Moms Returning to Work Need Detailed Plan

By Toni Vranjes

February 2, 2010 2 Comments

The past few years of your life have been filled with bibs, bottles, diapers and toys. During your time as a stay-at-home mom, your career may have been the last thing on your mind.

Now, however, it’s time for you to go back to work. So how do you restart your professional life?

To boost your prospects and ease the transition, develop a re-entry plan that covers many different areas. Relaunching your career may seem overwhelming, but if you plan carefully, you can be successful.

Figure Out Your Career Options

How can you best use your talents in today’s job market? Conduct a career assessment to find the right direction for you, advises Carol Fishman Cohen, co-founder of iRelaunch, which offers programs to help people return to work.

First, break down all of your job and volunteer experiences into their component parts. Then identify what you enjoyed most and did the best, and determine a career path that will build on your interests and skills, Cohen says.

For instance, maybe you’ve thrived in sales roles that require strong analytical skills. (Some volunteer positions, like fund-raising director for a charity, also count as sales roles). You’re also detail-oriented and a people person. If that describes you, then a career as a financial adviser might be right for you.

This type of analysis can help you determine whether to return to exactly the same career, pursue something slightly different, or branch out in a completely new direction.

Keep Your Skills Sharp

Once you know where you’re heading, you should follow developments in the industry and update your professional skills. Read lots of articles and books focusing on trends in that field. You also may want to attend industry conferences, take classes at a community college, or sign up for online courses.

“When you go on an interview, you can let your prospective employer know you’re up to date,” says Jennifer Bainbridge, who runs the Northern Virginia franchise of staffing company Mom Corps.

One great way to enhance your skills is by enrolling in a certificate program, which allows you to study a particular field – but doesn’t lead to a degree. Instead, you receive a certificate when you complete your studies. A certificate program provides specialized knowledge and training, and it’s typically quicker and less expensive than a formal graduate degree program.

Readjust Your Home Life

Returning to the workforce can have a ripple effect across your entire household. It’s a huge change, and you and your family will need to adjust.

Try to get all your family members on board with your decision, Bainbridge says. Their support will be essential.

If you need to change your childcare arrangements, try to do so before you return to work, Cohen advises. If any problems arise, you can resolve them as soon as possible.

Hire outside help for housework, if necessary. Also, decide whether you need to stop or reschedule certain activities, such as going to the gym, Bainbridge adds.

Boost Your Confidence

After spending a long time away from the workplace, that little voice in your head might be asking, “Why would anyone hire me?”

To overcome those doubts, you need to be comfortable with your life choices and focus on your unique skills. It’s important to adjust your own thinking, so try to view your career break and work experiences in a positive light. Then you can convey that attitude to others.

Nancy Collamer, founder of The Jobs and Moms Career Center, advises you to discuss your career break in positive terms.

“Never apologize for your time at home,” Collamer says. “If you speak about that time with clarity and conviction, everybody else will be comfortable with it.

For instance, during a job interview, you could say that you chose to stay at home and you’re happy that you made that choice, but now you’re eager to get back to work. Then shift the conversation to why you’re interested in the position and how you’re qualified.

And how should you discuss your work history?

Don’t downplay the work experiences you had before your career break, Cohen advises. But also describe the steps you’ve taken to update your professional skills, so you can show others you’ve kept up with the times, she adds.

Cohen offers another insight that can boost your confidence when you network with others. If you reconnect with former colleagues and classmates, they’re likely to remember you as the professional who once worked with them.

“People’s images of you are frozen in time,” she says. “When you start to get back in touch, they remember you as you were.”

If you want to start your own business, you need confidence and perseverance, says Traci Bisson, founder of The Mom Entrepreneur, an online community for self-employed moms. She urges you to follow your passion, believe in yourself — and never give up.

“There are so many opportunities and resources now available to help mom entrepreneurs succeed,” Bisson says.

Prepare Your Resume

Your resume has been gathering dust, and it’s time to spruce it up. But what’s the best way to do that?

There are many different types of resumes. However, there’s no consensus on which style works best for stay-at-home moms.

Some career experts recommend a “chronological resume,” which is organized by work history. Chronological resumes are easy-to-read, although the format draws attention to gaps in employment.

Others suggest using a “functional resume,” which focuses on skills and achievements rather than work history. This format may appeal to moms who have been away from the labor force, because it highlights strengths and de-emphasizes employment gaps. But a functional resume is a red flag for some employers, because they think the job seeker who wrote it has something to hide.

Still other experts advise using a “combination resume,” which includes elements of the other two styles. The job seeker lists skills and achievements first, followed by work history.

Ultimately, it’s your decision. The best advice is to study each approach and decide which one works best for you.

Whichever format you choose, be sure to include relevant volunteer activities on your resume.

Network – Both Online and Offline

To connect with other people, it’s vital to use the latest technology, including social-networking websites.

Through LinkedIn, for example, you can find profiles of your previous employers. When you click on those profiles, you’ll see lists of current and former employees. This information is useful, because former colleagues often are eager to help you jump-start your career, Cohen says.

“LinkedIn is a gift to relaunchers, because one of the biggest issues is finding people you used to work with to reconnect,” she adds.

Joining LinkedIn can aid you in many ways. The contacts you gain can provide career advice, let you know about job opportunities, and introduce you to people in companies you’re targeting. Membership also can attract the attention of recruiters and corporate hiring managers.

Even in this high-tech era, though, old-fashioned handshakes and chats remain important. So join professional groups and alumni networks, and attend industry events. Even a casual conversation at the grocery store or a baseball game might unexpectedly provide you with a job lead.

Although you may not realize it, you already have valuable networking skills.

Moms generally are very resourceful and assertive when trying to help their kids, Collamer notes. Whether it’s a school issue, a medical concern, or something else, they find the best resources and then take action.

“Moms in their personal lives are phenomenal networkers,” she says. “They’re great at getting the information they need.”

So use those same abilities when you’re looking for work.

“Apply those same networking skills you use for your family towards your job search,” Collamer says.

Search for Jobs – or Launch Your Own Business

Whatever career path you’re following, there are many places to turn for assistance.

General job boards like Monster, CareerBuilder or Yahoo HotJobs are useful, but don’t rely exclusively on them. Also visit “aggregator” sites like Indeed, Simply Hired, and LinkedIn, which pull job listings from the Internet job boards. LinkedIn isn’t merely an aggregator; it also lets employers and recruiters post jobs on the site.

You also can learn about job openings and find tips for starting a business through specialized websites that offer support to moms.

Meanwhile, check out job postings on employers’ websites. You might also consider going to job centers and attending career fairs.

If you get a job interview, you may be nervous, but try to take some of the pressure off yourself. Preparation is the key to making a good impression.

Believe it or not, your career break could give you an advantage during an interview. Stay-at-home moms bring a fresh perspective to the workplace, which potential employers will value, Cohen says.

So if you’re eager to get back to work and bursting with new ideas, let your enthusiasm shine. It just might give you the edge you need.

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2 Comments to “Moms Returning to Work Need Detailed Plan”
  1. dorothea cody says:

    Im so happy i found this information.It was helpful, encouraging and very enlightening. Im returning to the workplace after raising my family
    of seven.

  2. Toni Vranjes says:

    Hi Dorothea,

    I’m glad the story was helpful! Good luck to you in this new phase of your life.

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