Maybe it was the moment your youngest child went off to kindergarten. Or the time you pulled your briefcase out of its storage space to polish it up a little… and didn’t want to put it back. You’ve been known as “Mom” for a while now, but something inside you is nudging you back on to that track where you began your adult life, in whatever profession you were pursuing in your pre-baby years. If you’re thinking seriously about how to return to the workforce, or even forging ahead on a new one, there are a few things to keep in mind.
For moms returning to the workforce after staying at home for several years, Forbes.com recommends an important first step: “Figure out what you want to do professionally.” Maybe you want to go back to the same type of job you were in, or perhaps you’ve discovered an interest in another field. Ask yourself what you want to do, how you will do it, what your motivations are for returning, and so forth. It will be a big change all around — start with building confidence and knowledge. Employers want to know if you have the personality and skills to get back into the workplace.
Once you know what job you’re looking for, it’s time to get proactive. Consider enlisting a professional to help clean up your résumé and put together a good cover letter. Send out the updated résumés, but you shouldn’t stop there, according to Forbes.com. You’ve made connections over the years of PTA and soccer games — use them. Tell friends and acquaintances what you’re looking for, and set up lunches or coffee dates with anyone who might be able to help you. You never know who is going to be the connection you need.
When you get an interview, make sure your knowledge is up to date for that industry — technology, protocols, lingo — and the company. Be confident about what you bring to the table, which can be tricky. As a stay-at-home-mom, you’ve worked your tail off as taxi, doctor, social calendar organizer, PTA volunteer, room mother, housekeeper, accountant, wife, and more. But how do you convince a potential employer that you have been working to develop yourself professionally, especially if it has been several years since your last job outside of the home? You’ve got to be the translator. Modernmom.com states that, “Mastering the skills you need to run a family can make you a shoe-in for administrative, customer service and many other positions. During interviews, don’t make excuses for your time at home. Be up front that you chose to stay home to raise kids and that you don’t regret that choice.”
Monster.com recommends these tips for moms getting back into interviewing:
- Use a firm and confident handshake
(not limp, but not aggressive).
- Do not sit before the interviewer sits down.
- Do not slouch in your chair.
- Do not put your hands in your pockets or fold your arms in front of you.
- Do not look at the clock, your watch or cell phone.
- Lean slightly forward to look interested in the conversation.
- Speak clearly and confidently.
Most likely, technology is one of the biggest changes you will see. The convenience of devices has taken out a lot of the necessary face-to-face time. Even if the person you want to get in touch with is not far away, it has become customary to message rather than deliver information in person. Put in some time researching on the Internet about what has changed to get the latest info, and set up a profile on a site like LinkedIn for potential employers. If you need to improve or add skills, look to volunteer work, says Forbes.com. It is an invaluable resource for moms who need to stay in touch with the business world on their own schedule.
Pre-kids, you may have been an up-and-coming in an industry that is simply not family friendly. And you will not be able to go in and start where you left off. You will most likely be starting out lower than you expected, mentions todaysparent.com, so the big question is whether or not you are willing to sacrifice family events to get ahead in your career.
There is no judgement here — this is about what changes you and your family can live with.
And speaking of personal choices, it’s time to take an honest look at your wardrobe. Recruit a friend (preferably one with professional dress knowledge) to help you clean up your wardrobe and shop for new work duds. The things you wear for school functions and to various practices are probably too casual for the office. Don’t forget footwear, either. Seasonally appropriate, comfortable, and attractive shoes will put a bounce in your step for sure!
Lastly, help yourself and your family by assigning some of your chores and responsibilities to other household members. Implement these changes before you ever get a job — both you and your family will have to get accustomed to the new way of doing things. If you are going to be working outside of the home, someone else needs to step up to the plate to help around the house and make sure the bills are paid. If you’re not already using it, consider enrolling in your bank’s online bill pay option — it will make paying your bills happen faster and cut down on errands.
No matter how you prepare yourself, you and your family will go through a culture shock with you returning to work. And you will have to face some hard truths, one of the biggest being that “Your new employer won’t care that you were a stay-at-home parent,” says todaysparent.com. It is not always in the best interest of a business to cater to the needs of a family, so try to find a job that will work with your scheduling needs. But that said, going back to work can be one of the most rewarding decisions a woman can make. Good luck!