Katie Dunn and kids

Raleigh at Work: How to Re-enter the Workforce

In Feature Stories, September 2015 by Christa GalaLeave a Comment

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Do you want back in? Katie Dunn did, and now she’s made it her business to help other women  re-enter the workforce too.

When Dunn’s twins turned 9, she was ready to go back to work.

“It was just a feeling with our family that the kids were ready, and I was ready to be back in that environment,” says Dunn. A former IBM-er and marketing specialist, Dunn tried to self-educate but it was daunting. She wasn’t alone.

“It seemed so many of my friends—smart women with degrees and good skills—were having the same conversation, saying, ‘I’d love to go back to work, but it’s just so hard to get back in.’”

So Dunn decided to make that her business—helping women rejoin the workforce. In February Dunn formed Back to Business with plans to host the first annual Back to Business Women’s Conference October 8-9 at Perimeter Studio and Conference Center in Morrisville (backtobusinessconference.com).

It didn’t take long for Dunn to land the keynote speaker, Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO and co-founder of iRelaunch, a Harvard Business graduate who was out of the workforce for 11 years. She returned in 2001, and for the past 10 years has worked with universities, corporations and individuals to help bridge the career gap. Cohen makes frequent appearances on the Today Show and CNN speaking about career re-entry. She is eager to tap into Raleigh’s diverse and highly skilled job market.

“Our interest in Raleigh began when one of our major clients, MetLife, started its Act2 reentry internship program a couple of years ago and decided to have half of the internships based in the Raleigh area,” says Cohen. “Subsequently, some of our other financial services clients and potential clients approached us with an interest in hiring relaunchers in the Research Triangle area. “We have a national footprint of over 10,000 people, concentrated primarily in the New York tri-state area, Chicago, Boston, Washington, D.C. and the West Coast,” Cohen continues. “We want to increase our presence in the Southeast in general and in North Carolina specifically.”

The good news: it’s getting much easier to go back to work “Reception to the message about career re-entry has evolved over the years—for the better,” says Cohen. “The increased number of academic studies, media attention and even TV characters who have returned to work after a career break, make the career path— including the career break—less unusual, and less stigma is attached to those who choose this path as a result.”

To do: Getting back to work

• Volunteer. And don’t discount it when you’re dusting off your resume. Fundraising, team-building, managing people; they’re all marketable skills.

• Refresh skills. Regardless of whether or not you know the direction you’re headed, you can’t go wrong updating your technology skills.

• Network. You need to let people know you’re looking and reach out to different groups. Think about the way you’re networking. Recruiters research potential employees using LinkedIn and other platforms. You can’t not have an Internet presence in the digital age.

—Christa Gala


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