Many professional women take a career hiatus of anywhere from a couple of years to a decade in order to raise their children. This was fairly common among my mother’s generation. Most of these mothers returned to work when the children were more or less self-sufficient in order to finance the children’s education, save for retirement, etc.
For other women, stepping out of the workforce is necessary to care for an elderly relative. Many women my age are part of the “sandwich” generation, squeezed between the needs of children and the needs of elderly parents. Others go to work, out of necessity, after the death of their spouse.
Recent articles have discussed the difficulty of women returning to the workforce after a break. Some acknowledge that the downturn in the economy is making finding a job more difficult, but a number of authors, including a WSJ article by Sue Shellenbarger, identify the problem as one of women figuring out what job they want and then updating their skills to make that career choice possible.
“Few job seekers face higher hurdles than at-home parents trying to return to the work force. Mothers at home full-time crested in 2004 at a recent high of 31.2 percent, among married-couple families with children, government data show; at-home dads, who often face even greater bias than returning mothers, make up about 5 percent. Many of these parents now need or want to get back to work. Beyond the recession and employer bias against dropouts, many also are burdened by outdated skills and self-doubt.” (Sue Shellenbarger writing in the Wall Street Journal).
Forbes Magazine highlights the experience of a professional woman who landed a job similar to the work she did before she took a hiatus to rear her children. It seemed like a great fit, but she wasn’t happy because during her time away, she had developed other skills that she valued more – specifically working with people. Susan Adams quoted her in this story as saying: “I skipped one of the most important steps in my career re-entry strategy,” she says. “You have to make sure you do a career assessment.”
Carol Fishman Cohen, co-founder of iRelaunch.com said, “We have not done a statistically valid study… [but] anecdotally … success is less a factor of age or number of years out and more closely linked to the ability to identify what it is you want to do, update yourself to be qualified, and have the perseverance to push and push until you ultimately get hired.”
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