By: Dr. Tanvi Maharaja, PT DPT
Recently I came across a post in social media narrating an incident involving a woman who returned to work after a one year gap and was turned down for an interview by HR, citing the gap and questioning her ability (or deterioration thereof) because of said gap.
Now stuff like this really riles me up. I know so many bright, sharp minds who have to take a break from work due to pregnancy, child care, or even caring for elderly parents, not to mention personal issues, relationship issues, or health issues. I find it outrageous that these individuals are denied a chance to show their mettle one more time. And unfortunately, when it comes to child care, it is usually the women who choose to or have to take time off from work to fulfill these duties.
We as a society, owe so much to our womenfolk. To our moms and grandmothers, aunts, sisters, daycare/childcare providers, teachers and doctors, and all the wonderful women who show up when life does its thing. And then, without a pinch of guilt, we let them down: instantaneously, and with tremendous dismissal. Where would you or I be if some of these female figures did not take a day or days off to comfort us when we were sick or hurt or just depressed? Where would we be without all their sacrifices? And yet, we credit them not for their sacrifices, but question them for it.
As someone who herself took time off to be present for my son and chose to not work for a good five years until my son was settled in school, this hurt. Just because I did not work for a while, it does not disqualify me from even interviewing for a position. I have to start somewhere. And let me tell you, when we have been away from the work that sparks our passion, we return to it with a tenfold force, crushing it all the way.
Besides, just because someone is away from work does not mean that their growth trajectory comes to a standstill. We keep growing as individuals, learn through various life experiences, enhance our personal growth through the very life crisis and struggles that may have caused us to step away from work. All these experiences enhance us as individuals, provide an enriching kaleidoscope through which we view life. And we bring all of this to the table when we rejoin the workforce. Because what are we if not the sum total of our life’s experiences, travelers on this marvelous journey we have made to the present moment, including all its glorious milestones and erroneous wrong turns? All these lessons learnt during this journey provide perspective, enhance soft skills (for what better way to inculcate empathy than to experience life’s struggles first hand?), and encourage out-of-the-box thinking. This person returning to the workforce is an asset, they have on their resume a lot more than the hole that is being made the epicenter of their lives!
This woman who was turned down: Imagine the fire that burnt bright and hot, to prove her worth again, imagine the hopes and dreams she cherished wanting to return to the industry, wanting to be a productive member of society. Most of us who are in this position work really hard to master old skills and to familiarize ourselves with current literature, research, and protocols. We know what we missed. We know there was a gap. And we are determined to fix it. And that determination is unlike any other, because we have experienced first hand what it feels like to not have the job or the position that we worked so hard to aspire to. This woman could have been the show stopper. She could have been who turned the company around. She comes in fresh and inspired, she comes in with original ideas, possibly some that she has been thinking over while in hiatus. She comes in ready to prove herself! The least we can do is give her a chance. Give her that interview!
To all my fellow moms out there: If you are in a position of power, give that woman a chance. She showed up, with courage and bravado, knowing she was likely to experience humiliation in some form. She still showed up. Imagine what she is capable of! Give her that interview!
And to all my fellow moms who have decided to return and are facing obstacles: Do not let organizations tell you what you are capable of based on the gaps in your resume. Do not let them judge the worth of your passion based on situations where you had to prioritize the health of your child over your job. Do not let them diminish you or your abilities. You deserve better than that. That hole in your resume is not a sign of lack. It is a sign of abundance. You chose to let go of things to be there for someone, to put you or your loved ones before everything else. That hole in your resume shows that you are so much more than just an application. That hole in your resume will pave the way to a future bright with hope and grit and passion. That magnificent swashbuckling gutsy hole in your resume! Be freaking proud of it! I am!