Thursday, September 29, 2011

On the playground, with a foot in the door

A week ago, I read a blog post on Forbes Woman about not abandoning your career when you leave the workforce, and the importance of staying engaged so you can re-enter. As someone who has twice left and returned to full time work I thought it was great advice. But for a week I've been thinking about how much easier that is said than done.

But then, yesterday, there was this follow up on ways to stay engaged by the same author, Samantha Ettus, and there it was, a damn good list of things you can do. Not only are they smart moves for keeping you professionally relevant, but they can help temper the identity crisis that hits parents when they step away from a career.

In my experience the biggest single thing is growing and maintaining your network - twice it was my network that pulled me back into great jobs. This is cost free and easy to do. It is also great advice for moms who are working now and thinking of taking time off - invest now in connections that can help you later.

I also think making a financial investment in your career while you aren't working is well worth considering - but tough to do when you are not generating income. It's another thing that parents mulling a break might want to plan ahead for. Look at it as a true investment that can pay dividends later on. It starts with some degree of childcare so you can do the following things, which also bring cost: conferences, coursework and yes, cocktails, for networking. Non-profit boards are excellent ways to flex professional muscle for a good cause, and can also extend your network considerably. While most boards require some degree of financial support from members, the investment is in far more than your career options, it is also in a mission that hopefully you care deeply about.

Flexible, short term paid work is the holy grail for the opt-out mom, especially if it leverages and deepens your skill set. If you can find it, it is a gift horse.

Have you taken a career break to parent? If so, what helps you stay in the game?

1 comment:

  1. You are totally right about all of these things. I just re-entered the regular work force (albeit part time) after 8 years of time at home to parent. The first year, I thought I was going back part time at the end of the cycle (I was in education and it was easier to replace me for the academic year, and I had the ability to stay home for that time as well). Then the office appointed a new boss who drew a line in the sand at my return conditions (which were not unreasonable, and nothing I hadn't been granted before kids) and I walked. But I worked part time and short term and filled in for interim and maternity leaves, presented on panels at conferences I could barely afford to attend, and read the blogs and congratulated the promoted and award winners, and 8 years later, when the money finally ran out, a great job fell in my lap from a contact. Also: Being in a great spot when I left was critical. And I just had to remember that life has seasons. I made hay while the sun shone.