Challenges of returning to a career in STEM

If you spend half an hour researching the things that have changed in science, engineering and technology over the last decade, you will be amazed at the difference in the way we live and work. Less than 10 years ago, Cloud was something that hung in the sky, the cost of sequencing the Human Genome was estimated to be more than $10M (we are now near the goal of $1,000) and the Higgs Boson was only a certainty to Peter Higgs!

This lightening-speed progress is enough to make us all uneasy about being able to keep up, but for women who have taken five or 10 years out of the workplace to have a family it raises real fears about re-entry into a very changed world of work.

Yet, the old adage that ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’ is very pertinent in this instance. Many of the skills you acquired before you took a career break are still pertinent today.

For example; one of the things you may have done before you left permanent work was spend time on conference calls. You would have learned that a delay was required to allow others to speak when visual clues were not available and you would have been comfortable with many voices on a call. However, you had taken big steps to understand the new ways of communication and collaboration. The world of work has tripped forward whilst you have been out of the office, and now you may find that you have additional tools for collaboration. Whilst on a conference call, you might find that you can collaborate and share a document with others, or you might be sharing files on a CRM system in order to track your customers. The key point is – the skills you had are still the same. You always knew how to share work on a document or record. You will just be doing it at the same time as talking on the phone and may be able to see another’s updates. You might even be instant messaging alongside being on the phone. A skill you have enhanced whilst you have been away from the workplace, but one that is really relevant today.

Infrastructure

Equally, prior to your career break, you may have been the one who understood the infrastructure which underpinned the applications supporting your company’s business. As you return, you might find that the infrastructure is no longer a feature of the type of companies you used to work for, but that it has been moved to a managed services provider or cloud provider. Your skill is still relevant, but the place of work has changed. For the IT people amongst you, you may remember that when a new release of software came out, you were always disappointed that the major changes you were looking for weren’t there, and that the changes in a release were minimal. In most cases, when you return, you will find that getting up to speed on the small application changes that have taken place in your absence will take no time at all.

If your role was in engineering, perhaps working with pipelines, you might be concerned that ‘smart buildings’ are now the thing which have captured everyone’s imagination, and that you will not be able to compete when you look for roles. But the old adage is right – ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’ and a recent ASME report suggests that whilst working on pipelines might not be the most ‘cutting edge’ of roles, it is one that they believe to be ‘enduring’, and that means that your skills will still be in demand.

So, whilst you might think that your skills have become outdated, you would be really surprised that there is a lot you have to offer and that nothing has really changed. The STEM professions are really great at creating a mythology around change that helps to dent our confidence.

If you want to understand how to re-enter the working world with the confidence to grasp the best career opportunities, and to better understand what transportable skills you have to offer, the team at Tectre have a one-day course which can help.

You be guided through taking personal stock of your skills, understanding your own motivators and you will get help to apply them to your job or career search. We offer an enduring support group to help you get there, and most importantly, we can help you to silence your own inner critic; the one which is telling you that restarting your career can’t work for you!!

Courses are outlined and booked here.

*Gillian Arnold is Managing Director of Tectre and Chair of BCSWomen.





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