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Re-entering The Job Market After Divorce


American psychologists and specialists in the field of relationships conducted a survey of divorced women and found that the majority of them, some time after their divorce, view the breakup of marriage not as a collapse of life but rather as the beginning of a new path.

Such an optimistic point of view! And since we wish this to be the case for everybody, it behooves us to figure out how to get past the very first steps of this new life, which are difficult regardless. Armed with a positive vision, let’s think about how to conquer stress and fear, how to gain confidence and independence (not just in legal terms), and eventually how to become psychologically and financially self-sufficient.

This article naturally has its focus on newly divorced homemakers, for whom a divorce means not only personal and emotional stress, but also the necessity of re-entering the job market and related pitfalls.

Situations abound where women (as well as men in some cases) quit their career or do not even build one in the first place, doing so in order to share family responsibilities with their spouse and follow a societal pattern – one partner is engaged in earning money, while the other is responsible for child care and upbringing, maintaining the house, and creating the family atmosphere in general. This system often works well unless and until the spouses decide to separate. When this happens, the spouse who was the “breadwinner” of the family may think that they no longer have to support their unemployed ex-spouse in the way they had done during the marriage. Additionally, most state laws do not force compensation unless there are substantial grounds  (e.g. the unemployed spouse’s disability, etc.). And finally, the intention to return to work after a long break is often not just a question of money-making. It can be a matter of personal ambitions, a desire for self-actualization, catching up, or finding meaning in life (separate from the family), especially if the spouses’ children have already grown up.

Stay calm and analyze your strengths.

No matter how enthusiastic a person is, job searching after a long break (or starting a career in your 30-40s or more) can be frightening and confusing. Unfortunately, this fear is mostly justified. Age and gender discrimination in employment is still part of our reality,  though to a much lesser extent than it was some decades before. Do not lament lost opportunities, and do not despair. At this stage, your main task is to stop your inner monologue from taking over. Instead of panicking or ruminating about the past, you should ready yourself to grab everything that life has to offer you today.

Before you proceed directly to a job search, dedicate just one day – one full, uninterrupted day – to yourself. Unplug yourself from divorce-induced stress, and let yourself focus not on past mistakes but on the qualities of yours that you consider the most attractive and advantageous. What boosts your self-esteem? For example, you might want to pursue one of our hobbies, and, at the same time, ask yourself why exactly you’re so fond of doing what you do. If your hobby has a creative bent, what does this say about you? Are you attracted by the meditativeness of the process, the desire to convey emotions in your artwork or, perhaps, you like to be in the spotlight? If you are passionate about sports, is it competitiveness that attracts you? Perhaps you are a perfect team player. Or maybe you are a master tactician…

Answers to these questions will help direct your first step towards choosing a career, since even people who have never been employed develop and put to use many skills that can be the perfect foundation for future occupations.

Network intensively.

Once you have some ideas of what would you like to do, it’s go time. Do not limit yourself to job ad sites! Network furiously, and contact everyone you know.

Mention that you are searching for a job during any small talk you have. You never know which social connections will be the source of information about an excellent vacancy for you. There are no accidents, and sometimes we need to give luck a helping hand. Put yourself in a position to get lucky.

In addition, plenty of good vacancies close up quickly because many employers, with all else being equal, prefer to hire someone who was recommended to them by an acquaintance. It is quite hard for employers to find suitable candidates, and hearing the advice of friends and colleagues can give them a clearer picture of a candidate’s merits than a CV by itself.

Back to school?

A lot of people, faced with the task of re-entering the workforce, consider going back to school and obtaining a new degree or profession. Although gaining new skills is always great, you should think this over carefully. Can you afford it?

Perhaps you were granted rehabilitative spousal support after the divorce. Here you can spend this money directly on forms of education, self-development, or retraining that you really need. However, if you need to begin supporting yourself financially as soon as possible, additional education may not be the best idea.

Analyze your particular situation and listen to your heart. Is your intention to get an education driven by necessity, or do you just feel unconfident and hope that additional schooling will help qualify you for a future job? The point is that for a lot of newly divorced people, education seems to be a psychologically comfortable reason for why they still have not begun their job search. What often lies at the core of this intention is fear – for this reason, most job coaches do not advise going back to school immediately after a divorce (at least, if you haven’t even tried to find a job yet). They emphasize that one more degree can’t guarantee that you will become more qualified for the job.

A lot of young people who are fresh out of college are disappointed with their first job since it turns out that they need experience to get experience. Are you sure you’re ready for that kind of stress? In general, some short training courses may be really useful in helping you update your knowledge and skills, but you should not spend too much time on training or expect too much from it.

Trends and opportunities.

Women make up half of the workforce nowadays. Most of these women have children, so long breaks, primarily associated with childcare, are not uncommon. Employers cannot ignore these specialists and their conditions, which is why the trend of “Returnship” is gaining momentum. You should consider this option if you are a professional in the field and already have experience. A returnship is a paid internship aimed to help people who, due to family circumstances, left their career for a significant period of time. It helps them catch up with the latest developments in a certain professional field and refresh their knowledge, making sure that it is applicable in the current conditions.

A considerable advantage of returnships is that the entire retraining process is paid, and you can re-evaluate your profession with a fresh look. The modern world changes so swiftly! Something you considered boring some years ago may turn out to be exciting and promising now.

Also, learn more about nonprofit organizations designed to assist people in your situation. They arrange paid career internships, and a lot of respected companies partner with these organizations. In addition, similar agencies typically provide information about various other job programs, conduct seminars related to job search tips, and give career advice.

In sum, re-entering the job market after a divorce is undoubtedly a challenge. Armed with a vision, mission, and goals, however, you can make it a great adventure. Make your personal circumstances your allies. Perhaps the post-divorce period is one of the few times in your life where you are willing to relocate, and this will be to your advantage as a candidate. Maybe the fact that you had a long hiatus from your career makes you a more motivated employee who will enthusiastically absorb new information. Perhaps, after divorce, you want to devote yourself to work entirely. Maybe now you are more willing to take risks – starting your own business, for instance.

According to surveys, about half of divorced people point out that the breakdown of the marriage prompted them to make positive career changes. Get to know yourself, network, refresh your skills, and start your new life with a clean slate.