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3 Tips for Women Successfully Reentering the Workforce

Jennifer Dixson Hoff  |  June 21, 2022

The pandemic and the Great Resignation sent women out of the workforce at higher rates than men — but here’s how they can return to careers that better align with their lives.

The pandemic hit women in the workforce particularly hard. Pre-COVID, we made up under half of the U.S. workforce. Now we account for over half of job losses to date. What’s the deal?

Well, one issue is “unpaid labor.” If you’re one of the many women handling childcare, cooking, and cleaning every day, the term is likely familiar. And spending even more time on such family responsibilities during the pandemic means less time to spend on work.

Industries most affected by the pandemic also tend to be women-dominated. Women in the U.S. make up over half of restaurant workers, for example. And when restaurants closed their doors in recent years, employees lost jobs.

Some women have quit jobs on their own accord, too, as many seek more fulfilling careers amid the Great Resignation.

A Time of Reflection and Evaluation

Whether by choice or necessity, many women who have left the workforce have been reconsidering what they want from life. If that’s you and returning to work is in your cards, it’s time to think carefully about what you want.

I reentered the workforce in 2011 after a five-year hiatus from a full-time role. It was certainly a different experience before the pandemic, but I still found it challenging to work full-time and care for my family in 2006.

I quit my full-time job, worked very part-time, and essentially spent five years focusing on my family as my top priority. Then, I realized our needs had changed. The idea of paying for college on one income was daunting, so I decided it was time to go back to work and marry my career interests with my ability to generate a meaningful income for my family.

I found full-time employment and changed my career path from retail, which I had worked in for 16 years, to education, which I had become increasingly passionate about. In my time away from the workforce, I learned more about myself and realized my true passions.

Find Alignment in Reentering the Workforce

Aligning your passions with your career isn’t that simple. For example, many women must balance competing priorities, like the desire for greater flexibility with the need to develop new skills for a new career path.

But I found that I had actually underestimated how easy the transition would be. Don’t make the same mistake and enter at a lower level than your full potential.

Along with not underestimating yourself, the following tips can help you get in the best position possible to reenter the workforce with a career that better aligns with your life:

Research roles that fit your bill 

Make a list of what’s most important. Flexible hours, no commute, hybrid environment? All these considerations matter, but you might not find a job that checks every box. Prioritizing wants and needs can help you find the closest fit.

I do recommend prioritizing finding a role where your work and commitment are directly tied to your paycheck. It’s easier to stay motivated and happy at work when your passions and talents are recognized and rewarded. That’s why I think we’ll soon see more women entrepreneurs, especially as more women-founded companies launch to success.

Even if you’re not interested in starting your own business, make sure to research the companies you’re applying to. Find out about their values — do they align with yours? Researching a company’s website and social media pages is a great start to identifying whether your values align with the company’s. This also benefits potential employers, as 98% of employers believe a culture and value match is critical for a successful business relationship.

Leverage your network

As you’re considering your options, see if any friends or family can help you get your foot in the door. From there, branch out into broader personal and professional connections.

As I began to build my team, for example, I hired a marketing agency to assist in finding part-time talent that could help me get my entrepreneurial endeavor going. I hired someone to work six hours per week starting out, but eventually, the position grew to full time.

They ended up being instrumental to my success, so don’t overlook connecting with agencies in your area that can help match you with an organization looking for talent in a nontraditional way.

Keep up-to-date with workforce trends

It’s an employees’ market right now, so make sure you take advantage of it. Don’t be afraid to state your needs. Workers have the flexibility to pass up on offers that don’t provide sought-after benefits like continuous work-from-home and competitive salary.

Along those lines, brush up on your negotiating skills. It’s important to understand that the working landscape has probably changed while you were gone. It’s become more commonplace for employers to have to share salaries in job listings. If they don’t, consider asking them early in the interview process. Your time is important; don’t waste it on opportunities that won’t support you.

So take a breath and get ready to jump back into the marketplace. The pandemic may have disproportionately affected women in the workplace, but it’s also given us time to reflect and realign, setting ourselves up for greater success in the future.

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