Will you return to your career after 10 yrs` gap?

Avril-Ann Braganza

An interesting trend suggest that the premium is high on experience and willingness among the woman workforce, which is why it is now no longer suicidal for more and more women to take a back seat for a few years to nurture their families and get second wind on their return to the corporate life

Meera Khatri, a Khar resident, decided to get back to work after a nine-year career break. She quit her job in 2001, when her daughter was born, so that she had more time to spend with her child. “But when my daughter went off to full-day school, I had a lot of time on my hands and felt myself stagnating. It was then that I decided to go back to work,” she says. Like Meera, many women are now choosing to get back to work after extended career breaks.

Till a few years ago, women rarely returned to their jobs once they got married, went on maternity leave or took a break for other personal reasons. Marcel Parker, Director & Chief Mentor of Ikya explains, “Today, a few companies are realizing that instead of completely losing out on good talent when these women quit working, it would be better to absorb and provide them with job opportunities even after long breaks.”

This changing trend has companies as well as women considering second career opportunities. Diageo, one such company, recruits women returning to work after long breaks, on a full-time basis, and has a whole host of women leaders playing critical roles. Sarah Walton, Human Resources director of Diageo says, “We have identified women returning from sabbaticals, as a ready and rich pool of experienced talent. We value these women for their unique perspectives, insights and skill sets that help in shaping the culture of the organization.

Whether returning as a freelancer or full time, the decision to return to work after a long gap, is not an easy one. The change in the work culture is a challenge to many women. While some women find that people, today, are more knowledgeable and work faster, others feel that the commitment levels of the youngsters are not the same. “Adjusting to the younger generation that is now populating the workplace, was a challenge for me, but I enjoy having them around. Things have changed since I first began working. Today, you can get a good job soon after college; but when I started off, getting a job was not as easy,” says Divya Suresh, who heads the Immigration Team at Cognizant Technology Solutions at Chennai.

Most women returning to work, feel that the break in their careers has taken a toll on them. “At home, my life revolved only around my family. I read the newspapers, but rarely from a business angle. As I had lost touch with the business world, I did not feel confident enough and really had to prove myself. Since I was home for so long, when I returned to work, I was initially preoccupied with thoughts of home,” says Laxmi Sahasranaman, who quit her job as an Assistant Manager with the National Stock Exchange in 2005 and returned to her career, eight years later, as a freelance Corporate Trainer at TCS.

The Tata Group, in sync with providing career opportunities to women wishing to return to the job front, after several years, has started the Second Career Internship Programme. Talented, professional women with a minimum of two years work experience, who have the will to re-enter the work space are selected. The programme offers live business projects with flexible schedules and project-based employment to women who have taken a career break of six months to eight years. Women are taken on as consultants in departments like HR, marketing, finance, legal, manufacturing, communication, engineering and other corporate domains, for six months. After this, those who are ready for full-time jobs are absorbed into the workforce.

Other organisations like Deutsche Bank Group, Hindustan Unilever Limited, Microsoft IT, Vodafone, PepsiCo India, IBM, Genpact, Goldman Sachs, Accenture, have partnered with AVTAR I-WIN, (a part of FLEXI Career India, Diversity & Inclusion Consulting firm) which organises workshops, skill building programs and events for companies looking to hire talented women interested in returning to their career and for women on the hunt for organisations encouraging a comeback to the corporate world after a long gap. “The workshops we conduct aims at sensitising managers about hiring and engaging women wishing to return to their careers after a break and at women who are returning to their careers, by preparing for their comeback,” says Karthik Ekambaram Assistant Vice President at FLEXI Careers India.

While these women do feel the pinch of taking a break once in a while, it is a not decision they regret. “Other colleagues moved up the social ladder, while I was not working. This was one of the things that motivated me to go back to work. There is a sense of achievement and financial independence that you wouldn`t feel if you are sitting at home. But by the same token, when I think of my reasons for choosing to take a break, it balances out the feeling. Being a mum is important to me and I will never regret my decision,” finishes Meera

No matter what the challenges and obstacles, with courage, determination and the support of their families, women now have the chance to make it big even if they thought their careers were over.

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