Job loss during the pandemic has impacted millions of people worldwide, yet women have borne the brunt of these losses and lag behind men on the path back to work. A lack of childcare, in-person school and the slow return of certain sectors of the economy are keeping women home longer. They join a legion of other women who have taken extended breaks from the workplace but who would like to return post-pandemic. Common to all of these women is the question about what to do next and a concern about how to re-enter the workforce when there is a gap in their resume.
Because this topic impacts so many women, TheWMarketplace met with Nancy Jensen and Sarah Duenwald to talk about how to re-launch a career after a pause from the workplace. Their firm, The Swing Shift, is dedicated to working with women who have taken breaks from their careers or who are looking for a career change, and they have just published a book dedicated to this topic.
Nancy and Sarah explained that there are many things that women can be doing right now, even if they are not actively looking for a job. Nancy recommended that women “do an up-front discernment,” which is an inventory of roles performed in the past – their strongest skills, as well as what was most liked and what to stay away from in past jobs. This is particularly helpful if you are wanting to change careers or are coming from a non-traditional field.
Sarah spoke about identifying your personal brand. “What do you bring to the table? How do you talk about that?” Once you have gotten a clear idea of your brand, it is a matter of making sure it is represented accurately in digital spaces, like Google and LinkedIn, which are the first places that employers go when considering a candidate.
Mapping a strategy back to work is a useful way to determine how to proceed and can help narrow efforts. There are four main strategies to choose from:
- Stepping into a job that isn’t perfect but gets you back into the world of work;
- Freelancing or consulting, which allows job-seekers a way to try new things before committing long-term;
- Doing what you did before;
- Volunteering or doing a job pro bono as a way to make a jump to paid work.
With competing demands confronting many women during their job search, Sarah says it’s essential to be intentional with your time and “get the biggest bang for your buck.” The pandemic has actually made it easier to connect and reconnect with people online, and to do so on your own time. Reaching out to people you know is a great way to see how your skills may transfer into different lines of work and build confidence in speaking about your strengths.
Nancy and Sarah also had some advice for women who are starting or growing their own businesses, like many of the sellers on TheWMarketplace. As with any new business, the money will not come right away, so it is important to map out a plan with phases that account for your time, your monetary needs, and to determine inflection points to assess next steps. Growing a small business is rarely straightforward, and its success relies on much of the same savvy as those who are re-entering the job market.
Along with their work with The Swing Shift, Nancy and Sarah have just published Back to Business: Finding Your Confidence, Embracing Your Skills and Landing Your Dream Job After a Career Pause (Harper Collins, 2021). This book is an effort to reach more women with actionable steps they can take to resume a career, and it lays out a clear path to returning to the workforce in today’s digitalized world, where rules have changed since many women last searched for a job.
The authors worked hard last spring to finish the writing and get it published for a new wave of women who will be looking for work in 2021 and beyond. They said that while the pandemic didn’t change the thrust of their advice, it sharpened it. They’ve produced a related e-learning course that reflects much of what they’ve learned over the past year as they took their own business quickly into a digital model. Both the book and the course allow women to learn on their own time, which can be limited when juggling competing demands at home, and Sarah and Nancy hope that their advice can take some of the anxiety out of the job search.