Of the 37 percent of college-educated women who quit their jobs, many to raise children, 93 percent are ready to go back to work within about two years, according to data published in the Harvard Business Review. But by most accounts, trying to re-enter is highly stressful—from facing down the "What have you done lately?" question to shaking off the kind of insecurity that comes with years of speaking mainly toddlerese. And most women who find new jobs, research shows, end up taking a marked pay cut.

To the rescue, fortunately, is a whole new slew of crash courses specifically designed for reentering women. O checked out a few of them to wrangle some tricks of the trade.

1. Make a Life Map
Plan logistics like who your babysitter will be or what you'll do about dinner well before you start looking for a job. "A sense of preparedness will, however subtly, translate to confidence," says Monica McGrath, PhD, adjunct professor of management at Wharton and director of its Career Comeback course. "You might have to field those questions, and it helps to have honest answers at your fingertips."

2. Get Up to Speed
"Most people—and companies—overestimate the extent to which industries have changed," says Timothy Butler, PhD, head of Harvard Business School's just-launched New Path program. Read The Wall Street Journal, take a continuing education course—finance, computer skills, spreadsheets—and follow the trade publications. "It doesn't take much to keep up-to-date," Butler says, "and that action proves to management that you're serious."

3. Find Support
"The most meaningful results we saw in our program were the connections made among like-minded women," says Constance Helfat, PhD, codirector of Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business Back in Business 11-day executive course. Airing concerns to people who share your goals can reduce anxiety. "I watched a highly experienced woman say she felt incapable, and the expression on the others' faces completely changed her attitude," says McGrath. "She did a 180." You can start your own industry-driven women's discussion club or join a board or blogging community. Also check out the Forté Foundation, a nonprofit resource for working women (fortefoundation.org), for options.

5 more steps to finding your next career


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