Returning to work after being a stay-at-home parent can be daunting. When most of your time has been devoted to the needs of your children, it’s easy to lose track of your professional self.
If you follow these six simple steps, you’ll have an easier time re-entering the workforce, and you’ll also have a successful career database set up and ready to use when you change jobs again.
Keep your professional skills current
Maintain professional licenses and involve yourself in community activities that will keep your workplace skills from rusting. Community involvement keeps your transferable skills current and provides achievements for your resume, plus the community involvement can lessen the apparent gaps in your work history. For example:
2010 – Present: La Salle Children’s Center
Managed staff of sixteen engaged in annual fundraising programs for local foster care agency, raising up to $15,000 in individual contributions and $23,000 in corporate sponsorships.
Join professional associations
You need to build skills, confidence and workplace contacts, so stay connect to your profession with membership in an association for with your professional pursuits. Ideally you want to join an association with plenty of members carrying titles one, two and three levels above the job you will be targeting. Why? Because the holders of these titles are the people who will have suitable job openings and the authority to hire you.
You’ll benefit from monthly meetings where you’ll be able to network with local professionals in your field. Membership also gives you access to the member database, which you’ll find useful for networking.
Use social media to build relevant social networks.
LinkedIn has become the meeting place for professionals, so your social media profile will become the face you offer to the professional the world. It will define who and what you are seen to be. Through social media sites like LinkedIn you can make useful contacts at all levels by joining the special interest groups relevant to your profession and becoming a visible part of those groups by asking sensible questions that brand you as a serious professional, and by contributing to the conversations. Here’s how you do it:
Read group discussion posts, then add “likes” and comments. You can ask questions and make comments like this: “I’m a property and casualty adjuster in the Cleavland Ohio area, and this was a really helpful.” You flatter the person making the post, get noticed by everyone following the discussion (including corporate recruiters); you have announced your credentials, and stated the kind of work you are seeking, and all without looking needy. It’s a no-brainer to ask for a connection with everyone who gets involved with the discussion.
You especially want to make comments on the posts made by those who hold job titles directly above your target job title. You can then reach out to all these people to become contacts, this way you build a professionally relevant network and potential mentors at the same time.
This isn’t the last time you’ll be on a job search. So set up this search in a way that will make the next one that much easier, you may change that first “ stepping stone” job back in the professional world sooner rather than later.
Set up a career e-mail address that uses a term that describes the professional you (firstname.lastname@example.org). Then create a career management database around this new online identity:
Even if you’re not planning on going back for months, identify all the potential employers in your target geography.
Collect relevant job postings from these companies, you’ll learn what they look for and value in employees.
Even if that specific job is not open, you’ll know what they look for when they do hire and consequently what needs to be in your resume.
With knowledge of the company, the titles that typically hire someone like you, network with professional association and LinkedIn connections to reach the right people at the companies in your target geography.
Save them in folders and store them in the career management database you create, this will help you build a job map of employers in your target market. Older postings are still relevant when you recognize that an employer who hired an accountant last year will hire another one this year, and probably next year too.
You’ll build a career management database that captures a comprehensive listing of all employers in your target geography that can be used in this job search and future ones.
Translate family and community achievements to the professional world
Take your family and community experiences and package them in terms relevant to the workplace. If you can identify problem-solving experiences with, for example, motivation, people management, multi-tasking or budgeting, you can use them as illustrations during an interview. Perhaps saying to an interviewer, “Let me give you an example of a time when I organized the fund raiser for the local March of Dimes walk-a-thon …” It doesn’t matter that an experience is unpaid; you are showing professional behaviors at work.
Address the employer’s concerns
Undoubtedly, the childcare issue will come up in the interviewer’s mind, however it is illegal for them to ask about it. When you address the issue head on yourself, you allay the fear that is the biggest obstacle between you and a job offer.
When the interviewer asks, “Do you have any questions?” seize the opportunity to say something like, “If I were sitting in your shoes, I’d worry about the childcare issue.” Let them know that primary, secondary, and if need be, a third backup for childcare has been arranged. Let them know you’ve done this because you are serious about your professional career. Allay the big worry and take an even bigger step closer to the job offer.
Check out temp agencies as an initial way to transition back in to the workforce. Temp jobs are easier to land, they offer valuable current experience, can be more time flexible and can lead to full time positions. Part-time jobs offer the same benefits, as do job sharing (common in health care), and telecommuting opportunities that let you work at home are also worth checking out.
Invest in modern job search and career management tools
Don’t just dust off your old resume and expect it to work, because the word of job search changed dramatically while you were driving your kids to soccer practice. Consider investing in a professionally written resume and some professional coaching to guide the trajectory of your career transition.