Monday, December 29, 2008

When Your Name is Kennedy...

If we're all supposed to be adapting to an ever-changing marketplace by re-purposing ourselves to fit each new engagement, why shouldn't those engagements include some time home with the kids or three years in the Peace Corps?

That's the question raised by Anne Glusker in a Washington Post opinion piece about Caroline Kennedy that's more about the way companies view parents than it is about politics.

As the column points out, after law school, Kennedy co-wrote two books on constitutional issues, edited some poetry anthologies and lately has spent three days a week raising funds for New York City Public Schools.

So how would that translate into a saleable resume for someone with a different last name? Glusker suggests:

Rather than a privileged aberration, I prefer to view Kennedy as a bellwether, a case study in how things could be if only the workplace were more accepting of an unconventional CV, one that may brim with great experience and skills and talent but is also peppered with gaps and one-off projects and volunteering. After all, if workers can no longer expect the security of a 50-year career with IBM or Procter & Gamble, then maybe employers should stop expecting each and
every job applicant to present them with an old-fashioned sequential résumé. Maybe now's the time to change our thinking about what constitutes the ideal CV.

Glusker is on to something here. Companies want to be able to hire and shed employees at will, but prefer their hires to have resumes unblemished with long gaps of unemployment -- be it voluntary or involuntary.

In the real world, smart people do take career detours. If you're one of them, and you hope to someday return to work full-time, you've got to do your part to stay connected to your industry. Meanwhile, here's hoping the industry is ready to bend a bit, too, when you're ready to come back.

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