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Work after life

Catherine is choosing what to wear to work tomorrow. For the first time in 13 years. What is normally a mundane task is charged with powerful emotions: excitement of course, but also a good dose of nerves, self-doubt and a tinge of “mum guilt.”

Why does it feel so daunting for Catherine and so many other women to resume their professional careers after a break? Life happens, right? Events and choices, planned or unplanned, can put your work trajectory on hold for a while, but they often widen your skillset and experience and give you new resolve to do great work when you’re ready to return. They shouldn’t set you back.

But often the lack of flexible arrangements, the dread of having to justify a gap in employment and the assumption that your commitment or value will be questioned can make going back to work challenging for many parents who have taken time off.

Yet the challenge goes both ways, as employers can lose precious talent when skilled professionals decide not to return. The truth is, no one wins when years of experience and ambition are lost to preconceptions.

So what if Catherine’s employer flipped things around and actually made it easier for her to return to work after a career break? Deloitte Australia did and Catherine joined its Consulting practice in 2018, enriched by 13 years of life and three children.

“I stepped away from my career because I felt it would give my kids a good start in life, but I always intended to return. After a long break, I knew I would benefit from a program tailored to returners. Only Deloitte Australia offered what I was looking for here. And when I started, the trust I was shown and the support I received made me realise something: it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been out – you still have the same skills and capability. The only thing you may lose is confidence, and you can regain it quickly.”

Marsha from Deloitte US would concur.

“I decided it was the right time to go back to work when my youngest started school. I started looking for a company that would take away the stigma associated with a career break and when I came across Deloitte’s Encore program, I knew it was the perfect fit for me. The personal development plan, the period of paid work and the opportunity to network with others taking the same step removed all my fear of going back to work.”

Catherine and Marsha are two of hundreds of parents to have embarked on a Deloitte return-to-work programme. Through mentoring, coaching, paid internships, workshops and networking, Deloitte makes sure returners are able to pick up their work trajectory where they left it, with flexible arrangements that suit their life.

This is certainly true of Nina, who after eight years away, chose Deloitte UK’s award-winning Return to Work programme to retrain in a more technical role, initially returning on a four-day week and later switching to a working pattern that means she works a set number of days per year.

“I never thought I could get back to a strategic position in a large organisation with a global practice, while being able to take most school holidays off with the kids. But here I am. If you’re thinking of resuming work after a break, find somewhere inclusive and supportive and go for it. You will connect with people who trust you - perhaps more than you trust yourself - and in no time you’ll get back to making your impact at work.”