#Nextchat: Returning to the Workforce After a Career Gap

Re-entering the workforce after a long break to raise children, to care for aging parents or for other life-changing reasons can be an intimidating--and sometimes humiliating--experience.  

Research shows how difficult returning to the workforce can be: A study by the Center for Work-Life Policy found that only 40 percent of mothers find full-time jobs. Mothers returning to the workforce face many obstacles such as anti-mommy bias, limited work/life balance and the loss of job-related skills over time. The job search to re-enter the workforce leaves many mothers feeling discouraged and frustrated when they can’t even secure an interview, let alone an offer of employment.  

"When you're away for a few years you may feel you don't have much to offer or you may feel less confident," said Marcia Brumit Kropf, vice president of research and information services for Catalyst, a New York-based research organization created to advance women in business. "Women who are home full-time … are usually contributing a lot to the community. So anyone who has been home for a period of time should be looking at what kind of work contributions they've been making to their synagogue or church, the junior league or a charitable organization. Maybe they did a little financial management or fundraising. Employers are looking for demonstrable skills."

Deborah Jacobs sharply disagrees. In her article, “Why Opt-Out Moms Can’t Catch Up,” she writes, “The corporate world values work experience, and no matter how you spin the story about your PTA service and volunteer work, staying home with the kids is not work experience.”

But a long career gap does not mean job search failure. Women can find jobs with persistence and often with outside help. Neighborhood networking and career resources such as iRelaunch provide resources for mothers to find jobs and capitalize on their skills.

Shelly Feeley, a former Department of Defense employee, was able to find a job after 12 years as a stay-at-home mom. It took a lot of time, effort and networking–and some classes at a local community college--but she was able to find a job within 12 months. What advice does she offer to other women returning to the workforce? “Stay confident in your abilities, stay positive and stay persistent.”  

What challenges did you encounter, or are you encountering, re-entering the workforce?  What advice would you give to women about how to jump back into the job search after a long break?


Please join us at 3 p.m. ET on June 25 for #Nextchat.  We'll explore the challenges that women returning to the workforce face and how they can approach their return to work:

Q1: Why is it so difficult for women to re-enter the workforce after career gaps?

Q2: How should women returning to the workforce approach their job search?
Q3: What are some helpful resume and interview tips for women returning to the workforce?

Q4: What career resources are available to women to help transition back into the workforce?
Q5: How can mothers stay competitive during a career break to raise children?

Q6. What are the unfair biases and stereotypes against women who break from careers to raise children?

Q7. Does taking a break to raise children do irreparable damage to a woman’s career? Why or why not? 

Q8.  Do men/fathers encounter the same challenges that women do when re-entering the workforce after a long break?


The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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