Restarting your career after a break – making the transition easier

 

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.

 

Network

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.

 

Keep up to date

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.

 

Ensure that your skills are fresh

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.

 

Establish a strong support network at home

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.

 

 

 

Good Question: Is it worth it to pursue a lateral career move?

 

 

Q: I’ve been offered a new role that I think is more of a lateral move than a promotion, and my current position is a good one. Since it’s not a big step up, I’m having trouble evaluating whether or not to pursue the opportunity. It’s within the organization I work for now, so that’s not a factor. Any tips on how to decide if I should change positions, or stay in my existing role?

 

Christine Laperriere, Executive Director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, gives her advice:

 

Many accomplished professionals have dealt with this same conundrum at some point during their career, whether it’s an offer of a new role within their current organization, or an outside opportunity to shift gears. And although there are numerous things to consider, it’s useful to consider four common areas that make up a great position:

 

1. Your boss.

As we all know, people often quit their boss, not their job. Having a great boss is the central theme over and over again in why people stay in a role versus leave a role. As you are evaluating whether or not to stay or go, ask yourself how much you enjoy working for your existing boss and think about who your future boss might be if you change roles. And to go a step further, many people today are choosing to start small businesses and forgo a boss all together. This can be a great option if you prefer this style of work — but for some professionals, having your end customers as your “team of bosses” can pose a different set of challenges.

 

2. Your skills.

Another area to consider in a role is what type of skill this role requires to be excellent at the position. As human beings, we love to do work we feel we are competent in and that we have room to excel in. As you evaluate this position, does it leverage your best skills? Is there room for you to grow new skills that will be valuable in the future? If you don’t know, this is a great time to create a list of some of the skills you bring to the table.

 

3. Your Instincts.

Thinking about your natural working instincts can really lead to a few ah-ha moments about why you love or don’t love a specific role. Many years feeling very frustrated in my role as an engineer, I took a Kolbe assessment that helped me see that my personality type was improvising and creative while engineers were typically very data driven. Finally, I understood why even when working for a great boss, I often found I didn’t enjoy my engineering work enough to stay in that role for the long run.

 

4. Your Engagement.

Sometimes people can have the “perfect job,” but for some reason it doesn’t feel rewarding. Work you love comes from being interested in what’s going to happen in that role, with that company, and/or within that industry and customer base. A great job strokes our curiosity in a way in which we feel engaged in what we are doing for long stretches of time — like turning pages in a suspenseful novel, we want to know what happens next. Sometimes, when we’ve been in a job too long, we just lose that “spark.” If this sounds like you, give yourself permission to explore new opportunities; that’s a sign that you might be ready to learn something new.

 

 

So, if you are considering a change in position, I heavily encourage you to compare your existing position in each of these areas to what you know about the prospective position.  That can act as a great starting point to thinking through your decision. Furthermore, consider using this list of categories to help you research new roles and create questions to ask as you are investigating new positions. If you find a role that ranks high in each area for you, it might be worth taking a risk and trying something new.

 

 

To learn more about how you or your company can engage the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, you can reach out to Christine directly at advance@womenofinfluence.com.

Christine Laperriere is a seasoned expert on helping leaders and teams reduce internal conflict, improve employee engagement, and more effectively engage with customers and prospects. Working with the Women of Influence Advancement Centre and through her own consultancy, Leader in Motion, she has spent the past ten years teaching hundreds of leaders how to be more effective through her “Leadership through Conflict & Change” course, and helped many with specific challenges through private executive coaching. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy and executive coaching, along with years in management consulting focused on implementation, change management and culture change initiatives.

 

The aha moment: How Amy Roberts discovered her true career path, and made a successful transition

 

After completing a three-month career transition program with Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge, Amy Roberts discovered her true calling as a career transition coach. She recounts her journey of moving out of corporate HR and offers advice to other women looking to make a career switch.

 

By Hailey Eisen

 


 

When Amy Roberts graduated with a degree in business and a specialization in human resources in 1998, she was driven by the desire to help people. Little did she know it would take over fifteen years, a layoff, a personal epiphany and two career changes before she could achieve that goal in the way she had imagined.

“Originally, I got into HR because I thought I would be helping employees, but it ended up being something different,” she reflects. “It was more about business, and it just didn’t meet my core values.”

Back in those early days, before she learned that integral lesson, Amy was focused on one thing: finding an entry-level HR Assistant job. After a grueling and unsuccessful job hunt, she ended up taking a job at a recruiting agency, thinking it could help her acquire some experience and build up her resume. Unfortunately, her strategy didn’t work out quite like she had hoped.

“Back in the day, HR departments didn’t want to hire agency recruiters,” she explains. “They saw my job was very salesy — it was commission-based — and they felt it wasn’t really proper HR.”

She spent nearly ten years in the field before catching a break and making the move into corporate HR, thanks to a former supervisor.

“She made some introductions and I got my break working in HR in internal talent acquisition,” Amy recalls. “Instead of working for a number of different companies, I was suddenly recruiting solely for one. So, it required a change in mindset. In this environment, I had to make the switch to working with internal clients — and that meant becoming savvier when it came to office politics.”

 

A blessing in disguise

After five years in that position, Amy was ultimately recruited herself to a large food and beverage corporation. Just eleven months later, however, she was laid off due to organizational restructuring. While it was a difficult time to say the least, it came with a silver lining — as part of her severance package, she was offered a three-month career transition program with Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge. The program offered her access to webinars, workshops, and one-on-one coaching — and she took full advantage of the opportunity.

Because she had yet to find alignment between her passion and her work, Amy was looking to refocus. “I was ready to make a complete career change into the not-for-profit sector, so I approached the career transition program with the intention of revamping my resume and networking with people in that industry,” she explains. “During those three months, I did lots of workshops, webinars, and met with a coach. By the end I was amazed at how many connections I had in the not-for-profit industry — and I approached them all with a clear message that I was looking to explore opportunities in that sector.”

 

The aha-moment

It wasn’t long before doors opened up for her. She was offered volunteer opportunities at such organizations as the Canadian Cancer Society, ALS Society of Canada, and various hospital foundations, and she used those experiences to pick the brains of the people that worked there and to be introduced to others in the non-for-profit industry. It was through these conversations and her volunteer experience that Amy realized the not-for-profit sector might actually not be the right fit for her from a career perspective, after all.

“After talking to people, I realized having a job in the not-for-profit sector can have the same challenges and frustrations as any corporate job, and I didn’t want that. I enjoy volunteering, and I didn’t want to jeopardize that passion by making it into a career,” she says.

She went back to her coach and explained her reservations. The two started talking and eventually the conversation came down to one key question: What originally pulled Amy toward HR?

“When it came down to it, I realized I ultimately wanted to help people. So, my coach probed a little further: ‘What skills do you have to do that?’” she recalls. “I knew what companies were looking for. I knew what made a great resume. I had strong interviewing and networking skills, both within and outside of an organization. And that’s when a lightbulb seemed to light up above my coach’s head: ‘You could do MY job!’”

 

Interview transparency

The suggestion made a lot of sense to Amy. She’d be able to apply her background in HR and actually focus on achieving her lifelong dream of helping people. She began to retarget her efforts and, when a recruiting job opened up with LHH Knightsbridge, Amy jumped at the opportunity.

“When I went into the interview for this role, I decided to be completely transparent and let them know that while this position wasn’t my long-term goal, I did see the company as my long-term home,” she says. “I committed to giving the recruiting job my best efforts, which would also provide me with the opportunity to build credibility and a reputation within the organization and, hopefully, segue into the career transition field.”

The move happened much sooner than Amy had expected. One year to the day that she was hired by LHH Knightsbridge, an internal posting came up for a career transition consultant. She spoke with her supervisor and got her support and endorsement, applied, and got the job. Two years later, she couldn’t be happier.

 

Coming full circle

Having found her dream career, Amy reflects on the journey to get there. That journey taught her invaluable lessons, and provided her with insight and experiences she draws upon every day as she helps others navigate their career transition challenges.

“So many people get caught up in the things they’re supposed to do in their career,” Amy says. For Amy this represented two alternatives — the corporate HR option and the not-for-profit career path — neither of which turned out to be her destiny. “For me, the big aha moment was realizing that just because I was good at something and had done well at it in the past, didn’t necessarily mean I liked it, or wanted to continue in that direction.” Amy also realized that if you are not in the right environment, you may kill your passion by trying to turn it into a career.

For these reasons, she always encourages her clients to keep both their goals and their values top of mind during the transitional job search process — and not be afraid to express them, when necessary. She also believes in making your career ambitions clear when leveraging connections and pursuing networking opportunities, both within and outside of the industry you hope to enter. Even if they don’t seem directly connected to your desired field, you never know who someone might know.

“And while it may take some extra effort to form and nurture these connections, it is well worth the value they provide when you’re aim is making a career transition”.

 

 

We’ve partnered with Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge to bring inspiring and insightful interviews with leaders that can help you navigate your own career aspirations. Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge helps companies simplify the complexity associated with transforming their leadership and workforce so they can accelerate results, with less risk. As leaders in Talent and Leadership Development, Career Solutions and Executive, Interim and Mid-Level Search, the company helps organizations find new talent, and helps their employees navigate change, become better leaders, develop better careers and transition into new jobs. Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge has the local expertise, global infrastructure, and industry leading technology and analytics required to simplify the complexity associated with executing critical talent and workforce initiatives, reducing brand and operational risk.

To learn more visit www.lhhknightsbridge.com.