It is not uncommon for professional women to give up employment for a period of time to raise children. Most recently, a number of stay-at-home moms are returning to the workforce as a result of the current economic downturn. Termed “economommies,” these women find themselves partially supporting to their families as earnings from only one parent has become increasingly inadequate.
Re-entering the workforce, whether by choice or as a result of family need, can be terrifying. What has happened in my industry since I left? Do I still have what it takes to be successful? How will I explain my professional absence? How will I juggle home and work responsibilities? These are all very real, valid questions that can race through the mind. Typically, anxiety lies in the job seeker having a crisis of confidence. Before you begin your transition back into the workforce, ask yourself “Where does my uncertainty lie?”
Crisis of confidence comes in many forms. Some of the most frequent are technology shortcomings; knowledge of industry trends; unpolished qualifications; scheduling conflicts; employment gaps; and attitude. Let’s address each of these separately.
Problem: Technology shortcomings… Solution: Re-educate yourself. Once you are aware of your obvious gaps, figure out how you’ll fill them. Massachusetts has a strong workforce development program, providing skills-based training for those who qualify. Other resources include programs at community colleges and free or inexpensive courses offered at local libraries or through community education programs.
Problem: Knowledge of industry trends… Solution: Put your research cap on. If searching for employment in your previous industry is your goal, now is the time to brush up on the trends, leading employers, and key players in the field. Some helpful ways to achieve this are as follows: 1) Join the professional organization associated with your industry. Professional organizations allow you to take advantage of training opportunities, network with others in your field, and gain access to job boards. 2) Become a member of a women’s group. Boston Women’s Network is just one example of many groups offering support for stay-at-home moms re-entering the workforce. Finding and joining a women’s group can be as simple as doing an interest search on meetup.com. 3) Do some research on your companies of interest. This will help you to talk the talk knowledgeably, and learn more about a potential future employer.
Problem: Qualifications…Solution: Translate. You haven’t had the opportunity to build your resume because you’ve been out of work for several years, and you’re worried because employers want qualified individuals. The key here is to translate your stay-at-home qualifications into language employers will understand. Here are some examples: Did you manage a household budget? This translates to fiscal responsibility, financial planning and reconciliation. Did you raise your children? Interpersonal skills, multi-tasking, problem solving, decision-making, and supervision are just a few of the transferable skills you’ve perfected being a mom. Did you coach your child’s team or volunteer? Think about the scheduling, organizing, transportation, event planning, and fundraising. These skills convert to leadership in the workplace.
Problem: Scheduling conflicts…Solution: Flex. Many moms returning to the workforce will be required to juggle multiple responsibilities. Some are not ready to abandon the various roles they play in their lives: mom, wife, friend, volunteer. Fortunately, many non-traditional careers provide flexible work schedules – an alternative to the traditional 9-5. Some of the companies most sympathetic to stay-at-home moms re-entering the workforce can be found on the 100 Best Companies for Working Moms. These companies offer many perks, including job sharing, flex schedules, and on-site daycare.
Problem: Employment gaps…Solution: Turn time out into time well spent. Being out of the workforce for a period of time will require you to be ready to articulate what you’ve been doing and why it’s relevant to what you want to do next. Verbalizing your transferrable skills in a way that shows you are ready, willing, and qualified to handle anything that comes your way will reassure employers. Figure out how to showcase your skills and successes through meaningful and relatable anecdotes. For instance, if you’ve coordinated a community event, explain that enormous undertaking and your role in managing it. Great experience doesn’t have to come from the office.
Problem: Attitude…Solution: Attitude. An enthusiastic, can-do attitude is the most important thing you can bring to an employer, and the most important thing you can give to yourself. Keeping a positive attitude will give you the energy needed to make this important transition. Employers will recognize your eager, infectious vibe as something their company cannot operate without.
And finally, for support and advice, seek the assistance of a qualified career coach. Working with a coach can help clarify your professional goals, and offer you the best possible assistance in your transition back into the workforce.