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How to Effectively Re-Enter the Workforce

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How to Effectively Re-Enter the Workforce

Frequently people – primarily women – who left the workforce to care for family have experienced difficulty being hired when ready to return. This has been particularly true for those seeking to resume the types of responsible positions they left. Often these individuals have been counseled to be “creative” in hiding or minimizing resume gaps created by time with family.

The reality is, whether children, parents or other family members, caregiving is a growing reason people need time off from work. Our aging society also means more older adults need help, and these individuals will likely lead longer lives.

Fortunately, multiple complementary circumstances have reached “tipping points” – with each effectively contributing to overall improvement.

  1. The number of educated and talented individuals seeking to re-enter the workforce has grown to the level where entrepreneurs have created innovative organizations to break down the various barriers and connect returning employees to companies that value the talent, experience, and professionalism these individuals bring.
  2. A growing number of employers seek to add more women to their leadership teams, and they value seasoned professionals who are capable of coming up to speed quickly.
  3. Companies are realizing they lack talent to achieve objectives necessary for the company’s future success. Often recent graduates aren’t a good fit. Rather, what they need are seasoned professionals who are quick learners, adaptive and able to juggle multiple priorities.
     

“Returnships” (1)

Goldman Sachs actually trademarked the term “returnship” in 2008. However, other progressive organizations in a variety of industries – including JP Morgan, Credit Suisse, Amazon, Return Path (data solutions provider) – are targeting these educated workers with a variety of options that both help the organization and the individual returning to work.

One term is “midlife internship”, which often includes intern-style jobs, project or contract work, and temporary positions. There are now nonprofits (e.g. Path Forward), and websites (e.g. Après) specifically working to match employers and returning professionals.

Less formal, but also prominent, people are actively networking, rejoining professional organizations and taking online professional development courses or online degree programs.

One advantages of working for companies that have actively sought to welcome caregivers back to the workforce is that they have communicated upfront that they know there are resume gaps – and they don’t consider them deterrents.

Sharing Personal Information Increases Likelihood of Being Hired (2)

Great news for those who have either experienced directly – or fear – not being hired due to a resume gap. A recent study conducted by two Vanderbilt University economics professors found that women who explained their family-driven resume gaps to potential hiring firms were 30 – 40% more likely to be hired.

Not only have those returning to the workforce been wary of even mentioning any details of their home life, hiring managers have often believed they cannot – or at least should not – ask about personal information, such as children or marital status.

The study showed explaining family-related job gaps helps hiring managers gain clarity about the candidate’s family situations. They are then more comfortable than if they were in the position of wondering about the resume gap. It removes undesirable mystery, and clears the way to discuss the firm, open positions, company culture – providing the potential employee the opportunity to better assess the fit with their needs.

Looking Forward

As the need for seasoned professionals with specific skill sets who can demonstrate desired skills and capabilities grows, more companies will look to those who have taken time off work and are now ready to re-enter the workforce. And, at least some of these employees will find employers more flexible than when they left the workforce.

Recalibrating Actions:
 

  1. Assess the talent needs of your organization. Are there areas where perhaps it’s desirable to inquire of employees who left on good terms to care for family to see if they are ready to return to work? Perhaps part-time depending on your and their needs/interests?
  2. Is your leadership team and HR team actively involved in organizations where they have access to people who meet the company’s desired talent criteria? If not, ensure they become active participants and bring forward individuals to meet with your leadership team – even if a specific opening doesn’t exist – to evaluate their fit with the company.
  3. When people leave your organization is there a definitive method in place for assessing why they are leaving? If they are leaving on good terms, is there interest on their part to stay in touch in the future? Assign responsibility for keeping up with desirable re-hire candidates on an ongoing basis.
     

Ask current employees if they know of individuals who meet your desired talent needs, are likely a good cultural fit and may not be currently working. If not already in place, set up a referral incentive for current employees who help identify new hires.

Sources:
  1. Dell’Antonia, Kj, Starting Your Own Midlife Internship The New York Times, May 5, 2016
  2. Wolf, Amy, For Women Re-entering Workforce, Sharing Personal Information May Get You Hired, Vanderbilt University Research, May 19, 2016, (accessed from ScienceDaily.com)
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