How Long is Too Long to Pause?

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Megan Strickland, from Reboot Accel, joins us again as part of her three-part series on downshifting, career pauses and re-entry. Today, she answers the question many women who choose to pause their career to raise a child ask themselves: "how long is too long?” With not only a beautiful answer, but tips on what to do during that pause, I hope this brings you the same sense of calmness and support it’s given me.

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At Reboot Accel, we truly believe that there is no such thing as "too long" when it comes to re-entering the workforce after a career pause. We have advised, coached and consulted women whose pauses have ranged from 6 months to 20 years, and we have seen success stories at every level. In fact, our CEO, Diane Flynn took 16 years off to raise her kids and returned to work in a Chief Marketing capacity before she founded Reboot Accel.

Another lovely women we worked with for about two years, just took a Sales job at a Bay Area start-up after taking 19 years to raise her family. The average age at the company she is now working for is 28; she is 55. But she is thrilled to be back at work and brings a level of maturity and calmness to her team - as well as a different perspective - that has enabled her to be a valuable contributor.

She, like many other women who have taken longer career breaks, was able to leverage the extensive volunteer work she accumulated during her pause. The hiring manager recognized the many transferable skills she had kept sharp while she chaired volunteer boards and raised money for her children's schools. She also took the initiative to master many applications and software programs that are widely prevalent in today's workforce but were not 19 years ago (Google Suite, Slack, Microsoft Office, etc) so that she could hit the ground running as soon as she was hired.

We consistently argue how the “career pause” years can be invaluable to a woman's next career, regardless of how long their pause may be.

As one of our co-founders shares, "One of the best pieces of advice I got was 'choose your volunteer roles strategically.’ Yes, there are times when stamps need to be licked and schools need help with event clean/set-up; yet we women need to value our time, our skills, our goals, and choose how we invest and grow ourselves wisely. This doesn’t require us to only choose lauded advisory or board level roles; by contrast, the volunteer roles that grew my skills and networks best were Varsity Team Parent and PTA President at my kid’s school. As an INTJ and introvert, I was suddenly leading, speaking in front of, and organizing hundreds of volunteers; and running two small businesses. It was these strategic stretch volunteer roles, and the new and refreshed skills and networks I gained through them, that led to my current job."

Regardless of how long you paused or are considering pausing for, remember that the career you spent time building is valuable and important. Your pause is simply part of your story and your path, and each amount of time is different from woman to woman. When you are ready for re-entry, be confident, speak confidently about your abilities, your skills, your story, and be specific about what you are looking for and how you can contribute. 

What was your experience with a career pause? And what roles helped you feel prepared to re-enter?

Megan Strickland is ReBoot Accel’s Senior Development Business Manager and joins us for a 3-part series on mixing motherhood + workplace re-entry.

Photo by Amy Ferris on Unsplash