Gender equality has taken a hit during Covid-19, with women disproportionately affected by job losses and caregiving needs. And as the pandemic drags on, it's inspiring some major self-reflection.
Sarah Kalmeta is among the many women who’ve found themselves at a crossroads. She used to travel frequently as a director for a global aviation company and seized any public holiday as a chance for a getaway. Being grounded in Hong Kong has sent her on a personal journey.
“I realised I married this person I’m not actually very aligned with, and we ended up getting divorced,” she says. Professionally, she had already achieved the goals she wanted to reach by 35 and wondered what was next. “It made me really understand how many of us live on this automatic autopilot,” says Kalmeta. So in her professional life, too, she pivoted. Kalmeta identified connection and curiosity as core values and capitalised on her experience in corporate training programmes to become a career and holistic life coach.
“I’ve allowed myself to change even as I saw a lot of peers be very rigid,” says Kalmeta. “I encourage them to keep an open mind because what you did before is relevant but it’s not the end all, be all.”
Cultivating this kind of growth mindset is important for anyone considering how to reenter the workforce or make an industry switch. As Kirti Lad, founder of Meraki Executive Search & Consulting, puts it: “Our new norm is operating in an environment of constant uncertainty, vulnerability and change. Having the resilience and grit to step into the edge, although there is fear of failure and the unknown, this is where the growth takes place and opportunities present themselves.”
The encouraging news is that experts we interviewed cited opportunities that have come with recent shifts in work culture and needs. Tiffany Wong, a 12-year veteran of recruitment firm Robert Walters, says she has seen "an evolution" as companies become more accepting of non-linear career paths—and of returning mothers in particular. D&I consultant and leadership coach Shirley Adrain, who spent 20 years in global IT leadership roles, has an even rosier outlook.
“I believe there’s never been a better time to return to work after a career break as in Asia we have a skills shortage and employers are looking to hire diverse talent pools,” says Adrain. “Employees with a wealth of experience and a gap where they had different life experiences can add more diversity of ideas and thought to any team.”
Read on for these experts' tips on how to identify your skills and values, network with confidence and position yourself to reenter the workforce successfully.