Here’s a bright-side of the pandemic for workers: Hitting pause does not mean hitting a wall in your career.
This is good news for the millions of workers who stepped out of the workforce in the past two years — especially women who took on more caregiving responsibilities during pandemic disruptions.
“COVID helped to normalize the career break and decreased, if not erased, the stigma attached to taking one,” Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO and co-founder of iRelaunch, a career reentry consulting, training and events company, told Yahoo Money. “More employers are offering career reentry programs, and the employers that have been running programs are expanding them like never before.”
Companies such as Mastercard, Amazon, and TD Bank decreased the minimum career break length required for eligibility for their career reentry programs from two years to one, she said. Goldman Sachs is offering a Covid return-to-work initiative specifically focused on those who left since March 2020.
Last year, Schneider Electric, the global energy firm with U.S. headquarters in Boston, Mass., created a partnership with reacHIRE, a platform that teams up with employers to provide paid “returnships” that focus on coaching and training to transition back to the workforce.
The return-to-work program, which launched in February, is currently geared for professional women looking to return to the workforce following a career break of at least two years, Amy deCastro, vice president of HR global businesses at Schneider Electric USA, based in Boston, Mass., told Yahoo Money.
The six-month, full-time, paid program includes positions in sales, commercial operations, project management, and data analytics. During the program, the women gain work skills and hands-on experience. They also receive coaching as well as interview and resume preparation. At the end of the program, participants may be eligible for full-time or extended contracting work.
“The goal is every six months it would be a rolling cohort, and our expectation is that if all goes well, we will hire all of the women,” deCastro said.
More return-to-work resources
In addition to the programs above, others are offering help to women (and men) segueing back into the workforce.
Starting this month, LinkedIn is rolling out a new feature to explain a career gap.
The section is called “Career Break” and can be added to the “Experience” section on a profile to spell out the reason for the break, dates and any special details such as skills added during the timeout.
In January 2022 on LinkedIn, 70% of career break-related searches and 67% of career break-related posts globally came from female members, according to its global survey of 22,995 workers and 4,017 hiring managers conducted by Censuswide on behalf of LinkedIn.
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Encore.org (a nonprofit that connects generations to create new models for a multigenerational world) through its Encore Fellowships program matches experienced professionals (gender-neutral) looking to transition their skills to assist social sector organizations. They generally do it full time for six months or part time for twelve months, earning a stipend of about $25,000 for 1,000 hours.
Since the program started, more than 1,200 nonprofits have tapped the skills of over 2,000 Encore Fellows. There is the potential for these fellowships to lead to staff roles. They can also provide the current work experience to help fill employment gaps and pivot to new opportunities in the nonprofit sector.
FlexProfessionals, a staffing firm, based in the Washington, D.C, metro area and Boston, was founded by three experienced professional women who couldn’t find a decent part-time job in 2010,] when they decided to stop being stay-at-home mothers.
The firm helps college-educated women with at least ten years of work experience find positions — typically 10 to 30 hours a week — with vetted employers in a wide range of fields from accounting to graphic design to sales to web development. Fees are paid by the employer, not the job seeker.
Candidates (unisex these days) apply through the agency’s website. They cull the resumes best suited for the employer's opening and submit. If there’s interest, they set up the interview, and you’re off.
“Our mix of jobs went from almost all part-time positions pre-pandemic to half part-time and half full-time positions with flexible hours,” Gwenn Rosener, one of the firm's co-founders, told Yahoo Money. “We just placed a woman as a controller at a medical device manufacturer. She successfully negotiated skewed start and stop times for her workday and the ability to work remotely one day a week so she could care for her aging mother, plus an extra week of vacation.”
The firm also hosts webinars and workshops created with career re-entry and career transition professionals in mind.
Then there’s The Mom Project a free matchmaker service for job seekers that pairs women with employers familiar with the demands of a working mother. The Project has about 2,000 firms committed to help women get back to work– including Google, Apple, Meta and Accenture.
Finally, Path Forward, a nonprofit, works with companies such as Amazon, Walmart, Netflix, and SAP to create and run paid mid-career internships.
Kerry is a Senior Columnist and Senior Reporter at Yahoo Money. Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon