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Guest opinion: Relaunching your careers as Utah women

By Susan Madsen - Special to the Daily Herald | Feb 23, 2022

Courtesy photo

Susan Madsen, director of the Utah Women & Leadership Project.

Career paths for women tend to look a little different than career paths for men. Sometimes we don’t start a career before marriage and children. Sometimes we take an exit to start a family, or we merge into the slow lane while kids are young. And COVID-19 put many of us on a different route altogether. Wherever you are, it’s important to know that there are people out there who can help get your career moving.

The Utah Women & Leadership Projected hosted a leadership forum entitled “Relaunching Your Career: Tools & Strategies for Women Returning to the Workforce.” I moderated a round table of women who either support women’s relaunching or have recently relaunched themselves. A variety of important topic arose and I would like to highlight three:

First, many relaunchers find resumes intimidating because of gaps in work history and feeling like they lack skills. But the truth is that running a household can easily translate into marketable talents: leadership, organization, crisis management, budgeting and negotiation are but a few “mom skills” that are valuable everywhere. Don’t discount your service with the PTA, church or community volunteering. All work (paid or not) develops our competencies and much of what we learn are transferable skills. When creating a resume, you don’t have to create a timeline that accounts for every year of your adult life. Instead, you can break it into chunks: education, work, volunteer, career objectives. Websites such as LinkedIn can even create resumes for you, using the info you list in your “About” section.

Second, one of the biggest barriers in this process is self-doubt. It’s so easy to focus on what we don’t know and get hijacked by our insecurities. All our experts agreed that when wanting to relaunch, it’s important to surround yourself with a good team. Seek out people who know and love you and ask them what your strengths are. Call those friends who are always telling you how capable you are and let them remind you that you are worth investing in. Find out what other people’s passions are and how they followed them. As you do this, you are creating a network of advocates!

Third, I cannot underestimate the importance of finding a mentor — someone who can support you in the process of relaunching by proofreading your cover letters, reminding you how awesome you are, providing critical feedback, and suggesting resources to give you options and help you feel prepared. Don’t be surprised if your mentor recommends you return to college! Continuing and finishing college and university degrees can change your life!

Some women relaunch because they want to, while others because they must. Organizations like People Helping People can walk women through the whole process of finding work, while providing workshops, mentors and other resources. They can meet you wherever you are in the process. TechMoms is only a few years old but already changing the lives of many women through preparing them for careers in tech. Also, the UWLP website has a list of resources in the form of policy briefs, articles, videos, books and organizations that can help you on your way. The UWLP “Career Relaunch” toolkit can be particularly useful.

Relaunching your career as women may seem overwhelming at times, but it can also be exciting as you see how many skills you already have and how much growth and opportunity await. You can ease in slowly or jump in with both feet. Either way, it can be an exhilarating journey. To quote Dr. Seuss, “Oh the places you’ll go!”

Susan R. Madsen is the Karen Haight Huntsman Endowed Professor of Leadership in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University and the founding director of the Utah Women & Leadership Project.

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