It might be one of the bigger myths career-minded millennials have bought in to. If you pause your career, your success will suffer, and you can’t re-enter the workforce. That couldn’t be further from the truth. And speaking of women specifically, well over two-thirds of highly successful women have taken a career downshift, but you’d never know it.
To Pause Your Career Or Not?
To pause your career is a hot concern, especially for the new millennial workforce. They are under the belief that any pauses for any reason are career ending. But according to award-winning journalist and COO of The 3% Movement, Lisen Stromberg their fears are unfounded.
She started to notice many of the successful women she knew personally had taken career pauses and had non-linear career paths. Some down-shifted to part-time jobs and others took time off completely. But it didn’t seem to affect their success. They could have been outliers or perhaps just reflective of the network she built, so she decided it was time to investigate.
For her new book, Work Pause Thrive, Stromberg began by interviewing 186 people, surveying an additional 1500. All of her respondents were highly successful women with the only sub qualifying criteria being that they had to be a mother and they had to be college-educated. She sought to actually answer the question “how does she do it” with data and research. Of her entire group of successful women, a whopping 72% had downshifted or paused their careers!
Women Easily Re-Enter The Workforce
While it was true the most successful women never left the workforce, Stromberg discovered it was common for women to pause their careers. And when it comes time to re-enter the workforce, they do so with ease.
In fact, women could keep their careers paused for up to 2 years and have no problems getting a new job and maintaining a successful fulfilling career. We constantly hear that if you step out of the workforce at all, your future career, salary, and promotion opportunities are gone, but according to Stromberg, that’s BS!
The majority of successful women had done just that. Despite the majority of successful women experiencing career pauses up to 2 years, to pause your career is still taboo and a career-ending decision.
The reality is, people, make changes all the time that require career pauses. They get laid off, they transition, they pivot, they take time off to care for dying loved ones or take care of kids.
One woman, Stromberg interviewed even took 6 mo off to sail! Yet, to pause your career is still fear-inducing. Why are women concerned in their ability to re-enter the workforce? It turns out, many women were hiding their own career pauses and/or not talking about them. But why?
One reason women aren’t speaking publicly about how easy it is to re-enter the workforce is that they simply forget. Most forward-thinking people tend to forget the past. When a fear they had was proven false, they simply move on forgetting the fear even existed in the first place.
But the other reason women aren’t talking about how easy it is to re-enter the workforce is that they actually hide it!
Shhhh. Don’t Tell Anyone!
One particular woman had a successful career and two kids and was the typical “how does she do it” woman. But after Stromberg interviewed her she figured out the real story. She actually worked from home 2 days a week, and only 4 days total. The odd thing was, her boss and she had a “secret deal” to not tell anyone — Stromberg’s research shows this is actually quite common.
It’s likely common because most of the women surveyed were Gen X and young boomers. The technology didn’t exist to work from home when they began the workforce so it’s still a bit taboo. But the main reason, Stromberg theorizes, is a deeply rooted motherhood and flexibility bias that still exists in our work culture.
Many are still trained that the ideal worker is that person who is available 24/7 and has no home obligations and can travel at the drop of the hat. That model is embedded in our work culture and if you don’t LOOK like the ideal worker, we fear our employers don’t perceive us as ambitious and a perfect worker. For many women, there are reasons to hide if you pause your career.
Another reason may be bosses being scared of setting precedent. They don’t want the floodgates to open on their flexibility, fearing perhaps everyone will want to work from home or be flexible. Even though we have all the tools today to master our own time and stay productive no matter where we work, company leaders are still in the flawed thinking that they need to see you physically in your seat. Obviously, it’s total BS.
In my own experience, I’ve personally seen many employees who come to work early and leave late, with half of their actual time at work being spent on Facebook or wandering around getting lost in water cooler talk.
Stromberg also thinks perhaps women hide their success when they re-enter the workforce because they won’t appear ambitious enough. That’s why Stromberg wants people to own their journeys. Do you have a journey to share? Stop staying quiet!
And if you’re debating whether you should pause your career, now you know the truth. See you in a few years.
Listen to my interview with Lisen Stromberg >