CEO and HEOPS Inc and CENTIPEDE Care Solutions LLC. She is an industry expert on aging in place, managed care, value-based care, and health technology. N. Everitt is a TN Supreme Court trained Rule 31 Mediator, a certified Project Management Professional and has also received a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) designation from the National Association of Home Builders.

Nancy’s passion is helping to refine the ecosystem supporting the intersection of life,  health, and assistance (help)  so that people can live their best life at home surrounded by family and friends.

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