With more moms working than ever before and more moms returning to work earlier than before we thought we would talk with an expert about that best ways to make the transition back to the grindstone (hey! that’s the name of this site.) But in all seriousness, whether you talk six weeks off or six years off, it can be a difficult transition. That is why we went to an expert to get the best tips for moms returning to the workforce.
Sara Sutton Fell is a mother of two and the CEO and Founder of FlexJobs, a career website for telecommuting, flexible, freelance, and part-time jobs. A passionate advocate for work-life balance and working mothers, Sara was named a 2011 Game Changer by Workforce Magazine. She lives and works in Boulder, Colorado with her husband and two sons. She told The Grindstone:
“In my career, I’ve held executive-level positions for several companies, as well as started two businesses, and when I became a mother, being able to continue my professional passions was incredibly important to me. But even for someone who is passionate about my profession, returning to work after having a child was a difficult process. Moms who decide to return to work, whether by choice or necessity, after having children face a lot of obstacles, but luckily, it’s within your power to remove most of them.”
Here are her best tips for women returning to the workforce.
1) Take stock of your decision. Be honest about why you’re returning to work and what you want to get from your return. Money? Stimulation? Career accomplishments? Your motivations will guide your job search, so it’s incredibly important to know them ahead of time. Along the same lines, think about the types of job arrangements (telecommuting, part-time jobs, full-time jobs) that would be ideal for you given your dual role as parent and professional.
2) Consider the gap. Depending on how long you’ve been away, there may be a substantial gap in your resume that needs some filling. Look for ways to gain experience in short-term increments like internships, temporary work, and freelancing, which offer the chance for you to dust off your professional self and get her back into workforce-ready shape. Another great way – volunteer or get a part-time job in the industry you’re interested in ASAP! You will gain real-life insight into your career path and see where the best growth opportunities are, and this experience will help you demonstrate your commitment to your career on your resume.
3) Slash your resume. It may sound harsh, but the resume you used x-number of years ago is most likely outdated and out of place for the current workforce. Take time to rework your resume. Start of with a Summary of Qualifications – your top skills and experiences, the essence of who you are as a professional. Then, pare down your work history to only the most relevant experiences, adding action verbs and keywords to your descriptions. Quantify your accomplishments. Then, rinse and repeat. If your resume doesn’t sparkle after a 30-second look-over, keep at it because that’s how long the average hiring manager looks at each resume he or she receives.
4) Don’t forget the skills you gained as CHO: Chief House Officer. Job seekers are wise not to overlook their soft skills during the job search. Every employer looks for the baseline “hard qualifications” to move candidates to the next level of the hiring process, but soft skills are what take a candidate from “maybe” to YES!” If an employer has to choose between a candidate who has all the right qualifications listed on their resume, but not much else, versus a candidate who has the right qualifications AND is a demonstrated problem solver with solid communication skills and a friendly personality, who will the employer choose? Hard qualifications may get you into an interview, but it’s your soft skills that will land you the job offer.
5) Talk to moms who’ve successfully made the return. Talk regularly with other moms who have gone back to work about their experiences and challenges. What worked for them? What would they do differently? Where did they start? There is safety and support in numbers, and speaking to people who have been where you’re about to go will be extremely helpful in plotting your own return to the working world.
6) Take your mother’s advice: Sit up straight, have confidence, and stick to your guns. When you’re answering interview questions with personal experience examples, be confident and direct in your answers. So many moms are nervous and view these answers as “not good enough” but really, it’s the insecure and hesitant attitude that employers pick up on. Use solid language to describe your experience. For example, “For the past five years I have managed a five-person household, including financials and budgeting, schedule management, problem solving, and dispute resolution.” Then, back that up with your previous experience, so that you demonstrate that the skills you’ve been using while raising kids are the same ones you used in previous jobs. Of course, your answers will depend on your individual situation, but the important thing is to think of the common skills needed as a mother/household manager and as a professional in your chosen field. And then, of course, to talk about those skills confidently and with purpose.