By Cheryl-Ann Szetoh
Have you ever considered taking a career break or are you currently on a sabbatical now? If you answered yes to either of the questions, you are definitely not alone.
In today’s workforce, it is becoming increasingly common for female professionals to take a break from their careers for various reasons, such as caring for their family, pursuing extended maternity leave or furthering their studies.
According to a recent white paper from my company Robert Walters, 72 per cent of the women surveyed in Singapore have taken a career break at some point in their lives, while 49 per cent of hiring managers in Singapore have not employed any returning women in the past year.
Concerns that employers have with regards to hiring returning women include how these women might lack knowledge of the latest industry trends and that they will not be fully committed to their jobs.
While there is much that can still be done to get employers to adjust their mindsets and be more open to hiring women who have taken career breaks, returning women can also prepare themselves for re-entry to the workforce in the following ways.
Plan for your re-entry to the workforce even before taking a career break
Prior to going on your sabbatical, plan for the amount of time you will be away from the workforce, how you intend to keep in touch with industry trends, and whether you intend to re-join your former employer or pursue a career opportunity with a new company.
Employers often value recent and relevant work experience so, if it is possible, try to keep in touch with what is happening by taking on freelance or project assignments. This will also increase your employability when you are ready to go back into the workforce.
Maintain your network of contacts
Keep in touch with former colleagues and business partners. This will help you to stay clued in on the latest updates in your industry and maintain contact with workmates who could potentially link you up with a useful business contact or an interesting career opportunity in future.
Keep abreast of industry trends
Whether it’s attending seminars, workshops or even pursuing short courses to upgrade your skills, this is crucial to helping you stay connected to the latest industry trends and developments. This will also come in handy during your interviews with future employers when you explain the gaps in your resume by demonstrating how you still kept yourself updated with the latest trends in your field.
Work with a reputable recruiter
Forty per cent of the professionals in Asia surveyed for our white paper said that a recruitment firm had helped them to regain entry to the workforce. A recruitment firm can provide you with some career advice based on your working experience, skills and industry knowledge. At the same time, the recruitment consultant can also advise you on potential career opportunities that would be of interest to you and even prepare you for job interviews.
Be open to taking on contract work options
Factors such as your length of absence from the workforce and current job market conditions will affect your chances of securing a job when you are ready to pursue any employment opportunities again. If you are unable to find any permanent work options, perhaps you could consider contract work? Treat this as a chance to help ease yourself back into the workforce while you acquire valuable experience and skills that could come in handy when you pursue a permanent role in future.
Returning women represent a rich talent pool that can help to overcome critical skill shortages, boosting an organisation’s diversity and provide measurable benefits such as decreased turnover rates and higher business gains.
Cheryl-Ann Szetoh is associate director, commerce, Robert Walters Singapore. Robert Walters is one of the world’s leading specialist professional recruitment consultancies and focuses on placing high-calibre professionals into permanent, contract and temporary positions at all levels of seniority. Established in 1985, the group has built a global presence spanning 28 countries.