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Women who left careers during the COVID-19 pandemic face challenges going back

The CEO of a Seattle company helping women get back to their careers said not to blindly submit resumes online and instead use personal and professional connections.

SEATTLE — Millions of women put work on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now they are struggling to get back into the workforce.

Nancy McSharry Jensen is the CEO of "Swing Shift," a Seattle company helping women get back into their careers. She said women face unspoken biases, especially if they are stay-at-home mothers or if they took an extended absence from work.

According to Jensen, most hiring managers will not report they used a coronavirus-related break against a job candidate, but women who have taken breaks still struggle to get back into the workforce. She said over 5 million women stepped back from work because of the pandemic.

"That's a huge amount of people. They are all looking to go back," said Jensen. "There are some unspoken perceptions within hiring and recruiting communities about how suitable a stay-at-home parent might be."

A 2018 Harvard Business Review study found that women who tried to transition from being a stay-at-home mother were only half as likely to get a job than people who had been laid off.

Jensen said the worst thing these women can do is blindly submit resumes online since many hiring managers use technology that sometimes weeds out candidates who have taken breaks from work.

Instead, Jensen suggested women use their personal and professional connections to find work.

"Even those very simple but very impactful conversations are going to go a long way," explained Jensen.

Half of American women and 14% of American men take breaks from their careers, according to Jensen.

"You're not alone,” said Jensen. "You can do it, you need a plan, you need your tool kit, and you need a great pitch, and you want to make sure you let your professional and personal connections know.”