A career break and a new country; how Joanne re-entered the workforce

A transatlantic move with two young children and volunteer work kept Joanne busy during her five year break. This authentic account of how she found her way back into a corporate role and her advice is sure to inspire. 


Meet Joanne!

I started my career with Aviva in the United Kingdom working in customer service. I was seconded into IT and my career path followed the standard trajectory from there. Working for the same company for 16 years gave me a great opportunity to do a variety of roles using my project management skills.

After I had my first child I returned to work three days a week. Part-time was quite common at Aviva and it allowed me the flexibility I needed while my daughter was young. In 2012, while on my second maternity leave, the company changed its redundancy leave package in a way that really appealed to me. It was a great opportunity for me to have extra time with my children – so I took it.

“It wasn’t a conscious decision to take five years out of the workforce but we moved to Canada with my husband’s role in 2015”

I didn’t want to go back to work at the same time I was introducing the girls to a completely new environment, so I took a bit more time.

In 2016 my youngest started Junior Kindergarten and I started my own journey of getting back into the workforce. The time was right for me and for my family.


Where did you start on planning your re-entry? 

I thought of this process like a project plan. I started with some research and my resume. I read about how to account for the gap (I kept up with volunteering, moved countries), how to stand out, how to position my skills, which industries and companies were recruiting for the skills that I already had. It was a real journey of discovery, or re-discovery, to remember what I had done and the success that I had achieved.

I read a lot of articles and admit that

“I ‘tweaked’ my resume so much that at one point, I didn’t even recognize myself on paper.”

What really helped was getting feedback from internal corporate recruiters. I tapped into my husband’s network and they provided me with feedback on my resume and helped me to further extend my network by making introductions.

As time went on and I realized that applying for jobs through websites was getting me nowhere, I signed up for LinkedIn premium. I started following companies that I wanted to work for on LinkedIn and attending their networking events. Do not underestimate the power of LinkedIn for network building. Use it to its full advantage.

I had low days. The rejection was really hard, especially as I thought I would have an offer within three months.  You have to be thick skinned and take it all as a learning experience. How do you compete with someone who has been in the workforce constantly?

“The only way to really compete is to connect with people. To put a person, with skills, aptitude and common sense in front of the hiring manager.”

Network and be seen. Only then will your resume stand out. That is ultimately how I got the job at TD. I attended a networking event with the right people and walked out of that event with an offer.

Now I attend those events from the TD side. I make a point of telling my story now, unapologetically. I want people to know that women who have taken a career break have great skills and should not be overlooked.

“Remember to be yourself and try to be true to yourself.”


My advice to women embarking on this journey…

Manage your expectations about how long it will take for you to get back to work. It is definitely a journey. It sounds funny but enjoy this time. Relax a bit more because once you get back to work you’ll lose that free time again!

Be kind to yourself. It is like riding a bike, you still have all of those skills that you had before. It’s all there waiting to be re-discovered… except for the latest version of excel but that is easy enough to learn! …and it feels great to be working and building my career again.

Toddler negotiations pay off! Not only can you get your career back you can start progressing your previous career ambitions too. I went back as a Project manager and after 10 months I was promoted to Program Manager.

Joanne is now a Program Manager with TD Bank . She has offered to meet with women in the tellent community who are looking to re-enter the workforce after a career break.

You can connect with Joanne on LinkedIn.