Reentering the workforce after a hiatus can be intimidating. Still, Erin Smith, a research analyst for the Utah Office of Tourism, is a testament to how well it can work for employees and companies. Smith moved overseas after getting her master’s degree in sociology. She then decided to be a stay-at-home mom to her six kids. Fast forward twenty years, she decided it was time to reenter the workforce. Smith shares some advice for other women who want to do the same.
“One of the biggest challenges women in business face as they reenter the workforce is imposter syndrome,” she said. Smith noted there’s a worry about learning quickly enough or overselling oneself. “This stems from many women viewing the gap in their resumes as a deficiency, rather than acknowledging they’ve still been progressing and accumulating a different set of skills that are valuable to employers,” Smith notes. To overcome this, she recommends taking time to explore different job options. She also encourages networking with other women to understand their perspectives and learn from their experiences. Doing so helps build confidence and ensures that people find a job that fits.
Coming up to speed on office systems and communication methods can present a learning curve, but what women returning to business bring to the table makes up for it. “Parenting six kids is a master class in scheduling competing demands,” she adds. “None of my coworkers are as squirrelly, or as demanding as my kids, so you don’t sweat the small stuff after you’ve been through that. You also develop compassion that helps you give people some grace.”
Smith also suggests ways that employers can support women as they return to work. She recounts her managers approached her early on and reassured her that they wanted her to be successful. They extended her trust and offered a fair amount of flexibility which she says has been key to her transition back to work. Smith recommends that companies provide childcare options and more meaningful part-time employment opportunities, so women can contribute without sacrificing what’s most important to them.
She adds getting a job didn’t feel like gaining a new identity. Instead, it gave her another platform to express and utilize what was already in her. Employers who see women as whole people with various roles and can support role integration will gain from a vast well of unique voices and perspectives that benefit individuals and industries.
Erin Smith relaunched her career as a participant in the Return Utah program. For more information on the program and the resources it provides, click here.