The big entry ticket: What enables a smooth re-entry?

How do women land a job after a long career break? Is it by sending out traditional CVs to recruiters? I was curious to learn more about it, especially when there is a rather non-linear CV involved. So I interviewed women around the globe and asked them straight away. In this blog post, I am sharing two strategies that worked for many of them. You can also download the full study for free including all 5 essential access strategies. What will be your approach?

Often there is an unexpected hickup when planning to go back to work

Just because one aims to re-enter the workforce does not necessarily mean that the path ahead is smooth. I was talking with women from all around the globe who re-entered the workplace successfully (after breaks that lasted between 6 and 23 years) and also talked with them about their personal approaches to getting to their current position.  You can download the full study for free here. In this study and also in an academic paper by Valente (2019) there has been a surprise element on the way back to work. Women have been facing unexpected difficulties and while thinking the door to return will always remain open, they have been surprised by the question marks their career break is triggering along the application process. As one of my interview partners states:

“I had this disilussional belief that I would just find work. I applied at my daughter‘s school and I was shocked to see how badly I was treated as a candidate. When I was not even invited to jobs I was overqualified for that which was a huge blow to my self-esteem.”

Participant in my re-entry study

However, one requirement to take part in my research was the fact that one is successfully reintegrated into the workplace. So all stories revealed in the interviews had a happy end in the sense
that these women managed to fight themselves back and claim their seats at the table. The question is now, how did these women manage to get to this point? Well, the approaches are as diverse as the women themselves and show that there is not this one right path in general but one right path for each individual. There are certain patterns that repeated themselves such as the role of networking, adapting to the local job market, being very honest and authentic about the career break, and building up skills and confidence before applying.

In the following, I present to you a list of all these findings combined. They can be seen as a source of inspiration for your own job hunt.

Entry ticket #1: The power of networking

Half of the women interviewed got their job through networking. Instead of sending out several applications, they made an effort to get in touch with former colleagues or directed conversations on the playground about the fact that they are looking for a job. In another study interviewing 28 women working in the Indian IT sector, networking was an essential pillar for them getting back into the workforce as well. The authors stated: “Women emphasized that networking demanded effort, but also brought positive results. Networks played an instrumental role in the referrals and return of participants (Singh and Vanka, 2020).

Here are some insights into how my sample of interview partners used networking in their application process:

“Then on the playground, I met another mother and we talked about the upcoming emergency care at the kindergarten. I said, I do not work yet but am currently looking for work, and for that, you need time and so also care. She then said a friend of hers is currently looking for an assistant. I had then on my 40th birthday the phone call with her and after a trial day to get to know all the tasks and after we have clarified all the formalities I had the contract.”

“But I always say that you have to talk about it. Like when you‘re looking for a house or you have questions about the rent, you just have to talk to everyone you know about it and make it public. I myself am very communicative and that was definitely strengthened by the time abroad. We now have a very large network after about a year back in {country} and I used that.”

Entry ticket #2: Upskilling

All women interviewed felt insecure about their own skills. The feeling of not being up to date highly affects confidence and increases insecurity in the interview process.
Many women feel somewhat caught off guard when it then actually comes to actively market themselves and their strengths again. Of course, it makes sense to train your skills continously during a break and to keep them up to date. However, there were certain reasons for leaving the job and the focus during the break is usually on these reasons. Also, some women consciously turn their backs on their profession or industry and want to re-enter a new field, if at all. However, all women in the interviews were aware of the important role of an updated skill set. They either worked proactively on it during the months of application or addressed their fears about a skills gap.

This is also true for the study on 28 female applicants in the Indian IT sector:

“All the participants highlighted the importance of upskilling for career re-entry. Participants echoed that reskilling and upskilling play a crucial role in career restart in the IT sector where skill obsolescence is a norm. Responses revealed that women took every possible opportunity to enhance their knowledge, skills updated, and stay relevant. Upskilling activities, such as certification in a new technology, mellowed down the effect of the career break on resumes.” (Singh and Vanka, 2020).

However, it is not only about upskilling, it is also about self-reflection and gaining the knowledge and confidence to articulate learned skills. As a study by PWC on career returners after a break in the UK puts it: “Although these women acquire important skills while on career breaks, such as organizational and project management skills, many women struggle to articulate these skills using corporate language, and their broader application to professional settings“ (PWC, 2016).

Here are some insights into how my sample of interview partners used upskilling in their application process:

“Definitely better! {when asked about how she rates her skills compared to before the break} I have grown up and kids also change you. I am more patient now and see problems clearer. I also tried to do courses to stay up-to-date with my skills. I did those courses in {language} and really managed to write papers {in that language}. After one interview they told me I don‘t get the job as I can’t do SAP {a computer program}. So after that, I took courses to learn this program.”

“I had lots of fears regarding my hard skills. Programming is a fast- paced field and I felt like a sleeping beauty who awoke and everything changed. I upskilled myself before re-entering and I would say the current projects have improved my skillset immensely.”

More entry options

Want to read more about the different approaches women around the globe take to re-enter the workforce? Download the full study for free here. The study also shares more insights into the emotional struggle involved and what women interviewed would do differently when looking back on their past experiences. 

I hope you found this blog post helpful for your current situation. Let me know if I can be of any help! I offer the opportunity for free 1:1 discovery calls to discuss your situation and I also offer free monthly global coffee dates where women from all around the world meet to discuss their global lifestyle decisions. You can safe your spot here.

Kate from Share the Love, expat, expat wife, expat life

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Ebook for the accompanying partner

Quitting your job and joining your partner abroad does not need to end your professional career. Learn what options you have and how to define what you really want during your time abroad. Make it to your own personal journey and get the most out of it!


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