3 Ways to Opt-Out... Sort Of

August 9, 2013
Center for Women in Business

Have you opted-out of the workforce? Are you thinking about it? Take our poll and tell us your story!

The latest addition to the "Lean In" debate comes from this week's New York Times Magazine article, The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In written by Judith Warner. The piece tells the story of three women who chose to opt-out of their high-profile and high-earning careers to take care of their families. Now, these women are heading back to work, finding that stay-at-home-motherhood wasn't the panacea they thought it would be. These former full-time moms found that though they don't regret their choices, their decision to opt-out didn't necessarily fulfill them personally, challenge them adequately, or strengthen their marriages the way they thought it would.

Whatever you may think about leaning in, opting-out, or having it all, this article is an interesting look at the consequences these women faced due to their decisions. It's also something of a cautionary tale in how to effectively leave the workforce, but keep your options open in case you want or need to rejoin. Our top three tips for opting-out of the workforce, but keeping your toe in the door?

  • Keep networking; You don't need to attend formal networking events every week, but you should at least try to keep in touch with some of your professional contacts or former coworkers. If you decide to return to work, they'll be able to provide you with references or job opportunities.  
  • Keep up your skills; You may not have the time or resources to go back to school, but that doesn't mean you should let your skills atrophy. Take an online course, stay informed about trends in your industry, or lend your professional skills to a cause you care about.
  • Choose your volunteer work strategically; Just because you aren't being paid doesn't mean it's not a job with leadership and management opportunities. Choose volunteer work that you find stimulating and intellectually challenging.

What do you think about women's (and men's) decisions to opt-out of the workforce to take on more family responsibilities? What tips would you give to someone who wanted to opt-out now, but opt back in later?