By Jessica Larson, SolopreneurJournal.com
There’s no question the pandemic has taken an outsize toll on working women. As of February, while 1.8 million men ages 20 and older had left the labor force since the beginning of the pandemic, 2.3 million women had done the same. That put the level of women’s participation in the workforce at 57%, the lowest it’s been since 1988.
What does this mean for women in executive and leadership roles? For one thing, some of those 2.3 million who exited the workforce were leaders at their companies. For another, a number of women on track for future leadership found their careers derailed by COVID, either through layoffs, closures, or conflicts involving child care.
The fact remains that women across the spectrum, from retail and service industry workers to executives, face greater societal and personal expectations regarding child-rearing than men do. The daycare crisis forced many to choose between their career paths and staying home with their children. (Even where child care is available, costs have risen by 40%.)
While some women can juggle both roles by working from home, some in leadership positions run operations with large numbers of employees, which means working remotely is not an option. So, how do women leaders re-enter the workplace in the post-pandemic world? The good news, as reported in this article on awesomeleaders.org, is that an anticipated war for talent will open up new opportunities.. You can put yourself in a position to access them by taking a few simple steps.
Realize What You Have to Offer
If you’ve risen to a leadership position in the past, you can do it again. Take a look at your résumé to remind yourself just how much you’ve accomplished — then update that résumé, and tailor it to fit the post-pandemic world.
Emphasize the skills you’ve gained that still apply and remove old information that’s no longer of value. Likely your greatest asset, though, is your ability to lead — so focus on that. Focus on how you’ve formed and directed teams of people to overcome challenges and achieve goals: That’s the kind of ability that transcends many kinds of boundaries.
Once you’ve reminded yourself of all you have to offer, you’ll be equipped to convince others that you’ll be an asset to their team.
Connect and Build Your Network
One of the most important things about leadership is the ability to connect with others and work collaboratively. If you find yourself looking to re-enter the workforce in a leadership position, you can hone those skills and simultaneously use them to achieve your professional goals.
It was easy to lose touch with people during the pandemic. If you did, work to rebuild old relationships and form new ones. Increase your involvement in professional organizations to boost your visibility and make new connections.
Of course, you’ll want to put yourself out there on LinkedIn and other social/professional sites. But more important is re-establishing your in-person connections. If you’ve been fully vaccinated, ask an old colleague out to coffee and start to get yourself back in the game.
Doing so can help you gain references but also can keep you up to date on any changes in the business environment that have taken place since you left. This also can help you adapt — and find innovative approaches — to new challenges that have arisen in your field or the corporate world in general.
Innovation, as always, will be a key to success. Be willing to step out of your comfort zone, explore new ideas, and take on new responsibilities.
If child care is a concern, do your best to find a support system. Family members may be willing to help, and programs are available to provide support, too. Some businesses even help their employees set aside a portion of their paycheck into a pre-tax fund specifically for childcare.
Know Your Goals – and Your Limits
What are your priorities? Write them down and stick to them when you’re out there looking. Taking the first opportunity that comes along may not be the best idea: Be selective to find a good fit and maximize the likelihood of success.
It’s also important to know your limits. Women often feel pressured to do it all, especially when trying to prove themselves in the corporate world, but this can result in feeling overloaded. In fact, a recent survey found that 53% of women said their jobs led to burnout some or all of the time.
Preparing to re-enter the workforce involves setting ambitious but realistic goals — reaching high without sacrificing self-care (plus somehow finding resources to see to the care of your children and other loved ones).
Going without sleep to meet a deadline might be necessary from time to time, but if it becomes a pattern, you’ll lose focus in the long run. Set boundaries for yourself so you know what you can put up with and what you can’t. Then make it an overt goal to exercise regularly, maintain a healthy diet, and take time for yourself when you need it.
Furthermore, 80 percent of women feel “weighed down” by job and money stress, according to one poll. That’s why it’s so important to protect your financial health. In addition to budgeting and saving, make sure you prioritize building good credit and staying out of debt. A good credit score can save you more than $11,000 per year in interest, allowing you to put more towards savings, retirement, and paying down debt.
Women who make themselves and their business more marketable and relevant in the post-pandemic environment – yet reserve energy with respect to quality of life – will be more likely to find opportunities and leadership roles they can sustain in the long term. This time of crisis can actually turn out to be a time of opportunity.