Women have always been burdened with the pressure of choosing between family and career. Faced with the daunting balance of juggling professional and personal responsibilities, unrealistic work hours, business travel, and the high cost of childcare, many women have opted to step away from their careers to care for their children. When the time is right to get back in the game it can be a discouraging task. Here are some helpful tips to boost your confidence, strike up a game plan, and get back out there.
Studies have shown that, historically, employers have been biased against job applicants who have temporarily stayed home with their children. There are a myriad of reasons, but many show that employers worry that stay-at-home parents coming back to work would prioritize family over the job.
Rest assured, the numbers prove exactly the opposite. Numerous studies have shown that professionals with children regularly and reliably outperform non-parents. Slowly, companies are beginning to realize how valuable the large talent pool of women returning to the workforce really is.
According to Sheryl Sanberg's Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, studies show that 74% of professional women rejoin the workforce after taking time off to raise their children.
If you are ready to rejoin the 9-5, here are helpful steps to get you back out there.
Own Your Story
There is no shame in leaving a career behind to care for your family. In fact, it has most likely taught you skills that could never have been learned from behind a desk.
Don't shy away or mask your situation. Fully own it and share details of your experience when meeting with potential employers. You must be fully prepared to address gaps in your resume in an authentic and honest way.
Know Your Why
So, you want to go back to work. Why is that?
Being clear on your "why" will help shape the story you tell potential employers. Employers will be worried that you may not be fully ready to return to work. Your story will help calm those fears and get your foot in the door.
While financial concerns may be your top priority, that cannot be the focus you share during an interview. There are other solid reasons to consider while shaping your "why," such as:
- the desire to take on more responsibility
- personal growth
- wanting to interact and help others
- to be able to contribute to society
Consider these items and how much they influence your decision to rejoin the workforce. Additionally, you will need to consider and be clear on other items such as:
- Are you able to travel and on what frequency?
- How far are you willing to commute on a daily basis?
- Would you have a need for flexible hours?
- Do you have a support system for emergencies, such as child sick days or school closures?
Make sure you have all of these answers firmed up before applying for positions. Any indecision or vagueness in your responses will only further worries that you may not be ready to start working again.
Reentering the workforce is a difficult task, with the odds stacked against you. You need to be strategic in your job search. Be clear on your strengths and focus on industries that cater to your skill set.
Consider these helpful suggestions to level up your job search:
- More and more companies are creating "returnships," which are programs specifically designed for parents returning to the workforce. Many companies are now coming to the conclusion that this is a huge untapped resource for talent. Do your research and see if there are any available in your preferred industry and geographic location.
- If you are having trouble zeroing in on where to target your job search, meet with a career coach. This professional can help you update your resume, give you interview tips, and introduce you to the right people. There are even staffing firms that specialize in placing moms returning to the workforce.
- You don't need a job to update your experience. Take a class, or attend a workshop or conference in your preferred industry. What you lack in experience you can make up for with enthusiasm. Plus, all of these items can be added to your resume and help you build relationships.
Build and Lean on Your Network
Speaking of relationships, remember, your network is your net worth. By investing in your relationships, it will help to develop and improve your skill set while also having a finger on the pulse of the job market, and you never know when you will meet with a prospective employer or even a mentor.
In today's world, simply applying for jobs online isn't enough. You have to get out there and meet people.
Begin by making a list of people you know in your preferred industry. Include everyone you can think of from long-lost college contacts to known experts with an online following. Include acquaintances, parents, friends, friends-of-friends, and everyone in between. Your circle will most likely be bigger than you thought.
Once you have your list, begin to reach out and build upon these relationships. Really invest in them and be authentic. Invite people out for coffee or lunch, and in your conversation make sure you are asking for advice and not a job.
While building upon the relationships you already have, keep putting yourself out there. Join professional networking groups and make yourself business cards. By continuing to broaden your network, you are upping your chances of landing the job of your dreams.
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Any job search is hard, but it can be all that more challenging if you are taking the plunge after stepping away for an extended period of time. Keep a positive mindset, be strategic, and continue learning and putting yourself out there.
Remember, there's only one person you need to impress in your career: you.
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