Overcoming Stereotypes to Attract Great Talent

By Allison O'Kelly

Jun. 6, 2014

Career re-entry challenges are not just a working mother issue. Professional men and women who have been laid off, military spouses, veterans, returning retirees and stay-at-home dads wanting to make a comeback professionally are all in a similar boat — they are attempting to stay current and stand out in the talent pool after time out of the workforce. They are also facing similar professional biases and challenges that are typically unwarranted and baseless.

As an example, military spouses are also subject to prejudice when looking for a job because they aren’t likely to stay past three years, and employers know that. However, in today’s market, higher employee turnover rates across the board almost negate this point entirely. Many even find that when they are transferred after a few years, they are one of the longer-tenured staffers. Military spouses have gained valuable life experience and perspectives that benefit them in important and useful ways for a professional environment, such as being flexible, independent and an adaptable team player.

Here’s another one — stay-at-home dads returning to work. Realistically, women who have exited their jobs to focus on raising a family have become more accepted by many employers. Not to say it is easy to re-enter the market, but the stigmas are fewer for women regarding why they were out of the workforce in the first place. Richard McMunn, who founded the career website, posits that employers are still finding the concept of an at-home dad to be something of a novelty, and they may look at a father’s resume with “bemusement or even suspicion.”

Overcoming stereotypes and assumptions is something job candidates with a resume gap face no matter their situation. But these potential employees can be more hungry and eager, often going above and beyond to prove themselves professionally, to ramp back up and to learn on the job quickly.

Frankly, the way companies operate today has changed to support this movement of on-the-job learning as industries shift so quickly to stay innovative. By revamping jobs and adjusting outdated work models, we succeed in not only attracting, but also retaining, top talent through their various life needs and stages.

Phase-back programs, alternative work options, skills training and mentor relationships are applicable to anyone returning to work. But by broadening the conversation and our idea of the “typical employee,” companies can work through a new set of best practices for attracting and catering to re-entering professionals.

Bravo to the organizations implementing creative ways to attract top talent, especially from this largely untapped and highly skilled talent pool. What is your company doing to attract those professionals who might otherwise be overlooked?

This blog originally appeared in Workforce's sister publication, Talent Management.

Allison O'Kelly is founder and CEO of Mom Corps, a national talent acquisition and career development firm with a focus on flexibility. Comment below or email Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.

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