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How To Reboot Your Career After Taking Leave From Work

A business woman and coworkers. (Victor1558/Flickr)

A business woman and coworkers. (Victor1558/Flickr)

Many people leave the workforce for a while to care for young children or aging parents or to fight an illness.

A growing number of experienced, professional workers are trying to relaunch their careers but are finding it harder than ever in this economy. The iReLaunch conference, held in Boston, aims to give guidance on how to effectively reboot a career.

We’ll talk about what workers and businesses need to do to get the most out of this important group of people who are ready to work and contribute once again.

The iRelaunch conference will be held on November 29. Registration is still open.


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  • Thinkin5

    Is the conference open to people who have been unemployed for a couple of years? I’ve been applying non-stop for the last 2 yrs., I’ve kept up my computer skills, and I’ve got good references. I’m thinking that it’s my age and maybe too much “experience”.

    • http://www.irelaunch.com/ Carol Fishman Cohen

       I also thought I replied to you too yesterday but it didn’t post!  Yes the conference is open to people on “unintentional” career break.  Most of the people attending have taken an intentional career break for child care, elder care or other reasons, but the strategies are equally effective for someone returning after a period of unintentional unemployment.  When you say you’ve been applying non-stop for two years,  does that mean you’ve been applying to jobs online?  If so, that strategy rarely works. You need to get out of the house and go to social and professional events where you can engage in conversations with people about what they do. Then they will ask you what you do and you can explain you are a _________ (it doesn’t matter you are not working in that job – you can say you are a pharmaceutical sales professional, or an educator, or a technical writer, or whatever you used to do – you are still that professional, you are just not employed in a role in that profession at the moment).  Look for volunteer opportunities in your field, volunteer at professional conferences if they are too expensive to attend as a paid participant, look for courses that include a field study component.  These experiences will put you in touch with practitioners in your field, update skills, and have a lot of conversations.  These conversations lead to other introductions which eventually leads to a job opportunity.

  • RBListener

    I think this is a very interesting topic.  My husband is the one who decided to leave his career to be the full-time parent with our son.  He did this in July, so he’s not looking to re-enter the job market yet but I think it’s important for this conversation to include the stay-at-home dads.  As tough as it is for moms to re-enterthe workforce and justify their decisions, it is even harder for dads (at least that’s what we keep hearing the more we talk to other dads who made this decision and have since tried to re-enter the workforce).

    • http://www.irelaunch.com/ Carol Fishman Cohen

       Yep, it’s still harder for dads as there is more of a stigma that is attached to the stay-at-home dad.  The good news is this is changing.  In part this is because there are more and more families where the dad is the at-home parent. But the # of stay-at-home dads is still dwarfed by the # of stay-at-home moms which is why the at-home moms get more attention.  However, the return to work strategies are exactly the same.  Your husband should check out Back on the Career Track from the library, filter out all the mom references, and focus on the strategies.  It might not be a bad idea to read it now so he can think longer term about some of the strategies he might want to keep in mind when he gets closer to wanting to return. For example, he might want to think about whether he was on the right career path to begin with and whether he would want to return to the same or a similar job to what he left or pursue something completely different. If he decides on the latter, then maybe he takes a class or pursues some kind of  “strategic volunteering” role that gives him relevant experience in the new field.  He might want to do that even if he’s returning to something similar to what he left.

  • J__o__h__n

    Any job advice for people laid off by Bain?

    • http://www.irelaunch.com/ Carol Fishman Cohen

       Figure out exactly what you want to do.  Do you want to return to the same career  you just left or do something a little or a lot different?  Try to find people who are doing the job you want to do in different companies who might be a friend of a friend and ask them if you could speak by phone or meet with them for 20 minutes to find out how they got there.   Connect with people who have moved to new companies after leaving Bain and ask if you can talk to them for 20 minutes on why they picked that new job and how it compared to the working enviroment and the work you were doing at Bain.  Determine if any kind of additional certification or education would be helpful for you in updating skills and showing additional expertise on your resume.  Once you have figured out exactly what you want to do, then talk to everyone you know about that goal and see what people say and who they know.  The  personal networking handoff is really key. Be relentless.  If you get turned down, get up and go after the next goal.  Try to go through the process with another person or a group in order to keep yourself moving forward.

  • Babyface

    Hey!.. it’s not just women! I left my job at(drumroll please…) WBUR many years ago to be a stay-at-home Dad. Loved my time with my boys but found no place in  today’s world of Public Radio. WBUR was my job straight out of college, so I’m an older worker getting his first taste of a proper ‘job search’. 

    Funny side note: the last resume I did was printed on a dot matrix printer!

    • http://www.irelaunch.com/ Carol Fishman Cohen

       I wrote a long answer to this yesterday that I thought posted, but now it is gone! Yes at home dads can use the same 7 Steps return to work strategy as at home moms.  Figure out exactly what you want to do (see the “job building blocks worksheet career assessment tool in Back on the Career Track) or contact your alma mater for access to career assessment tools through their alumni career services department if they have one, update skills through self directed study or course work, engage in “strategic volunteering” (volunteer work in line with your career goals) and then be relentless about going after the job that matches with your interest and skills.  Try to go through the process with another person or a group -that keeps you moving forward.  Also, check the resources section on our http://www.irelaunch.com website. 

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