Bouncing Back After a Career Break

If you take a career break — to raise children, care for a loved one, deal with an illness or a number of other reasons — will you have trouble finding a job when you’re ready to return to the workforce?

When you feel like you’ve lost your professional identity for a number of years, it can be hard to find it again. The thought of interviewing for a new job can be nerve-wracking — you’ll have to call on certain skills that you haven’t used in a while, plus you’ll likely have to address your career gap, which could be a deeply personal conversation. And some employers are hesitant to hire those who have been out of the workplace for an extended period of time. They might be concerned about your level of commitment to a full time position, and any disconnect you may have with current systems and technology.

So how can those looking to return to work bridge the gap with employers and get in the door? Look for companies that offer re-entry programs to tap into this pool of talent and build a more diverse workforce.

MetLife has a return-to-work program called ACT2. It’s a 10-week paid internship based off of an existing job vacancy, so participants will be able to experience working at MetLife as an associate while having a direct impact on the business. Throughout the ten weeks, they receive feedback and guidance from managers and coaches, who assess performance on a regular basis. Based on their successful completion of the program, ACT2 participants may then have the opportunity to continue on in a permanent role.

And it’s working.

Kathleen Britton, an Accountant in Charge in MetLife’s Finance and Accounting Division in Tampa, Florida took a ten year break from her career to raise her two sons through elementary school. She had planned to return to work a couple of years before she actually did, but experienced a family tragedy, so she wasn’t able to return to work as soon as she’d hoped. When she was able to start her job search again, she found that temp agencies weren’t able to place her due to the gap in her resume. It was the first time she ever had an issue finding work.

“The message I was receiving was that I was no longer valuable, and that I no longer had any contribution to make,” she explained. “If I could just get my foot in the door somewhere, [I knew] I could make it work.”

When she discovered MetLife’s ACT2 program online, she applied, interviewed and was accepted. “Everyone was welcoming and greeted me with open arms — I was treated like a regular employee.”

Once the program ended, Kathleen was offered a full time position in the department she had gotten to know so well. And it meant the world to her. She felt as though “MetLife was saying, ‘We see you — you do have value.’”

Julie Russo, a MetLife Program Manager based in Bridgewater, New Jersey also accepted a full time position after participating in the ACT2 program. After a 14 year break in her career to raise her children, she prioritized education, and decided to take a college course in project management to receive new certifications. For Julie, ACT2 was another great learning opportunity.

She received a dedicated onboarding coach, which “felt very nurturing — they wanted us to succeed,” she explained. “Learning and development was a priority. [The ACT2 program] wasn’t just any job or something temporary, it offered truly getting back into the workforce. It provided a challenge, and it was exciting – it still is.”

Radha Arvind, a Business System Analyst in MetLife’s Cary, North Carolina office, agrees with Julie’s perspective on the quality of the ACT2 program. “They’ve taken great care and thought in designing this program,” she explains. After a 7 year career break raising her children and relocating back to the U.S. from India, Radha likens the program to “riding a bike with training wheels – you can drive with confidence.”

Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO of iRelaunch, a company focused on programs and services for those returning to work after a hiatus, sees this type of career transition as a great opportunity for both employees and employers.

“I believe ‘relaunchers’ are a gem of the workforce,” she explains in her 2015 TED talk. “…think about our life stage. For those of us who took career breaks for childcare reasons, we have fewer or no maternity leaves — we did that already. We have fewer spousal or partner job relocations — we’re in a more settled time of life. We have great work experience, we have a more mature perspective — we’re not trying to find ourselves at an employer’s expense. Plus, we have an energy and enthusiasm about returning to work precisely because we’ve been away from it for a while.”

Ultimately, for those looking to return to the workforce, or for anyone experiencing a career transition, there’s hope. With hard work, education, a network of support and programs like ACT2, professional success is possible at any life stage.

Learn more about Diversity and Inclusion at MetLife here.