We are absolutely passionate about our 'Returning Moms' program. That's because it allows our women employees to return to us after they become mothers, by offering them flexi-options and understanding their needs. But what about the talented and driven women who were forced to leave their jobs years ago, because their companies and organizations had no program to support or help them out when they became mothers? Today they are as qualified and full of passion as any person we may hire, and all they need is an opportunity to make a comeback in the workplace. That's where we offer them Career 2.0, another program we are deeply invested in, which is aimed single-mindedly at bringing women back to work after a sabbatical.
But the process of bringing women back into the workplace can be quite tricky, and in the course of talking to women who have made, or are attempting to make, a career comeback, we've realized that we have to be sensitive and tread carefully, because each woman has a set of requirements and constraints that are unique to her and that need to be addressed. These women are asking questions and raising concerns that may not apply during the standard hiring process – and we need to be finely tuned in to what they are. Like - why is this woman coming back to work? Is what she has on her resume all that matters? What is she looking for in us? After all these years, what are her skill sets?
It takes a lot of empathy and tact to be able to really address these questions.
Why the comeback? Different women have different answers to this question. Some say they need the money or want to be financially independent. Which means their remuneration package will be of utmost importance. Some are experiencing the empty-nest syndrome and feel they are now free to travel and experience new environments and situations. Their job will need to be defined accordingly. Some are looking for a way in which to prove themselves again as capable, driven, efficient career women. They need to be offered positions that really challenge them. The answers to what these women are looking for are going to help determine their position, job-profile, remuneration, work hours – and will ultimately create a win-win situation for both them and the company.
Don't p-resume the resume: The whole hiring process tends to be based on a set of fixed expectations. But a woman making a comeback after a relatively lengthy period of time cannot be judged by the usual parameters. What her resume says on paper does not necessarily quantify what she is worth or what her capabilities are. We have to look beyond, be smart, drop our biases and established expectations – and learn to read each woman, each resume and each situation independently. Look below the surface – there is a wealth of experience and wisdom just waiting to be tapped.
Recognizing new skill sets: One thing that we've been pushing as a company in every area, at every level and in every manner possible, is to look beyond numbers and figures when we hire people. We want people who, over and above the necessary qualifications, have that 'something more' – a drive and passion and agility and adaptability. Some of our greatest assets are people who have come to us in the most unconventional ways. It's no different with Career 2.0. Don't judge a woman who has been away for so long by the usual corporate yardstick. Again, look deeper. Her years away from an office, running a home and people's lives, will have armed her with skills that can be indispensable in the workplace – like the ability to multi-task, efficient time-management skills, conflict-management instincts, problem-solving abilities, empathy, patience, commitment. All these in addition to the skills she had as a working woman years ago. The combination can be awe-inspiring!
Let her be: Don't force her to put on a 'face' to impress you. See her for what and who she really is. Don't go by her confidence levels as yet, go by her potential. If a little hand-holding is necessary initially, do so till she finds her bearings. If she's everything you have intuitively figured she is, she'll find them in no time and soon be raring to go.
Ruchira Bhatia is one of our VPs who has come to us through Career 2.0, and she says that “it's natural to be scared when you first get back after a break and the reason Career 2.0 worked so well for me was because it didn't put me on the defensive, it allowed me to be open about my constraints and it gave me the flexibility I needed to perform to the best of my ability."
Tanu Anand, AVP Operations, told us that, “The flexible work environment offered by Career 2.0 has been an enabler in bringing me back into the workforce. Many women have the experience, expertise and passion to be positive contributors in the workplace but traditional working arrangements do not provide sufficient support for them. Career 2.0 has been a game-changer for me and has given me a second lease on my career."
These are the success stories we want to hear, and I can only say that the smarter the company and the process and the people behind the process – the better the rewards that will be reaped from Career 2.0. I'm keen to put the best we have into this system, in order to get the best results possible, both for us – and for the brave women making a comeback.
And as we think about the next steps on Career 2.0, one of the areas which we will explore going forward is equipping these hires with relevant skill sets as they step back into the workplace. This may seem to be a contradiction to what I've just said - but I actually believe it complements it. More on that next time!