I met with a candidate last week who was referred to me by a law firm professional I have known for more than 20 years. This candidate was looking to re-enter the workforce after being home for 15+ years. She had a successful career as a Law Firm Administrator and left the industry at a salary in the low six figures. She is going through a divorce and is eager to get a job. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to get a job when you have been out of the market for years and do not have the skills needed (ex: Excel) and knowledge expected (ex: industry trends).
I felt terribly sad after meeting with this woman, because there was no way I could help her to land a job. I also see many very educated women where I live in Westchester, whose last child is heading to college and who are now thinking about re-entering the workforce. No matter how educated you are, finding a job when you have not worked in years, is beyond challenging. Their best bet is to work for a smaller, privately held company where they know people, but their salary expectations have to be adjusted because chances are that they are not re-entering the market where they left off. The only women who I have observed successfully re-entering the work force were willing to take 3 steps back from where they left their careers – for example, a Penn Law Grad who took a job in the office of the JCC to get her foot in the door.
I have a 15 year old daughter who is more focused and hardworking than I have ever been–really! My advice for her generation and all the women who are invested in their careers: Please don’t “drop out”! Stay connected and up to date in your field, even if it means volunteering one day a week. Yes, even if the amount you make does not equal what you pay for day care! Why? Because you want to keep that career door open and stay abreast of the changes going on in your work world, so you remain marketable. You don’t want to wake up and be what I fear most: a “dinosaur” in your field.
I know many of you may disagree with my message, and I respect your opinion. But having watched thousands of very talented and educated womens’ careers – and the difficulty they’ve had re-entering the workforce – my message comes from a place of caring and concern.
My message to young women is to spend as much time and energy finding work you are passionate about as you did getting educated. Honestly, having great degrees does not help when you are 45+ and have not worked in years. If you find work you are passionate about (and there is something out there for each of us!) and learn to be ok with not doing everything perfectly–there is no way to be a perfect wife, mother and employee, in any given day–you can have a fulfilling career AND family!