In general, Canada has good social supports and leave provisions available for women and men for reasons of parenthood, elder care etc. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that this can cause tremendous dislocation when the time comes to return to work. As Canada’s population ages, employers have become increasingly aware of the need to develop and retain highly-skilled workers to ward off the impending skills shortage. Yet women continue to bear the majority of the responsibility for childcare and eldercare, putting them at a distinct disadvantage in their career development. Here are some programs in Canada that both women and men trying to transition back to the workplace can take advantage of:
University of Toronto/TD Bank – Back to Work Initiative:
In 2008, with the backing of TD Bank, the school launched Back to Work, a three-month program designed to ease the transition for women returning to the workplace after an extended leave. “The objective is to provide women with the skills they need to advance their careers,” explains Sheker. “A lot of it is about refreshing their business basics, like emerging trends in technology, improving their networking skills, and career strategies around leadership and self-awareness.”
The BMO Women in Capital Markets (WCM) Return to Bay Street Award:
This award provides a paid, three-month internship with BMO Capital Markets, $5,000 towards a continuing education program, enrolment in WCM’s mentoring program, and one-year WCM membership.
Three years ago, the University of Western Ontario’s Ivey School of Business launched ReConnect, in partnership with CIBC. The week-long seminar program offers bridging skills to professional women job-seekers looking to return to their careers after an extended leave. It includes sessions on business trends, networking and social networking, interview skills, and building resumes that best portray time out of the workforce.
Preparing for leave
1. Build as much experience as you can prior to exiting your career. A report by TD Bank published in 2010 found “women incur far less financial penalty the more experience they build before exiting, irrespective of the length of time they ultimately remain out of the workforce.”
2. As you prepare to exit, plan your re-entry. People often don’t think about how they’re going to keep their career options open when they go on leave. As you make the decision to step out of the workforce for a period of time, ask yourself how you’re going to stay engaged. It’s a conscious decision if you choose not to.
3. Maintain your professional networks. Although women on maternity leave or other types of leave often cite a huge circle of networks, they often sever relationships with business networks. Maintain professional memberships, continue to build your resume through volunteering, and be very strategic about keeping contact with three to five professional networks that you will continue to maintain relationships with monthly while on leave.
4. Don’t sell yourself short. Know your skills and experience inside-out. Apply the skills that you learnt while on leave on the job.
5. But be willing to compromise. Sometimes transitioning back to the workforce takes time. Perhaps you managing a team before you went on leave and now that your back you wont be. Take time to prove yourself again and re-engage. Be a Team Player and work hard and eventually you will get the recognition you deserve.