Time Out

Debra Sandler left her company to raise her child. Like many female professionals, she discovered that returning to the job market is hard work.

as] how important it is to make things that are great so that your customers choose you again and again. I shared my philosophy of how we should continually stretch ourselves to make ourselves better in a very competitive world,” she explains.

Her style has even turned a number of business management gurus into fans. Maintains Ram Charan, author of Know-How: The 8 Skills That Separate People Who Perform From Those Who Don’t (Crown Business; $27.50) and an adviser to many leading CEOs: “Adriane is a high-energy leader. I’ve observed her in action for more than a decade. She develops bold goals that are grounded, that have stretch in them. Accomplishing those goals increases the capability of people working with her, which in turn multiplies her capability. She’s a people person. For her, it’s people before strategy. She excels in developing her people.”

How to Leave [And Re-Enter] Corporate America
“You have to plan your exit and re-entry,” says executive Debra Sandler. “Then you can enjoy that space in between.” Sandler learned that any number of circumstances can force a woman to re-evaluate her professional standing, a move that may result in her leaving a job. But the manner in which the departure is handled will affect future opportunities. “What [often] happens is [employees] simply quit and then it’s kind of like you shut the door behind you,” says Monica McGrath of the Wharton School of Business, “and then it’s harder to start over again.” She stresses that planning an exit/return strategy should be part of your career discussion.

BEFORE YOU LEAVE
Talk with your employer. PepsiCo. was supportive of Sandler’s departure. “They did [try] to find other positions for me but as I balanced family priorities and locations and opportunities, we just couldn’t find something that was good for both of us,” she says. Candid conversations with your employer are crucial before finalizing hard decisions. McGrath recalls a female executive who negotiated a contract that allowed her to work on projects for nine consecutive years, enabling her to raise four children. “By the time she was ready to come back, her employer offered her a full-time position and later sent her to graduate school.”

Develop a financial plan. “I took a look at my resources and said, ‘OK, how long can I stay without working? When would it be a good time to get back to work?’” Sandler recalls. Although she stayed out for 18 months, the exec was financially prepared for two years of unemployment.

DURING YOUR LEAVE
Stay current. Sandler maintains that staying abreast of industry trends is a must. “It was amazing, even in the short period that I was out, how quickly things can change,” she says. Being out of a position does not mean you have to be out of the loop. McGrath suggests attending conferences and seeking training and education as well as keeping in touch with managers and colleagues. Says McGrath, “[Now] you are also building skills for when you’re ready to come back.”

Keep in touch. Let industry contacts,

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