By Carol Fishman Cohen & Vivian Steir Rabin
With the national unemployment rate still running at 9.6% (and California’s at a depressing 12.8% as of early July), women who have been out of the workforce are simultaneously feeling more pressure than ever to return to paid employment and more at a disadvantage than ever to do so.
Yet almost weekly we hear from women around the country who have overcome the obstacles to reenter the workforce 5, 10, 15, or even 20 years after their last pay check. We’ve found that your ability to return to the workforce successfully has less to do with how long you’ve been out of work, and more to do with your ability to figure out exactly what you want to do professionally -- and to pursue that goal relentlessly through networking and other creative strategies.
Here are five ways women are relaunching their careers in today’s difficult economy:
1. The Volunteer Relaunch. Interested in working for a certain organization but concerned your resume won’t measure up to those of people with more recent experience? Then volunteer and let the organization get to know you before applying. This strategy works especially well for those seeking to return to careers in the not-for-profit, healthcare, academic or government arenas, where volunteer opportunities abound.
2. The Back to School Relaunch. Going back to school is as close to a magic bullet as you can get for returning to the workforce after a career break. Not only can you update your skills and add coursework, a degree, or a certificate to your resume, but you have access to free career services, exclusive job listings and internships, and networking help via professors and fellow students.
3. The Internship (or consulting) Relaunch. But you don’t have to go back to school to get an internship. If you’re interviewing and sense that a company is interested in you, but concerned about your career break, suggest a three-month, nonbinding paid internship or consulting arrangement. At the end of the three months, either they can hire you permanently, terminate you with no hard feelings, or renew the arrangement for another three months to evaluate you further. Starting out as a paid intern or consultant gives both you and the employer a chance to test out the fit.
4. The Career Reentry Program Relaunch. At iRelaunch, we have identified over 60 career reentry programs at companies, universities, government agencies, professional associations and foundations worldwide. You can access a complete listing via the homepage link on our www.irelaunch.com website.
5. The Entrepreneurial Relaunch. Finally, one of the most popular strategies for reentering the workforce is to start your own business.
These are just some of the thousands of entrepreneurial ventures that relaunching women have started around the country. Most businesses founded by relaunchers begin with little capital. Yes, it’s a risky strategy, but these entrepreneurs relish the freedom they have to set their own schedules, and in today’s precarious economic environment, working for yourself may be no less risky than working for others.
Carol Fishman Cohen and Vivian Steir Rabin are the co-authors of the acclaimed career reentry strategy book Back on the Career Track: A Guide for Stay-at-Home Moms Who Want to Return to Work, and the co-founders of iRelaunch, a company producing career reentry programs, events, and content for employers, universities, organizations and individuals. Sign up at www.iRelaunch.com (it's free) to receive more information.
Carol and Vivian can be reached at info@iRelaunch.com or follow us on twitter www.twitter.com/iRelaunch.