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Make the come-back work for you…

A high performing employee quits unexpectedly one day for reasons marked “personal”. Birth of a child, ailing parents, or simply an urge to refresh, there are a million reasons that could have kept them out of the workforce for long after, willingly or otherwise. Somewhere down the years, with changing personal circumstances, the urge to re-join the workforce returns. Do you rehire them?

Several organizations are answering in the affirmative. Career breaks, after all, cannot be the reason for companies to negate an entire population of perfectly capable talent. “Rehires - whether men or women, our ‘boomerang’ employees, make good business sense for any organization,” Ma Rhodora Campos, AVP and Senior Regional Center head, Philippines says. “They are familiar with the company culture, have prior experience with internal systems and processes, require lesser effort to onboard and train, reducing the overall cost of hiring,” she adds.

For both men and women, dropping out of the workforce is often a tough decision to make. What if it means the end of my career path? What if I don’t have a job to return to? While getting back to the workforce is tough, the societal constructs of gender stereotypes often make it tougher on women.

The good news is that the workplace dynamics are rapidly changing. Companies, from Tata Group to Airbus, IBM, and Amazon, have started putting in place specific policies to consider boomerang employees, with a special focus on women on a career break. At Infosys too, re-hiring ex-Infoscion women is a key strategic initiative, with active outreaches to former women employees who have been away from the workforce for years, as potential re-hires. For most of these women, a simple nudge of faith is a welcome possibility and a start of a great new opportunity.

“Rehires make good strategic sense too for any organization”, says Srikant Balan, VP - Head - Corporate Strategy & Risk. “I have had team members and peers, both men and women, who have made a successful comeback, with diversified experience, pertinently repurposed skills, fresh thinking and perspective that matter way more than the specific domain and technical skills that can be acquired. They hit the ground running and lend more stability to the team”.

While organizations today have very strong business and strategic rationale to actively reach out to their former employees, if you are someone wanting to make a successful come-back, you need to stay amply relevant. There are ways in which a career break can be leveraged to make the comeback a seamless one.  

Invest in yourself

While on a career break, push yourself to keep up the learning curve. Refresh and update your skills or learn a whole new skillset. Don’t lose track of what’s happening in your industry. Find good online training modules to earn certifications. Keeping your skills up to date will help you stay relevant in the market even after a break. The need becomes even more crucial when a career break lasts for years, which can glaringly widen the gap between your capabilities and the skills currently in demand.

Keep networking and stay updated

Stay connected and involved with your career networks, your colleagues, and managers. Meet new people, attend webinars, and stay abreast with the opinions of the industry peers and experts. Network informally with potential recruiters about changing parameters of hiring. Update your resume to reflect the career break. You can also add a cover letter that offers more information on your reasons for the break. Use the opportunity to highlight the time you have spent honing your skills during the break.

Prepare your interview responses

Being away from the corporate world could have blunted those quick instincts. Prepare yourself. Prepare to answer questions about your break without any guilt or regret. Be honest and confident. If possible, offer ways it can help in your future role.

Build a support system

Having a supportive spouse and a family, undoubtedly plays a huge part in facilitating men and women to make a successful comeback to the workforce. Make sure your support system rallies around you and understands what are the specific areas that they need to help with. It could be grandparents sharing school drops and picks of children, either of the spouses helping kids with homework, or hiring a house-help to take care of chores. Just don’t shy away from asking for help.

As businesses recalibrate their talent-hiring strategies and facilitate the development of relevant infrastructure for the ease of re-hired employees, it is time career-breaks transform into a time for proactive upskilling. Bringing back the dropped-off workforce, after all, is a two-way process.