Returning to Work After a Career Break | We Explore Social-Impact Opportunities with iRelaunch

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I recently had the opportunity to connect with the team over at iRelaunch to share with them some insights on what it takes to return to the workforce after a long career break.

iRelaunch offers career “relaunchers” resources, networking opportunities, and a sense of community as they navigate what can often be an overwhelming career reentry process. In our interview, we focused on how relaunchers can pivot to the nonprofit sector, shifting their focus from their more traditional, private-sector background to social-impact work.

Here’s the interview!

What does social impact mean to you?

Alexis Perrotta: One really great part of working at Idealist is that social impact can mean so many different things. For me, social impact isn’t just about doing; it’s also about listening and connecting. Lots of people can start a great nonprofit, volunteer in their community, or work for a company with a triple bottom line. But I think there’s also something to be said for how you connect with the community and what you’re open to learning from others. For me, there’s always an aspect of thoughtfulness and reflection in social impact.

Who is your primary audience and what specific fields are they in?

AP: We create content for anyone looking to find, land, love, or grow in their social-impact career. That means we have advice and resources that speak to mid-career professional looking for a change of pace, individuals reentering the workforce after an extended break, and college kids on the hunt for the right internship.

And there are quite a few surprises in store for those who assume that social-impact work exists strictly in the nonprofit space, or conversely, that the nonprofit world has no room for business-minded professionals. This sector isn’t what it was even five years ago, and that’s really evident when you look at the variety of opportunities out there. Nonprofits are hiring full-time web developers and program analysts, and private-sector companies are experimenting with corporate social responsibility and what it means to make a social impact.

And finally, don’t forget, every nonprofit needs a superstar operations/administrative team. With few exceptions, we all have bills and salaries to pay, boards to coordinate, and offices to run.

What advice do you have for relaunchers who want to restart their career in the social-impact space?

AP: If you have years of private-sector experience under your belt and you’re interested in taking on a social-impact role, you may be hesitant to explore the idea of a more entry-level position. While you may not sit at the level of the organizational hierarchy that you occupied in your previous professional life, there is plenty of experience to be gained and connections to be made as an entry- or mid-level nonprofit professional.

One other tip (that is not going to be news to anyone) is that you should absolutely start with volunteering. This offers an opportunity to network while also dipping your toe in the sector or issue-area of your choice in order to get a sense of whether it’s really a fit. I simply cannot overstate the importance of an ongoing commitment to a relevant issue area when job hunting in the social-impact space.

What are your favorite (e.g. top 5) articles on your site that you would recommend for relaunchers?

AP:

You were at our NYC Conference last year. What were your impressions?

AP: It was exciting to be in a room with so many people considering a major life change; the energy and anticipation was evident and it got me wondering where all of these impressive professionals would land and how they would go on to do big things in this second (or third or fourth) iteration of their respective careers.

I was also surprised by the diversity in the audience as well as the diverse fields and careers represented. I loved hearing from seasoned professionals about what they learned in their careers, in their time away from work, and in their personal reflection and exploration.

What is the most common question you are asked at Idealist Careers?

AP: We actually get a lot of questions around reentering the workforce; specifically, our readers want to know how to talk about (and honestly represent on their resume) a gap, how to start networking again after time away, and how to address the potential of ageism in the workplace and in interviews.

In response, we’re often able to point our readers to existing resources on the site:

But this also seeds ideas for future content. If we know what our readers are looking for, it’s our job to make sure that they have access to it on Idealist Careers.

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Do you have more questions about relaunching your career or sector-switching into the social-impact space? Let us know in the comments!

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As a seasoned communications professional with 15 years of nonprofit experience and 6 years of experience creating engaging content and copy, I love the idea that a thoughtfully crafted piece of content can spark social change. Here at Idealist Careers, I'm eager to offer job seekers, game changers, and do-gooders actionable tips, career resources, and "social-impact lifestyle" advice.
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