Ways to Stay Connected During Your Time Away From the Workforce
Megan Strickland, from ReBoot Accel, joins us again as part of her series on downshifting, career pauses and re-entry. In her newest post, I appreciate the focus of what you can actively do during your time away from a career. Whether you have zero intention of bringing paid work back into your life, all the intention, or aren’t sure, it’s a tactical look at how to stay connected that goes beyond keeping your LinkedIn account active. Hope that you enjoy this as much as I did, during my own version of workplace pause.
At ReBoot Accel, we believe the single most important thing to do to stay connected during your time away is to maintain, cultivate and continue to grow your network - and not just your previous professional network.
While it is important to keep up with former colleagues, even through coffee dates a couple times a year or casual Linkedin messages now and again, your network includes other parents at preschool, women in your exercise classes, book club, and the new person you sit next to at a dinner party. I would argue that these networks are critical to enriching your life as a person and a mom, but also to keep you connected during a career pause.
To use some numeric facts, over 85% of our women who have come through ReBoot Accel have landed jobs through their networks, and research shows that this number is pretty representative of all job seekers - not just returners. Additionally, the 5 ReBoot Accel co-founders found each other and formed ReBoot Accel through their parent and avocational networks - even more proof.
Another thing to remember is that even if you are not getting paid for your job, you are likely continuing to grow your skills and learn new ones that will be very valuable if and when you are ready to return to the workforce.
At our little preschool in Menlo Park, 100% of the moms are accomplished, smart and extremely capable women. A number of our preschool moms who have decided to focus on parenting full-time are very involved in volunteering at our school and elsewhere.
This year, they put together the most magical holiday program that featured the cutest songs from the kids, gorgeous decorations and an auction that brought in record-setting donations via amazing prizes, likely formed through connections. Putting on this program could have been a full time job. They had to organize, budget, fundraise, market the program, ask for auction items, and corral dozens of volunteers and not-always-exceptionally-responsive parents (guilty as charged). These are all skills that are consistently used in the workforce and go a long way in interviews and on resumes - regardless of if it earned a paycheck or not.
To ensure that you are connected and ready to return to work if you choose, we believe (and we practice what we preach) in the power of being a life-long learner. Find ways to explore your talents and passions in your volunteer efforts or during parent group discussions. Take on new responsibilities that may not be in your current wheelhouse or comfort zone.
In an article on Medium.com titled “The Career Advice No One Tells You,” author Raghav Haran observes that “successful people read as much as one book a week sometimes. They listen to podcasts. They go to conferences. They read research papers. They talk to people who are doing big things. That’s how they are able to ‘connect the dots’ between seemingly unrelated subjects, and use that insight to land more opportunities.” And even if you are not looking to land new opportunities yet, these are all things you can do during a work pause (while your baby naps or your toddler is at preschool) that can prepare you for a future of exploring new opportunities, if you so choose.
Lastly, if and when you get closer to being ready to return to the workforce, we encourage women to develop a concise, effective, 30-second personal "pitch" around what you’re up to and what skills you’re using. That way when the dad on the soccer field asks you "What's new?" you can eloquently tell him that you have, for example, completed your term on the school board and are exploring manager-level positions at financial services companies. Or whatever the case maybe. Once the 30-second pitch is down, in our ReBoot Design Thinking class, we encourage women returning to work to set small goals, take action, evaluate, and take the next step - over and over again until they see the results they are looking for.
Bottom line, care for and maintain your network across all aspects of your life, and own your career pause now and if/when you are ready to re-enter.
Can you share a story of a career connection that perhaps came out of the traditional workplace?