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Restarting a Science Career after a Break

On this page, the CSWA has compiled resources on re-entering the work force after a career break. Some of these resources apply to (1) any break. Although most people think of the career break as (2) occurring early in the career for child raising purposes, we list resources relating to (3) astronomical employment or other activity after retirement as well.

(1) Any career break

The M. Hildred Blewett Fellowship from the American Physical Society

'To enable women to return to physics research careers after having had to interrupt those careers. The fellowship consists of a one-year award of up to $45,000 (applicants can apply in a subsequent year for one additional year of support). Allowed expenses include dependent care (limited to 50% of the award), salary, travel, equipment, and tuition and fees. Overhead charges by the institution are not allowed.'

Application Deadline: June 1 each year

The guidelines presented specify neither an age limit nor acceptable reasons for the break. During the tenure of the grant, institutional affiliation is required.

Job Interviewing Tips: Explaining Why You are Returning to the Job Market By Carole Martin, Interview Coach

'Some people’s lives begin to sound like a Soap Opera because there have been so many extenuating circumstances. Nobody’s perfect. But nobody wants to hear about your problems and baggage either. Especially in the job interview. The following is some advice to handle those tricky situations when interviewing that may be difficult to talk about let alone explain.'

9 Resources for Women to Quickly Pick Up Technical Skills, from Women in Technology International

If you have been away from science for a while, you may need to learn or refresh technical skills such as coding or web design. One hears the complaint that many students get through grad school without learning to code. If you know Perl, Java, a variant of C, or another language, you might actually have an advantage over such a fresh Ph.D. in competing for a postdoc. This page, aimed at budding entrepreneurs but suitable for any scientific or technical person, may point you in the right direction.

Ronin Institute

'The Ronin Institute is devoted to facilitating and promoting scholarly research outside the confines of traditional academic research institutions.'

"Discover the 20+ skills that make you totally employable!" from Jobs on Toast: Marketing yourself for a non-academic career, Posted on July 27, 2012

This post, although aimed at recent humanities Ph.D.'s, describes a useful approach to planning a career change and should be applicable to later-career scientists as well.

'As a postgrad you get very used to thinking about yourself as a specialist within a specialism – for instance I studied within the Arts and Humanities Faculty, but focused on the Literature and Drama of Medieval England. What many postgrads don’t appreciate is that they’ve also acquired valuable generic skills and knowledge which are highly sought after by today’s employers. In fact a doctoral student who undertakes a broad range of activities during their PhD can have over 20 transferable skills, making them a very attractive employee. Let’s take a look at the four main skill areas that a well-rounded PhD student will have ...'

How To Leave Academia

A large collection of blogs by authors from various fields who are leaving or who have left academia.

In a job search, how to deal with name changes, gaps in employment, and other awkward issues from CaptainAwkward.com

' ... maybe go ahead and put those "phantom" jobs on your resume, even if you do it as a single line item. "Paid way through graduate school school as a freelance editor, library assistant, and bartender, 2007-2012." Obviously you want to highlight your most related career experience, but I don't think people should ever look down on their own work or apologize for what put food on their table, and the skills you took from those passing jobs actually do contribute to who you are professionally.'

iRelaunch

'Are you returning to work after a break? You’re at the right place. Hundreds of experienced, midcareer professionals—MBAs, JDs, engineers, and others—trust iRelaunch’s hands-on expertise and career resources to help them jump back into the game. Better still? Many Fortune 500 employers turn to us to access our Relaunchers. With conferences, coaching circles, webinars, inspiring role models, and our empowering newsletter, you’re in the right place—for wherever you want to go next.'

This site offers conference, on-line learning, resources, and success stories, among other materials.

(2) Career break for child raising

"Managing and Supporting Career Breaks in the Sciences," by Elizabeth D. Freeland, in Women in Astronomy and Space Science: Meeting the Challenges of an Increasingly Diverse Workforce Proceedings from the conference held at The Inn and Conference Center University of Maryland University College, October 21—23, 2009, Edited by Anne L. Kinney, Diana Khachadourian, Pamela S. Millar and Colleen N. Hartman (PDF, 6,2 MB), p. 119

A description of the author's career break, some concrete steps to take if you would like a break, and some suggestions for individuals and institutions. Some good resources are in the reference list.

"Women in science: In pursuit of female chemists," by Carol V. Robinson, in Nature, 18 August 2011

Robinson took eight years off, in order to start a three-child family, just after earning her Ph.D. The most interesting part of this article is her description of restarting her career, charting her own course, and eventually becoming a research professor at Oxford after this break. The article has perceptive things to say about mentoring, role modeling, and climate as well.

"What Employers Look for of Those Re-entering the Workforce"

'The top characteristic that resulted in job interviews for middle-aged women seeking an entry level job was vocational or computer training, according to the study in the Journal of Career Development (JCD), published by SAGE.'

See the posting for a link to the report on the study.

"How to Rejoin the Workforce After Raising Kids," by Kerry Hannon, from US News

"To land a position with an 'alternative' schedule, you'll need a clear concept of the type of work and schedule you can manage. Plus, you'll want to aim for a salary that makes the cost (and stress) of going back to work worthwhile. Once you've clarified those big-picture items, you're ready to start your job search, negotiate a salary, and arrange a flextime schedule that works for you and your prospective boss. Here's how to get started ..."

"Staying competitive after family leave," from Women in Astronomy, posted by Neil Gehrels, August 8, 2012

'I [Andrew Hopkins (Head of AAT Science, Australian Astronomical Observatory)] have mentored women who have dealt successfully with the issue of winning proposals after taking family leave. My basic advice boils down to:
  1. Count how much of your time has been "research active" (i.e., equivalent full time research), and
  2. Present your productivity relative to the time you've *actually* had for doing research. ...'

(3) Post-retirement employment

AARP: Best Employers for Workers Over 50

Links to: 50 Jobs for a Second Career

Retirement Jobs, from Retired Brains

This extensive listing covers all kinds of jobs. Finding one that would be appropriate for an astronomer would be a long shot, but it might be worth checking out. Or ... maybe you'd like to try something different?

Jobs for people over 50

Here are the claimed benefits of membership in this site (quoted verbatim):
	Access: certified age friendly employers
	Advocacy: be heard; there's power in our numbers to beat age bias
	Education: skills you can learn online
	Advice: exclusive guides, web seminars & actual human customer support  
	Save: discounts negotiated for you by the #1 career site for age 50+
	PLUS, receive a complimentary resume critique

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This page last updated: January 31, 2013