Returning To Work After Leaving To Provide Care For A Loved One

The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP reported that approximately 44 million caregivers in the United States provide unpaid care to an adult or child annually. It is estimated that about 75% of caregivers are female and can spend as much as 50% of their time providing care for a loved one. Given the intensity of the need, some caregivers are required to take a hiatus from participating in the workforce, some take part-time jobs, and others juggle full-time work and caregiving. Approximately 1 in 6 Americans working full-time or part-time reported that they are assisting with the care of an elderly or disabled family member or friend. On average, employed caregivers work approximately 34.7 hours per week.

According to U.S. News & World Report, beyond the number of people who can juggle work and caregiving, there is a percentage of the workforce that either chooses or are required to halt their careers. The author reported that although opting out of the workforce is often not considered a permanent move, taking a break can hinder job success and can cut future earning potential. In most cases, the person who is most likely to quit their job to care for a loved one tends to be a female. Approximately 33% of the women who opt to exit the workforce have earned advanced degrees, and approximately 43% of the women who stay at home do so to care for their children. Of concern is the reality that of the 93% of the women who exit the workforce indicating that they plan to return after caregiving, only 74% do. This represents a permanent workforce loss of 19% of the women who left their careers to provide caregiving services.

People who are planning to get back into the workforce after a long stint should be prepared to do some advanced planning. The U.S. News & World Report indicated how difficult it is to re-enter the workforce after 8-10 years because of the technology-driven pace of change. The author advises that people should, where possible, avoid leaving the workforce. However, while exiting cannot always be avoided, it is better to be in a job, if only a part-time job, to ensure that one remains relevant and current in technical skills.

When looking for a job after a long hiatus, people should seek the advice of an experienced career counselor/advisor to determine if their career interests are aligned with sustainable opportunities in the workforce. Additionally, the client, who may be unclear about how and where he or she should be looking to restart his or her career, might complete relevant assessments that can provide some clarity about career options, strengths, and suitability for different types of occupations. Also, they should carefully examine job ads to determine if they have the necessary qualification and training needed to compete for the job and be proficient in the role. Where there are gaps in education, clients should seek training opportunities before applying for the jobs or be well on the way to completing the training at the time of applying. The career counselor/advisor also will assist the client in reframing their resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and other media to account for the time that they have been away from the workforce. Finally, as a part of the job search, they should target organizations that have demonstrated an interest in welcoming people who have been out of the workforce. The career counselor/advisor also can assist in an interview prep that helps them to present their best attributes while competently explaining their time away from the workforce.

Dr. Orville Blackman is the Director of Career and Workforce Development at JFCS. For more than ten years, he has been studying workforce trends locally and nationally. He is a practitioner in strategic workforce and HR planning, organizational development and career development for nearly 20 years.

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