Nearly a third of women in the workforce take a pause in their career at some point — often to start a family or because of childcare issues — but fewer than half of those women return to full-time, mainstream jobs, according to a 2010 Center for Work-Life Policy study.
The result is a "brain drain" of women from the workforce. Now, a number of programs across the country are seeking out moms who left the workforce and recognizing them as a valuable asset.
“Increasingly, I am finding more and more companies see this as a really valuable pool of talent,” said Diane Flynn, who founded the ReBoot Career Accelerator for Women.
ReBoot runs programs in Silicon Valley, Chicago, Seattle and New York City to bring women back up to speed and restart their careers. In addition to providing hands-on training in social media, personal branding, and job search skills, ReBoot helps women understand how to leverage their "work pause."
“What we do is we really help them understand that they have so many skills that they have developed during their work pause that are incredibly valuable in the workforce. Things like budgeting, project management, negotiation skills,” said Flynn. And she would know: she spent 15 years out of the workforce to raise her three children.
Here are some tips for women seeking return to work after a career break:
1. Keep your connections fresh
Whether you have left the workforce already or are planning to, keeping up with professional connections is key. Your connections will most likely help you find your next job, so schedule coffee meetings and meet up with people in your industry, even while you’re on your career pause.
2. Build your personal brand
Use social media websites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to build your personal social media brand. Make sure your profile pictures are professional-looking as they’ll make your online first impression.
3. Stay active in your community
Work on community projects or volunteer opportunities where you can build skills without having a full-time job. VolunteerMatch.org allows you to search by specialization in your community.
4. Learn workplace tools
Get up to speed on essential workplace tools and computer programs. Many of these can be learned online at sites like Lynda.com.
5. Find a specialized job marketplace
In addition to programs like ReBoot, designed to get women back up to speed, explore other women- and mother-focused online sites that can jumpstart a job search.
The Mom Project is a “digital talent marketplace” that vets and matches professional women with companies. The new site Après is designed specifically for women looking to get back into the workforce. It’s free to join ($250 per year for a premium account) and serves as a digital recruiting platform for companies. There is a mother-oriented network for women called OptIn and one with origins in STEM and engineering called iRelaunch.