Looking for a new job is always scary, but when you’ve been out of the workforce for 10 years to raise a family, the task can be overwhelming. After taking a career break to raise my two boys, I decided to return to my career and discovered more challenges than I had originally anticipated.
Overcoming the stigma sometimes attached to being a stay-at-home parent was one of the first obstacles I had to overcome. I had assumed that having my MBA would help me until I realized the Raleigh, NC area has one of the highest concentrations of advanced degrees in the country.
Returnship—an internship for “experienced” folks
I suspect that when I started applying for positions I was interested in and qualified for, my 10 year work gap didn’t make it past most applicant tracking software. I am sure that for most recruiters that saw my profile, that resume’ gap of unpaid work overshadowed my 12 years of sales, marketing, and business development experience. I persisted in the job hunt through networking, and interviewed with a handful of really good companies. As I advanced in some of these interviews something felt a little off. After 10 years working for my two pint-sized bosses, I was hesitant to make a long-term commitment with a company I wasn’t 100% sold on. That’s when I started to read about Returnships.
Returnships or Return to Work programs are recruiting initiatives some companies are using to recruit mid-career individuals who have taken a career pause for life events like raising families, caring for elder parents, or serving in the military. These programs hire experienced individuals to serve a 3 – 6 month internship, with the option to move into permanent positions. Returnships give both the employer and employee an opportunity for a “test run” before making a long-term commitment. Bandwidth is one of the few companies in North Carolina to champion an initiative like this, and I was chosen as the first candidate for their pilot program.
Bandwidth and the whole person promise
I discovered Bandwidth’s new Returnship through Networking Women of the Triangle and I was pretty impressed with reviews from their customers and employees. I was very intrigued by their Whole Person Promise—an approach towards helping employees find meaning and balance between work and life. The company pays 100% medical benefits for employees and their dependents, and PTO is sacred at Bandwidth—we have vacation email embargos. When Bandwidth employees are on vacation, there are no emails in or out, and team members are charged with any decision making necessary during that PTO time. The company wants their employees happy and healthy and offers a 90 minute lunch break to squeeze in some exercise. Bandwidth Cares organizes fundraising and volunteer challenges to give employees the opportunity to earn additional PTO while giving back to their communities.
As a parent who was trying to navigate work/life balance, I wanted a place where I could work hard and then disconnect at day’s end to spend time with my family. As it turned out, Bandwidth’s Whole Person Promise was the icing on the cake of the corporate culture. This company hires people who care and there is an ingrained sense of kindness and helpfulness that I have never experienced in my professional career. I found Bandwidth was full of bright, energetic people who were passionate about their work and are always willing to lend a hand. Bandwidth’s organic servant leadership flows from the top down and is directly linked to the example set by David Morken, the company’s CEO.
That sense of helpfulness amongst my co-workers became a major contributor to my success in the returnship. Telecom is not an easy industry to learn—there are acronyms for acronyms. In addition to learning an entirely new industry, my job in marketing entailed using a number of software and connectivity platforms that either did not exist or that I did not utilize when I left the workforce. Thankfully, my marketing managers and team members were at the ready to help give me tech crash courses and answer any questions I had. They were all extremely generous with their time and it made returning to work less daunting. An added benefit was when they showed me the convenience of Venmo (I know I’m aging myself here, but that’s the point of a returnship, isn’t it?).
A place to hang my hat
Two months after starting my returnship, I knew Bandwidth was a place I wanted to be long-term. I enjoyed the challenging work, learned new things every day, and got to enjoy my family in the evening. The jackpot was that my co-workers were nice and worked well as a team.
In the final weeks of my contracted returnship, I had the opportunity to dust off some of my previous business development and forecasting skills and conducted some pre-market research and analysis. I uncovered some opportunities for 2019 and beyond, and my work on the project became the foundation for my new permanent job description as Marketing Programs Specialist. I would be expanding that work to understanding other industries and provide pre-marketing analysis and develop the foundation for go-to-market strategies.
Sharpen your skills and know your worth
There are two things I would tell anyone contemplating returning to work after a career break. First, it is important to sharpen existing skills, whether that be through courses, volunteer work, or part-time gigs. Any one of these things can be something current to put on a resume’.
Secondly, it’s important to know your worth and what you bring to the table. Think of all the things you do during your daily life that show initiative, organization, or skill. Organizing volunteers for the PTA or managing a team sport shows initiative and helps gain the experience of motivating peers. Anyone who has served in the military brings even more to the table! Leadership and critical thinking skills learned in service to our country are things many companies would find extremely valuable. Never discount your experiences—show a potential employer how they can be a benefit to the company and make you a good team player.
The future is bright
November will be my 1 year anniversary with Bandwidth. Taking a chance on the returnship was one of the smartest career moves I could have made. I found a company that saw value in my life experiences, and not just what was listed on my resume. I enjoy my work, like the people I work with, and have an opportunity to give back through Bandwidth Cares. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me and this team, and am so excited to see how the company expands the Bandwidth Returnship Program.