Going back to work after you stayed home with the kids for a few years usually requires some adjustments. But in this tough economy returning to work can be particularly challenging. There are, however, several things you can do to facilitate the transition from being a stay-at-home mom to the workforce.
Stay up to date with your sector. If you haven’t opened an industry journal for several years, it might be a good idea to play a little catch-up with the news of your sector before you begin the interview process. Going to an interview with no clue about recent changes within your field will be an automatic red flag for employers looking for competitive candidates who are one step ahead of things. Subscribe to relevant journals and newsletters, check the websites of professional organizations or industry associations and attend some key workshops or conferences.
Stay in touch (or get in touch). Former colleagues and professional contacts can inform you of any new trends in your sector and, more important, help you identify job opportunities. It’s important to reconnect or stay in touch on a regular basis in order to stay top of mind. You never know when a position is going to open up.
Network. Who you know (and who knows you) is crucial for anyone looking for a job, but particularly important for those who have been away from the workplace for awhile. For moms returning to the job market this is the best way to find a position. Try to meet people through former colleagues, your children’s school, church, the local Chamber of Commerce, a MeetUp group of local professional Latinas, or another professional networking organization.
Address resume gaps. One question I always get from moms returning to work is “What do I do with the three-year employment gap?” The truth is that nowadays, employers are more understanding of people taking time off to raise their families. The key is explaining concisely and clearly that you decided to take a few years to raise your family, that you kept abreast of your field and that you are now ready to join the workforce again. Claudia Magallan-Berroud suggests using a functional resume format to highlight skills and draw attention away from the gap in your employment history, and this is certainly a good option. However, it’s good policy to be honest and upfront about the reason for the gap.
Understand what you bring to the table. You may think that you’ve lost your edge or done much related to your career during those child-rearing years, but the truth is that you were the CEO of your home and the skills you developed to keep the household running while raising kids will be very useful at any job. Here’s a list of some great traits to get you thinking: ability to coordinate and juggle schedules, to multitask, to manage a budget, to deal with several needs and interests, and to gain consensus. Make your own list and be sure to weave these traits into your resume.
Dress the part. Depending on how long you’ve been out of the workforce, it might be a good idea to invest in a new interview outfit (or two). Showing up to an interview wearing a dated suit will do nothing to create a good first impression. Enlist the help of a friend whose style and professionalism you respect. If you are on a tight budget, Dress For Success is a great organization that provides free professional clothes for exactly this purpose.
Returning to work after any hiatus can be a little nerve wracking. When you’re accustomed to wiping noses and fixing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, the transition can be interesting to say the least. But it’s important to remember that you are still the professional that you were before you took a break, and now you have a new arsenal of skills that can prove to be very useful in your new position.