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Inspiration

How to Get Back to Work After a Career Break

6 Tips to Get Hired After a Hiatus

In my mid-20s I developed a brain tumor that needed to be surgically removed (7 years tumor free today, woo hoo!). After recovering from brain surgery and realizing that the job I had may have been a contributor to my stress, I took a hiatus from working to concentrate on finding myself.

After discovering what really made me happy (making bagels from scratch) and what made me not so happy (how I felt after eating a ton of bagels from scratch), and my savings started to dwindle, I decided I needed to figure out how to get back to work after my career break.


You may have taken a respite to take care of a loved one, be a stay-at-home parent or, like me, take a mental health breather. Whatever the reason, it can feel overwhelming to get back in the swing of things — I've been there. But it doesn't have to be a grueling process. Here are some tips that can take you from being unemployed to signing an offer letter.

How to Get Back to Work After a Career Break in 6 Steps

Get clear on what you want to do. While you may think you need to "take what you can get," you likely have many more options than you think. Don't just think about the job you want today — think about the job you want 3 years from now. Are the positions you are thinking about applying to on the trajectory to get you to the next level in your career? If not, you may need to concentrate on another role.

If you are unclear, before considering applying to a position, ask yourself: How much do I want to make? Is this a workload I think I can manage? Do I already have some or all of the skills required?

Take stock of your skills. Even without trying, you may have developed some new skills during your time away that would make you an excellent asset to a company. If you volunteered, did you get a chance to lead projects? While taking care of your sick grandmother did you help Nana's friends at the senior center learn Facebook? Maybe during your children's nap-time, you took some free courses on Lynda. Write it all down. If any of these skills are in line with the type of job you are looking for, make sure you get them on your resume.

Also, keep in mind that companies want to make sure that you have been staying on top of your skills while you were away. Research what has been going on in your industry and spend some time on the skills/programs that the position you are looking for requires. If there are skills needed for the jobs you want that you don't have, I would encourage you to take an online course. When you get called for an interview, this will help you demonstrate that you've kept your skills current..

Write a killer resume. The gap between your last job and today may make you feel nervous, but don't let this get to you. For some companies, a gap is not a big deal so long as you have kept up with your skills. Let the job description be your guide in fine-tuning your resume. Keep in mind that most resumes go through an Application Tracking System (ATS), which is a bot that looks for keywords and sends resumes that captures those words to the hiring manager and disregards the ones that don't. So look out for words that are used throughout the job description. For example, if you see the words "cross-functional" used frequently in a job description, you are going to want to harp on your experience with collaborating with other departments and make sure to use the actual words "cross-functional" at least once.

For formatting your resume, stay away from a chronological resume if you have been out of work for over a year and go with a functional or hybrid resume to best highlight your applicable skills.

Work your network. Your network is still the most efficient way to get your foot in the door, especially after a break. Once your resume is on point, be sure to tap into your network and let them know that you are looking. You can do this both in-person and online.

Update your LinkedIn to let people know you are looking. Write an engaging headline and spend time actively engaging on the platform by speaking on topics in your related field to re-establish yourself as a subject matter expert. If a former colleague that you like moved to another company, you can ask if they can put some feelers out for you.

Taking the time now to nurture those relationships will help you long after you find a new position.

Be prepared to talk about your gap during an interview. You do not need to get into the weeds of why you took time off. This is personal to you and in an interview, less is more when it comes to your personal life. You can share that you took a break to deal with a personal matter that is now handled, and mention the skills you were fine-tuning during your time away. This helps the conversation get moving and keeps you in control of the discussion.

Get your mindset right. The decision to go back to work is not made lightly and can often be emotional. Remember that your pause in employment did not take away from your value. You were self-aware enough to take care of what you needed to instead of trying to do it all and get burned out, and that is a great trait. Do not undersell yourself just because you have been off the market: you are still just as brilliant and capable, but now with just a little extra resilience sprinkled in.

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Why Female Presidential Candidates Are Still Told to Be Chill, Not Shrill

The Dated, Everyday Tech Stifling Women's Voices Shows the Importance of Diversity in Tech

"You're not like other girls. You're so...chill."

I've gotten that "compliment" from multiple guys in multiple contexts — and I'm ashamed to admit that until a few years ago, I took it as one.

Occasionally I'd wonder why. After all, anyone who knows me well knows I am the Anti-Chill: a tightly wound stress ball, ready to explode into tears at any given moment.

So what was giving these guys the wrong impression? As it turns out, it was my voice. My cool, unnaturally-deep-for-a-woman, never-shrill voice.

And if I'm honest, I always prided myself on not sounding 'like other girls.' No uptalk or high-pitched squeals of glee from me. I thought I sounded smarter and more serious. Talk about internalized misogyny.

This isn't just me though. There is a societal double bind that forces women to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the right pitch and tone for each situation.

Just consider the advice that Democratic-debate coach Christine Jahnke gave female candidates to avoid being labeled as shrill: "… go slow and low. Very purposefully slow your pace and lower the tone a bit, because that will add meaning or gravitas to whatever it is you're talking about."

In a nutshell: try and sound chill, not shrill.

What I didn't know, until recently, is how this bias against women's natural voices is being reinforced and amplified by century-old technology. (Just one of many examples of how technology designed by and for men ends up hurting women in the long-run.)

Author Tina Tallon explains this little-known fact in her recent New Yorker article, summarized below:

How 20th Century Tech Is Holding 21st Century Women Back

With the rise of commercial broadcast radio in the 1920s, women's voices began getting critiqued. As Tallon explains, station directors asserted that "women sounded 'shrill,' 'nasal,' and 'distorted.'" So when industry standards were set, directors didn't take women's voices into account.

When Congress limited the bandwidth available to each radio station in 1927, station directors set a bandwidth that would provide the minimum amount of information necessary to understand "human" speech.

They used lower voices as their benchmark, so the higher frequency components of women's speech necessary to understand certain consonants were cut, making women's voices less intelligible.

  • Researcher J.C. Steinberg asserted that, "nature has so designed woman's speech that it is always most effective when it is of soft and well-modulated tone." He explained that if a woman raised her voice on air, it would exceed the limitations of the equipment. As Tallon says, "He viewed this as a personal and biological failing on women's part, not a technical one on his."

Why You Should Care

Women have always been told to lower their voices, but this 20th century approach to sound frequencies is still accepted as the standard, literally forcing women to lower their voices if they want to be heard.

  • To this day, many algorithms and speakers distort women's speech by limiting higher frequencies, causing women's voices to lose definition and clarity.

Tallon sums it up well:

"Consequently, women are still receiving the same advice that they were given in the nineteen-twenties: lower the pitch of your voice, and don't show too much emotion. By following that advice, women expose themselves to another set of criticisms, which also have a long history: they lack personality, or they sound 'forced' and 'unnatural.'"


----

So as we continue to grapple with implicit biases against women, from what it means to be "presidential" to who's considered an "innovative leader," let's remember the importance of diversity in tech.

Had a woman been involved in researching/setting the standards for radio frequencies, she might've been able to steer the industry towards a voiceband that would allow men and women to be heard equally well. And perhaps had a more impartial voiceband been established, I'd have heard a more diverse range of female speakers growing up, and internalized fewer biases myself.

That's why we care so much at PowerToFly about making sure cutting-edge companies have diverse teams.

Times were different then, sure, but the fact that Depression Era standards are still impacting how we hear (or don't hear) women's voices is a vital reminder that what we do today impacts our world for centuries to come.

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