SALT LAKE CITY — Many women struggle to reenter the workplace after taking time away to raise children or care for relatives. If this is you, deciding how to address the gap on your resume or overcome the worry that you won’t be able to balance work and family can seem insurmountable.
"I don’t want to start at the bottom," explained Lynne Burns, who graduated from the University of Utah in 1998. "I didn’t forget everything just because I’ve been home. I even feel I’ve got more to offer."
Burns had a fast-paced career in marketing for 20 years. She started her family in her late 30s, having her last child when she was 40 years old. Only a year away from a big promotion, she made the difficult decision to trade in the long hours of her high-powered executive management job for a schedule she could control as a freelance graphic designer — all in the effort to be able to stay home with her children.
Burns loved the job shift. But a decade later, she feels underutilized and would love to reenter the workplace. Her children are now 10 and 13 years old, and finding a job with flexibility remains top of her list.
"I keep applying for jobs and have even been the runner-up a couple of times," Burns said. The job hunt has been harder than she anticipated. She’s pretty sure she scares off employers the minute she starts asking about job flexibility during the interviews.
I know I can do the work. I just need a future employer to support me being a parent.
–Lynne Burns, mother looking to reenter workforce
"I know I can do the work. I just need a future employer to support me being a parent," she said.
Lynne Burns is not alone. There is a struggle in Utah — qualified, smart women are underutilized because the rigid "9 to 5" business model is keeping them away.
So what do we do? Those of us in Burns' shoes — myself once included — can’t change business policies. However, we are not without hope. Focus on these four areas to leverage your transition.
There are many companies that value flexibility
Not only are businesses with rigid work structure missing out on female talent, men in today’s workforce want flexibility too. According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report, work flexibility is the new normal and is transforming the workplace. Employees — male and female — expect to reclaim their work-life balance through flexibility.
Not all industries can cater as well to remote working or flex-time. But they might offer shorter shifts or job sharing. If you are looking for flexibility to manage your caregiving responsibilities, be patient and keep looking. Flexibility is ever more common.
Focus on what being outside the office has taught you
Of the nearly 5,000 human resources professionals surveyed for the 2019 Global Talent Trends report, 80% said soft skills are increasingly important to company success. Soft skills have always been important, but with the rise of automation, these skills are even more relevant today.
Soft skills are transferable skills like problem-solving, creativity, adaptability and collaboration. And these are the exact skills you’ve been perfecting while negotiating bedtime with toddlers, stretching a household budget, juggling homework and carpool and dinner all while you uplift your community through volunteer work.
Confidently stand in the value of your soft skills and learn how to articulate them in a job interview.
Explore the reach of your network
Reach out to your network, update your LinkedIn profile as well as your resume. If you don’t know anyone to help open doors for you, programs do exist to help women in the gap of the workforce.
The David Eccles School of Business’ ReLaunch program starts again this spring and works exclusively with women who have a college degree, have left the workforce and are now looking to start up a career again.
Be your own advocate
"Interviewers raised their eyebrows when looking at the gap on my resume," explained Elizabeth Genegas, general counsel for NetDocument Software, Inc.
Genegas spent four years staying at home with her two young children and found it a challenge to return to the practice of law. "It took dozens of interviews before someone took a chance on me," she said.
"Don’t lose hope," Genegas advises those currently struggling to reenter the workforce. "Employers underestimate what doesn’t fit between the four corners of a resume. You really have to promote yourself. You are your own best advocate."