Going back to work full-time after divorce is often a reality for people who have been stay-at-home parents or working part-time. For most of us, there is always less money and while spousal support may offer some relief, these days it’s typically limited in duration while the recipient transitions to supporting themselves.
At a time that’s already loaded with emotional anguish, looking for a job can compound the anxiety especially if you know you need to update your skills.
The longer you’ve been out of the workforce, the harder it can be to find the right opportunity. Even with a shared parenting schedule, working around childcare needs adds more complexity.
For a long time now this has made no sense. I’ve yet to meet a stay-at-home parent that doesn’t have skills employers should be jumping for and now, some employers are doing just that. Return Path, a global data solutions provider has created a 22-week paid “ReturnShip” program designed to help stay-at-home parents transition back to the corporate world.
Return Path CEO Matt Blumberg said, “We started the ReturnShip program because the untapped potential in women (and men) who have meaningful work experience but then who have taken time off to raise a family is tremendous. These people are often overlooked by employers, and they bring an incredible sense of maturity, drive, and organization to companies that outpaces their years of professional experience.”
Laura Harrison of Longmont, CO was a stay-at-home mother of three who had been out of the workforce for about six years. Dealing with aging parents made her work gap longer than she had expected. When she was ready to return to work, she found the job search discouraging. “I felt I was applying for jobs I was well-suited for but I wasn’t getting called back or I was being told that the hiring manager had an issue with the gap,” said Harrison.
This spring, Harrison was accepted into Return Path’s ReturnShip program. “It gave me an opportunity to update my skills in a corporate environment, working on real projects.” Clearly, that was a win-win for both Harrison and Return Path since Harrison is now a part-time employee managing the ReturnShip program.
The fatal error that many people make when looking to return to work is to see their employment gap as just that: a black hole with nothing of interest to an employer. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
“Too many people discount their experience working with volunteer organizations or managing budgets and schedules at home, which can develop valuable workplace skills,” said Becca Hammer, global sales trainer at Return Path. “Your pitch to employers needs to include everything you can bring to the role, all of the areas in which your background can benefit the company—and link them to the job description. Limiting your story to a list of job titles is like talking only about a product’s features–it won’t work. As we say in sales, ‘Features tell, benefits sell.’”
That means the family road trip or reunion that you coordinated becomes a project manager position with you managing site selection, activity planning, travel itineraries, budgeting and expense management as well as on-site support for four people with different and at times, conflicting needs.
The PTA or Booster committee you served on to sell cookie dough to raise funds for the band to play at Walt Disney World could be the development and execution of a communications plan including creating the marketing messages, identifying communication methods and outlets, identifying different audiences, and the implementation that lead to your committee not only achieving their fundraising goal on time but also exceeding it by 5 percent.
Clearly Return Path believes it is onto something. The spring 2015 ReturnShip offered just six positions. This fall Return Path is looking to fill 40 positions across five locations including London, England. They are also partnering with other tech companies including ReadyTalk, SendGrid, SpotXchange, MWH Global, and Moz to expand the ReturnShip concept.
Mandy Walker is a divorce coach and mediator. She is the creator of the Since My Divorce blog and host of the Conversations About Divorce podcast. You can download a free copy of her ebook Untangling From Your Spouse: How To Prepare For Divorce here.
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