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Return To Work: Making The Impossible Possible

Carmen Nuzzo was told it was “nearly impossible” to get a job in the financial sector after seven years at home with the kids. Then she found Morgan Stanley’s Return To Work program.

Carmen Nuzzo, like most working mothers, had heard the stories about professional women taking a break from their jobs to be with their children, only to spend years in some cases struggling to get back into a full-time job at a level matching their skills.

For Nuzzo, risking a rough road back into the workforce was preferable to having to juggle her full-time job as a senior economist constantly on the road with being a nurturing mother of three.

“I could either do one or the other really well, but it was often difficult to maintain the standards I had set myself for both,” she says, by way of explaining why she left a full-time job at a global bank in London in 2007 to raise her kids, who were between five and 10 years old at the time.

High Level of Resistance

Once her youngest was in secondary school Nuzzo decided she wanted to resume her 15-year career as an economist.

She knew it would be tough to pick up where she left off, but she was still surprised by the level of resistance she faced. “I was told by a head hunter that I should just reach out to my former colleagues and people I knew, because with a seven-year gap, there was no way she could push my resumé forward,” says Nuzzo. “It was brutal news, but she was right.”

Eventually, Nuzzo found herself at a one-day seminar held by Morgan Stanley to help job-seekers hone their resumes and interview skills. There, she heard about the firm’s Return to Work program, which was debuting in London for 2014. She pounced on the opportunity and was chosen as one of the paid interns in the 12-week program for professionals who’d been out of the workforce for more than two years.

“To be honest, if it had not been for the Return to Work Program, it would have been nearly impossible for me to get back to doing what I was doing before I left,” Nuzzo says.

A Problem for Everyone

She’s not alone. Nearly 90% of women who left work between 2004 and 2009 wanted to return after two and a half years, according to a 2010 Harvard Business Review study. Only 40% of them ended up finding jobs that matched their skills and experience.

This year’s London class of Return-to-Work interns start in September, just as applications open for the program in New York. Their success has prompted inaugural programs for men and women in Mumbai and Hong Kong, applications for which will also open in September. The program aims to place interns in positions that suit their skills, at levels of seniority that are often similar to where they left off.

“It was a little surreal at the beginning,” says Nuzzo, of her first days: “It was as if I had never left the job in the first place. I was placed in the macroeconomic research division at a similar level that I had had at another bank seven years before, and was immediately given a project to work on.”

Tapping a Pool of Talent

Initially, Nuzzo feared that she might get some attitude from people who might not understand her original decision to leave work for personal reasons. She found that the opposite was true. “All of my colleagues, and management in particular, were extremely collegial and supportive.”

Her first project was to study the impact rising sugar consumption on the global economy, a report that the media picked up and covered extensively earlier this year. It even led to Nuzzo telling her story on the BBC of how she went from macroeconomist to stay-at-home mother, and back to senior economist.

When the program ended, Morgan Stanley offered Nuzzo a full-time position as a senior economist, starting this year. She’s now looking forward to meeting the new batch of Return to Work interns in London.

Read more about Morgan Stanley's Return to Work program

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