May 06 2016
More and more people are talking about taking “breaks” from their careers; to have and raise children, to take care of ill and elderly parents, to go back to school or change their career trajectory. Military spouses, on the other hand, have been doing and talking about this since … well, forever. That doesn’t mean those other people don’t have really good tips that we can use for relaunching ourselves into the career we put on hold because of a spouse’s military service requirements. Programs like iRelaunch are building businesses out of helping people get to the next stage in their career. I recently attended a panel discussion by the Women’s D.C. Bar Association about this very topic and took away some tips that everyone can use.
- Network, network, network — Reach out to one, build one, find one. Whatever home support you have in your life — your spouse, your parents, your friends, your babysitter — be clear with them about what you can and can’t do during this transition and where you need help. You will be relying on them. Hopefully, you have also maintained the professional network you had before your break; get their input, their glowing references, and their help in connecting you. If you are on a new career path, find a network that matches it. Join an association of like-minded professionals, arrange informational interviews, go for coffee and feel out that new path.
- Before you relaunch your career, you need to relaunch your confidence — This is probably one of the hardest and yet most critical skills that relaunchers have to use. Taking a break can make you feel like you missed out on important professional milestones, but you shouldn’t forget that you were likely learning new, important skills during that break. For whatever reason, your break mattered, and you have still have earned a position in the professional world. You don’t need a handout, nor do you want one. You are the right person for the right job – you just need to find it.
- Take every interview — If after applying for a position you realize that it’s probably not a good fit and an interview is offered, take it. You need the practice and you have to relaunch your confidence, so hone those skills every chance you get. If your résumé gap/career break comes up – answer very briefly and without emotion (five seconds is probably enough), “I took a break to care for my family, and now I’m ready and excited to get back to work.”
- Don’t limit yourself — Keep an open mind. Yes, you should have some focus on the direction you are going, but don’t get so specific that you miss a golden opportunity that just hadn’t occurred to you before. The world has likely changed a little since you took your break and you don’t always know what you missed.
- But, know your boundaries — Don’t become so grateful for a job that you forget your own limits and value. A break is not a “go back to zero” proposition, so don’t start offering to get coffee or pick up the dry cleaning if that isn’t the job you were looking for.
- Have patience, be realistic, and don’t be too hard on yourself — It’s likely you will have a few rejections before finding a good match. Don’t take that as a bad sign or that you aren’t good enough. There are a lot more mismatches out there than there are matches. Take the time to find a good one.
- Don’t do this alone — Get a therapist, a life coach, a pastor, take a class … the list of support and growth opportunities are endless, and there is no shame in using any of them.
While this list of tips is by no means exhaustive, it is a great start. Lastly, if you are a MOAA Premium or Life member, we can help you navigate the process.