Tips for Women Returning to the Workforce
The pandemic shook up a lot of things for workers, especially women. Some lost their jobs, while others saw their entire career path derailed. For example: The retail sector, where many women had enjoyed long careers, was upended by the pandemic. More than 400,000 retail jobs had been lost by November 2020.
While some of those jobs will come back post-pandemic, many won’t, and many women haven’t been able to wait around for them. They’ve been forced to look for new opportunities.
Meanwhile, many working moms have been asked to choose between continuing their careers and caring for their kids, as child-care options have all but evaporated and many daycares have closed for good. That was a double whammy for women who were employed in the child-care field. The pandemic exposed just how vulnerable our child-care system has been.
If you’re a woman whose job or career was disrupted by the pandemic, you’re likely facing one (or some combination) of these three scenarios:
- Returning to the job/career you had before
- Looking for a new career
- Adapting your career to a new reality
Here are ways to approach each of these scenarios.
How to Return to Your Job or Career
If you were furloughed during the pandemic, forced to work remotely, or lost your job permanently but want to stay on the same career path, here are some ideas:
- Update your resume. A resume update is a good idea even if you’re going back to the same job. (You never know when you’ll need it.) And it’s a must if you’re looking to change employers.
- Remove outdated information, like old internships or jobs you held more than a decade ago.
- Add any recent training and certifications you’ve obtained.
- Eliminate passive language.
- Avoid big chunks of text. Make everything quick-hitting.
- Touch base with your boss. Let your supervisors know about any changes you’ve made while you were away, such as new skills you’ve acquired or new priorities.
- Offer to cross-train for a different department so you’ll be more valuable to the company.
- Ask about a flexible work schedule if you need one.
- Inquire about any changes in benefits and long-term prospects within the company.
How to Make a Fresh Start
If you find yourself in a contracting career field, such as brick-and-mortar retail, this might be the perfect time to make a fresh start and try something totally different. And remember that if you’re in this category, you’re not alone: 61% of women are planning a major career shift in the post-pandemic era, and 1 in 4 are looking to start their own business.
There are two main factors to consider if you find yourself leaning in this direction: where the opportunities are, and what you want to do.
Maybe you’ve always wanted to write a book. Do research online to find out what it takes, whether you want to be a self-published author or try to find an agent and go the traditional route. Or perhaps you want to become a teacher: Learn what your state requires for a teaching credential. If you want to become an architect, learn how to read blueprints and find out what classes you need to take.
Second jobs or part-time work can be helpful in some situations, and independent service and consulting opportunities surged during the pandemic. That trend is likely to continue, at least to some degree. You can learn to become a grant writer or even get a side gig as a notary public — only nine states require any training.
If you’re looking for opportunities, networking always helps. Reach out to people you know who work in the field you’re interested in. Re-establish long standing personal connections and use online networking sites like LinkedIn to forge new ones.
How to Adapt to a New Reality
Your job will likely look different than it did before, regardless of whether you’re doing the same work or trying something new.
Some businesses have gone to remote work permanently or partially, so make sure your home office is comfortable and connected. Get ergonomic office furniture and carve out a space that’s more functional than a laptop on the bed or at the dining room table.
Many employers will be doing more online, so familiarize yourself with commonly used software like Word, Excel, Google Suite, Slack, Skype, and Dropbox that you’ll be likely to encounter. To make yourself even more marketable, learn skills like coding and SEO.
You’ll likely need to adapt to new financial realities, too, so revisit your budget. A lot has changed during the pandemic. For instance, child care costs rose 40%. Look at where you spend your money, how your income has changed, and how you need to adjust. You might even consider using a budgeting app to help you out.
Furthermore, a significant percentage of women say they have less savings and more debt than they did before the pandemic, which could lead to trouble achieving long-term financial goals. So be sure to keep an eye on your credit. (You can check it for free every year.) If you need to rebuild it, you can do so without accumulating more debt. Consider a secured credit card: You deposit a specific amount, usually a few hundred dollars, that acts as “security” on your account. Then you use it and pay it off every month to bolster your credit
A lot has changed since the pandemic hit, so you may need to change a lot, too. The key is knowing what to change and how, and what skills to reinforce as you move forward into the new economy.