by Jeannie Collins-Ardern
There are many instances where a well-trained person takes a career break, and after a period of time wishes to resume their professional life. This is far more frequently a problem for women, typically after child rearing or elder care. To help make the transition smoother, there are a few things you can do to prepare.
Whether you want to return to your old industry or seek out an entirely new career, it is vital that you continue to network. The old saying that it’s who you know, not what you know, is true more often than not. If you had strong connections with co-workers and managers before you left the workforce, make sure they do not forget about you. Also take the time to forge new connections with people of influence. Call or email people periodically, go to the occasional social or networking event, attend professional association gatherings, and have lunch or coffee with people in your firm or industry. Ensure they remember you and the great job you did before your leave, and demonstrate that you are still able to add significant value upon your return.
Communication is much easier and efficient today. You do not have to meet face-to-face — call, email, skype, and use social media to meet new people and keep in touch.
While it is possible to re-establish your network shortly before planning to return, it is far easier to maintain relationships than to revive stale ones. Make it easier on yourself and stay connected instead of having to re-establish your credentials after having been forgotten.
It is often assumed that since you have been out of the workforce for a period of time, you are not up to date on relevant events and developments. While networking, show that for you, this is not true. Keep up with new trends. Stay current and aware by regularly reading, listening to and watching the news and other relevant materials such as trade publications and webinars. Demonstrate that you know what matters to your colleagues and you have kept up with developments and their implications for the future. Provide value. Be prepared to speak intelligently about both local and global events and politics.
Today, technology is advancing rapidly across all industries. If necessary, take a refresher course, read up, enroll in a business program, or enhance your industry designations. Demonstrate that you are committed to lifelong learning and continue to invest in yourself and your career.
Particularly when you first return to your career, it is important to be able to put in the required effort to show that you are serious about your new job. Having to take a few days off in your first weeks on the job because your nanny did not work out, or having to come in late due to a parent having a medical appointment, does not give a good first impression. In some firms and industries, you can work from home or negotiate flexible hours, but for many, this is not the reality. Many people still relate effort to hours in the office, and at least initially, plan to put in those required hours. Once you have proven yourself to be hard working and dependable, you may be able to negotiate more flexible arrangements. Choose your new position with awareness of the practicalities of the job and your managers’ and co-workers’ expectations.
Jeannie Collins-Ardern is a Board Member for Women in Capital Markets, the largest network of professional women in the Canadian capital markets and the voice of advocacy for women in our industry. They work with partners who include Canada’s largest financial institutions to drive change and move more women into leadership roles in the industry. If you have a background working in capital markets, be sure to look up WCM’s Return to Bay Street (RTBS) program.