10 Tips for Moms Returning to the Workforce
The At-Work Force vs. The SAHM Workforce
If you have ever been a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) or taken maternity leave, you are familiar with the challenges of leaving the at-workforce and being part of a different kind of workforce, the one that is never-ending, grueling, and the one that comes with no bi-weekly paycheck or Christmas bonuses of any kind-motherhood!
Make no mistake, being a SAHM is the hardest job you will ever have and also the one that you will never get paid a monetary amount for, but there is hope for those of you who have seen your children grow and return to school. For various reasons- economic factors, rising tuition costs, paying down debt, returning to graduate school-many women are taking the plunge and returning to the at-work force. Here is how to make a seamless transition.
Returning to the Workforce-Gaining "Momentum
Once you have determined that you want to return to work and that it is the right time for you and your family, there are ten simple steps you can implement to jump start your "momentum" and get you back to work in no time.
1. Develop a Mantra- Motivation, Education and Preparation
Develop a mantra of some kind that helps you focus in on exactly what it is that you want to do, who you want to be and what you want to achieve. Regardless of how simple or complex your motivational mantra is, write it down and read it often. Writing it down will help keep you on track and will help keep you organized, making it easier to achieve your goals, plans, and a time line for workforce re-entry.
For example, find something or someone to motivate you. Set a goal and work towards it one step at a time. Reward yourself along the way when you hit certain milestones or markers, such as a consulting project or three interviews in one week.
Educate yourself about what your options are and familiarize yourself with those options. For example, if you used to work in human resources and you want to return to that specific field, do research about the field of HR itself and educate yourself about trends, changes in the industry, new programs and software, and about what companies are looking for HR professionals and in what capacity. Another great resource is to look into any associations within your industry or any publications about your industry. This will keep you knowledgeable about what the current developments within the industry are, and make you aware of everything from companies that are hiring, agencies that are expanding, salaries for employees within the industry and more.
Lastly, prepare yourself for your desired field by ensuring that you have all your necessary paperwork and resources in order. Is your résumé up-to-date and does it highlight your specific qualifications for working in that industry? Do you have a current list of references that are ready to be contacted? Is your cover letter outstanding and does it adhere to the current formatting specifications for that industry? Do you need to practice interview techniques? Is your sharpest suit clean and does it fit? If you are missing items, find out what they are and prepare them accordingly so that there are no gaps in your resume or portfolio.
2. Tap the Network
Begin to network and build a list of resources. Talk to everyone you know and look to utilize traditional avenues and relationships in non-traditional ways. For example, let people know that you are actively looking to re-enter the workforce and explain in what capacity. Do you go to a yoga class every Friday where you chat with the girls post-workout? Well do not hesitate to mention your interest in going back to work, someone's company may be hiring or there may be other leads or information that these non-traditional networking events can hold for you.
Become internet savvy. Get your resume on at least one website such as CareerBuilder or emurse.com. Do not overlook the advantages of the social networking sites either. Facebook and LinkedIn are excellent FREE resources. Check local paper listings and websites such as Craigslist religiously. If there are free newsletters that you can sign up for from any of these resources, do not hesitate to provide an email address-they cannot hurt.
Talk to all other mothers that you know and let them know about your desire to go back to work. There is an unspoken code of conduct among mothers that breeds camaraderie and respect. If there is any way that another mother can help you-job lead, resume critique, recruiter referral etc.-she will do it, because someone probably did it for her too long ago. Make every mother you meet your advocate and you will quickly build a network of supporters that champion you and your skills.
3. Host a Networking Event or Work Shower
If you are used to wearing jeans and ponytails, the thought of rejoining the workforce networking circuit scares you like your first day of high school. The mere thought of attending a Chamber of Commerce event or other organized happy hour is basically unthinkable. In order to get your name out there and really make people aware of your commitment to job hunting, consider throwing your own networking event or work shower. Invite a variety of friends, family members and acquaintances (perhaps neighbors or other parents from your daughter's school that you don't know that well) and tell everyone to bring their business cards and a dish to share. This is great way for a lot of people from all walks of life to come together in a casual environment with a similar goal in mind-to network and meet new people.
4. Get Organized
Looking for work is work so treat it as such. Designate certain times to work on finding a job and organize your files, correspondence, job applications and list of potential places of employment. Having everything in order and completed according to a schedule will keep you on task every day until you find a job. Also, it is important to develop a system for seeking employment so that you can follow-up with potential employers in a timely manner.
5. Be Realistic and Learn From Your Experiences
Looking for employment can be a long and taxing process so set realistic goals for yourself, such as, send out at least two resumes per day for jobs that you are qualified for and interested in. Sending your resume to anyone and everyone regardless of your interest in the position will only get your more rejections and make you frustrated.
Learn to accept critique from others and really listen to and reflect upon what they say. If two different employers tell you that you have a great resume, but you just don't have the qualifications that they are specifically looking for, then you need to examine what you are doing, and find out what you are doing wrong or what you could do better. For example, if your work experience is in sales and marketing and your background is in communications and a public relations firm is looking for someone with five years of ad agency experience, do not be dismayed if they say that your qualifications do not match their needs at this point in time.
6. Highlight Your Strengths
After being home with your family for a few years or out of work for whatever reason, you may find that you have gaps in your work history. Do not be alarmed by this, but do not lie about this either. Be sure to include volunteer work and consulting projects or freelance work on your resume, no matter how small. Specify in your cover letter or resume how this work has expanded your skill set and added to your capabilities as an employee. Being in charge of the PTA's annual book fair or other fundraiser shows that you are capable of managing others and delegating work to employees to achieve a certain goal on a designated time line. It also shows your ability to multi-task and balance a budget and coordinate events. When asked about gaps in your resumes during an interview, be open and honest and reply that you chose to take time off to focus more on your family, volunteering etc. People will respect your honesty and know if you are lying.
In addition to the internet there are a wealth of resources available to help guide and support you through the job application process. Be sure to check out local libraries and community colleges for job fairs and resume writing workshops. Utilize as many websites as you can to search for jobs since this will help you cast a wide net-don't just focus on career building websites, because there are many other avenues to explore and many of those sites have similar job postings. Some other places to look are: local papers, on university and school websites, association websites, government websites, social networking sites, and message boards.
8. Never Underestimate Word of Mouth
One of the best ways to become employed is through word of mouth. Friends, family,neighbors, old high school buddies, other soccer moms and even people from your gym can become your advocate if you talk. Talk to people, make friends, build your network and let people know what it is you are looking for and you will gain friends and advocates who offer tips, tricks, advice and other helpful hints of their own. Consider setting up a "buddy system" with another mother who is also on the hunt for a job. Schedule time to give each other feedback and suggestions. Knowing that another person is expecting you to complete certain tasks at certain times makes you become accountable for your actions and that is when you start to gain "momentum."
9. Be Supportive of Others
Part of having a network of support is being supportive yourself. Be present at important events and get involved-in restaurant groups, book clubs, dance classes, PTA, volunteer opportunities, churches or whatever else interests you. If you become a presence and force in other people's lives, they will return the favor.
10. Have No Fear
Whether you follow all of these tips to the letter or just a few of them, or even none of them, the most important thing to remember and do when you are looking for a job is to have no fear. Fear shows and confidence seeps from your pores when you have it. Smile and practice your firm handshake, make eye contact with people so that they know you are really listening to them, and be secure in yourself and remember that if you can be a SAHM, you can do any job there is because you have already conquered the hardest one of all.
Gwen Parkes is a seasoned writer and editor and a subject matter expert (SME) on healthcare and healthcare reform. She spends her days freelancing for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and various publishing houses. Parkes exercises everyday to cleanse her mind and find her inspiration- running and hot yoga are her current devices of choice- and she is an amateur chef and self-proclaimed foodie; she believes that good supermarkets are happy places, a good Pinot Noir goes with everything and coffee should be served hot, with cream and sugar and as frequently as necessary.