Meet Returnize member Preeti Ponnuswamy. Through this Q&A Preeti tells her story of her journey back to work.
Interviewed by Nandita Bose
What was your career like before the break?
I began my career in India as a journalist, then moved into HR in the IT sector and eventually established a career in Learning and Development. After I got married, I moved to the United States to be with my husband. When I started the job search process here, it was like starting from scratch. However, I was able to continue my career and worked for Facebook on contract for a year before I took a break in 2015 for my family.
Describe your current job.
Currently, I work in the area of change management related to talent development and enterprise learning, within HR.
How did you begin the return to work process?
I started by retooling myself, looking at the industry, especially the learning and development area. I really had to start from the basics. I reactivated LinkedIn and began attending networking and returnship events, like the Walmart and Visa events. I took courses on Coursera just to get an idea of what the industry is about. I joined a Toastmasters club to help in public speaking.
What challenges did you face in finding a job at the time of returning to work?
It was disheartening initially as many consultants would openly tell me that the gap was too long. I was unsure of what I needed to do to get a break.
What challenges did you face after returning to work?
After getting a job, I found the first couple of months challenging because I had to work on changing my routine, learn new technology, and sharpen my skills. Even getting used to video conferencing!
What attracted you to Returnize?
At this stage, I got introduced to Returnize’s cohort. Initially, I was unsure how Returnize could help me but decided to try it out. I attended the introductory session and decided to give it a try; looking at other people who were on a similar journey back to work gave me added motivation.
What did the Returnize cohort do for you?
When I was in the cohort I realized that there were people with a lot more gap. The cohort also gives validation to the belief that you have the capability. Just to keep the hope going is important. Swati was an objective voice in the whole search process. In the cohort, we discussed each other’s challenges and gave feedback to each other.
What was it like working with Swati?
I benefited from Swati’s coaching- facing interviews and how to handle questions about the break. For me, the biggest benefit was having a structure. Swati helped me analyze the job postings and reviewed my resume. She helped me articulate my resume better and analyze the jobs I was interested in.
Would you recommend others to join Returnize? Why?
I would certainly recommend it. It doesn't land you a job directly, but Returnize helps you figure out what you want. The job search in a different country can be a bit lonely because we don't have a professional network.
What advice would you give to other professionals returning to work?
I would say just have confidence in your skills and abilities. Granted it would take some time. Returning to work after a break is not an overnight process. It takes a few months. We have to be confident.