Getting an Investment Banking Job after a Long Break

The financial meltdown put a lot of careers on hold, or even off the rails. Some people were out of work for months, others even longer. If you or someone you know has been out of work for a while, you might want to pick up a copy of Back on the Career Track by Carol Fishman Cohen.

Cohen was on maternity leave from Drexel Burnham Lambert when the investment banking firm blew up in 1990. Although she worked a few part-time gigs off and on, she ended up spending about 11 years away from full-time work and raising a family.

When she finally decided to go back to work fulltime, she landed a job in Bain Capital’s high-yield debt management group. However, it wasn’t a great fit. Not because she wanted to get back to her family, but because her career interests had changed. She used to love financial analysis and modeling. Now she wanted to work more with people. According to Cohen, “I skipped one of the most important steps in my career re-entry.” That step was doing a thorough career assessment before she headed back to work full-time.

Cohen and a partner subsequently started iRelaunch, a company that runs events and virtual coaching sessions for people who are re-entering the workforce after a long break.

Among the tips Cohen suggests in the Forbes article: first, figure out your appetite for work now. How much and how hard do you want to work? What sort of support do you have for this workload from your spouse? Your family?

Assess your job skills and desires. That’s the step Cohen forgot when she jumped back to work at Bain. The longer you’re away from your previous job, the more likely your interests have changed. This is the time to really look closely at what you want to be doing. For those people who weren’t terribly happy in their old jobs, this step could be a real gift.

And the fact that you’ve been away from the workforce for a long time doesn’t have to be a negative, either. It can also crank up your enthusiasm for how hard you’ll work and how eager you are to succeed, something that could be used to separate yourself from other candidates.

Have you or someone you know been away from the workforce for an extended period of time? What factors helped you (or them) get back on track? Add your comments below.

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