Ask Tami #6: Rethinking Your Career Path After Your Break

Ritz asks: What if you have matured in your vision for yourself and your career path in the years you took a break, to an extent where you see yourself capable of much more than what will likely be offered to you due to a break?

Tami: When job searching — with or without a break — the best strategy is to assume nothing. Don’t assume you won’t be offered jobs that are challenging. Don’t assume that a job with a lower-than-desired title can’t be challenging. You won’t know until you are having conversations what amazing opportunities might exist.

Having a vision of yourself as capable is a good thing. We often hear from recruiters that they meet returners who seem to have great skills and experience but lack the confidence they will need to be successful. But too much of a good thing isn’t always good — if your vision of yourself blinds you to an opportunity to show an organization what you are capable of, for example. 

My advice is to apply for a range of jobs both above, below and at the level you were at when you exited the workforce. You will get feedback in the form of interviews — what jobs seem to lead to you getting called? If you aren’t getting interviews you need to refine your approach. But if you are called in for jobs at or below your previous experience level, go! First of all, these interviews can be a great chance to practice your interviewing skills. But you may also find that these jobs are more interesting than you imagined. You will never know without exploring further. 

If you are offered a job you think is too junior you certainly don’t have to take it — but think seriously about the potential benefits before you turn it down. I spoke to a woman the other day who’d been out of the workforce for about 15 years. She’d exited at a very senior level. Coming back after a divorce she initially took a temporary assistant job. She knew it was way below what she was capable of — but it put money in her pocket and, more important, got her out of the house and into an office. She was able to get back into the swing of work and made a bunch of great connections. She eventually got an executive position at a startup where both her prior experience as an executive, and her demonstrated ability to roll up her sleeves and get work done, landed her the job. 

Good luck (and remember to keep going!),

Returning to the paid workforce can be both an exciting and daunting challenge. My work as Executive Director of Path Forward has given me a unique perspective on both sides of the employment equation. I’ve answered questions for thousands of job seekers and I understand their worries. And I have gained insights from HR and talent executives at the more than 75 companies we’ve partnered with. I’m eager to help you leverage this insider advice to help you get back to a fulfilling career. If you’ve got a burning question you’d like me to answer in an upcoming edition of “Ask Tami,” you can ask it using this form.