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Career break? How to make a smooth comeback

Meera Siva | Updated on January 20, 2018

women-night-shifts   -  THE HINDU

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Networking with those in one’s field of work can boost confidence

Making a fresh start in the corporate world after a long break can be quite difficult. Questions such as “do I have the skills to cope with the changed environment?”; “how will the children get along without me?” may nag many of us. Only 40 per cent of women who want to return after maternity manage to get a job, according to a 2012 study by Vantage Insurance.

Thankfully, companies are now more sensitive to this women-specific requirement and many have programmes that help women get back to their professions effortlessly.

Staying abreast of industry trends

Employers are concerned about ramp-up time, particularly in fields such as IT where technology becomes obsolete quickly. Manjiri, an MBA in Human Resource Management from Pune, who was part of the top talent pool at Larsen & Toubro, took a break to take care of her two children.

She recalls one employer who exclaimed about her five-year break, in spite of the fact that she stayed in touch by completing a certification programme and working on projects.

Networking with those in one’s field of work and keeping in touch with the developments in the industry can go a long way in boosting one’s confidence when making a comeback. Professional network also comes in handy in landing a job, as the contacts would know your level of competency and why you are taking a break.

Flexible hours ease transition

Smooth transition to a job requires a lot of understanding and flexibility in the work environment during the initial phase. Tata has been running its pioneering initiative — Second Career Internship Program (SCIP) — and has been successful in addressing these issues and providing a smooth re-entry for women.

The programme offers a stipend and includes a two-to-three day orientation programme.

Nidhi, an MBA in Advertising and Communications Management from Mumbai who was the Head of Marketing and Third Party Products for ICICI Bank Home Loans says the orientation was “wonderful” and “meeting this group of 40 other qualified women, who are in the same life path gave me a lot of confidence”.

Candidates are matched with active business projects in different expertise domains, with various Tata group companies.

Participants work with managers who are their guides and, in some cases, there is also a mentor who provides additional advice and support. Gradual transition to corporate environment is helped by supportive peers and the understanding nature of the corporate culture, observes Manjiri. The programme also uses technology to enable tele-commuting, providing the much-needed flexibility to balance delivery deadlines and personal situations.

Corporate more open

Other big names such as IBM, SAP, GE, Mahindra Satyam and Hindustan Unilever also have a re-entry programme. In November 2012, Microsoft IT-India launched a programme with a focus on returning women software engineers.

Returning women also help in solving the talent shortage faced by companies and help create a more diverse workplace. Priya Verma, co-founder of HR outsourcing firm CrossOver, observed that talent shortage is changing the industry mindset and certainly easing the re-entry of women as employees or consultants. “Staying abreast of developments in one’s field, being confident and having realistic expectations on salary and designation are needed when returning” she advised.

While the corporate world may be turning a little more receptive, there are still other issues to address. Nidhi had concerns about how her family with a five-year-old and a 10-year-old will cope when she takes up a full-time job. “Having a good support system in place is important”, she says, “and in a nuclear family, help from spouse is essential”. Without a reliable support arrangement in place, return to work can be stressful and frustrating.

Handing the double load of career and household duties may be daunting, but the journey back to career starts with a single step — knowing that you are going to make it.

Published on March 07, 2016

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