Back to work: Women making a career comeback

There is a trend of women dropping out of the workforce to attend to their family obligations. It happens all too often - after building a career for several years, family planning takes the front seat, which leads to women taking a career break.

In many cases, these women find it hard to get back into the workforce after months or years of being out of it, particularly as managing both work and family commitments are often stressful.

With the help of TalentCorp’s initiative, however, more organisations are recognising the need to attract and retain women talent back to the workplace, for they bring valuable skills, knowledge and prior experience along into the organisation.

Several companies have already spearheaded this initiative by implementing flexible working arrangements and family-friendly benefits to support women through the challenges of balancing work and family commitments.

Here, we speak to three women (and mothers) on their experiences in returning to the workplace after a lengthy break.

Taking on new roles

Nisa Hidayah Ahmad was on a career break to attend to her first-born. As she and her husband began to realise that a single–income household was unsustainable, Nisa made the decision to return to the workforce.

Nisa Hidayah Ahmad and her family. Nisa Hidayah Ahmad and her family.

“I constantly kept myself updated with the industry’s wants and needs. Sometimes I visited career fairs for their talks just to get sight of the industry expectations,” says Nisa.

In March 2014, Nisa attended the Career Comeback Networking Event organised by TalentCorp, which led her to be offered a talent acquisition specialist role with Standard Chartered. While her background was not in human resources, Nisa had a positive attitude about this role.

“It is a steep learning curve in order to carry out what I do, but I enjoy the challenge of familiarising myself with the work,” says Nisa.

Now, Nisa juggles her time between work and family, co-ordinating childcare with her husband who has opted to work from home. “My biggest challenge was how to manage my nursing time,” she says. “I was blessed enough to have a very understanding superior and teammates. In fact in Standard Chartered, we have a Mother’s Room with basic facilities for mothers to have privacy while nursing.”

Nisa adds that Standard Chartered’s flexible working hour option has helped immensely, as it allows employees to arrange their working hours and maintain their work-life balance.

Juggling career and family

Pauline Teo was in the workforce for eight years, before going on maternity leave to have her first-born. One month into her maternity leave, however, she discovered that her son needed frequent therapy sessions, and subsequently, she took a career break which lasted seven years.

During her break, Pauline picked up design skills, embarked on part-time work and even had a second child. When both were a little older and able to attend school, Pauline made the decision to return to the workforce.

Looking for a job that allowed her to balance her career and family commitments was not an easy task, as Pauline was selective with her applications. She looked for positions which offered flexibility as a benefit.

Pauline Teo Pauline Teo

It was around that time that Pauline attended the Career Comeback Networking Event. Her efforts paid off when she was approached by BASF Asia Pacific Service Centre for an opportunity in a human resource services role, which she works part-time but on a permanent employee position.

Just like Nisa, Pauline had no prior experience in the human resource field, having come from a sales and marketing background, but was nevertheless excited about the position. With her company’s supportive work culture, Pauline can not only balance her career and family effectively, but also expand her horizons with the training and learning opportunities BASF Asia Pacific Service Centre offers.

Advice for women returnees

“It’s not surprising that stay-at-home mothers start to develop new friendships or support groups that have little in common with the working world,” says Vanitha Subramaniam, a woman returnee to the workforce. “It happened to me - after a while, the corporate world wasn’t very interesting as the new parents you get to know don’t really discuss business matters.”

Vanitha, who is also in the human resource field, thinks that mothers should not forget to focus on themselves as individuals.

“As women, we need to be less judgmental of ourselves. We shouldn’t feel less worthy or guilty if we want to do something for ourselves. Ultimately, we need to find what works for each one of us. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for everyone,” she adds.

Pauline’s advice to women is that they should continue to stay relevant and continue to equip themselves with suitable skill sets while on a career break.

Her hope is that more companies will look into providing flexible work and training opportunities to women returnees to facilitate women re-entering the workforce after a career break.

Come to the Career Comeback Fair on 2 Mar, 10am-4pm, at CONNEXION@NEXUS Bangsar South, and meet employers who offer career opportunities for women returning to work. Entrance is free.

RSVP with your resume at here.

MyTeksi Promo: Use the MyTeksi app to the event and get RM10 cash-back at the MyTeksi booth‎ at the fair.