Some time ago, I made the decision to leave my engineering career to pursue another fulfilling job as a stay-at-home mom. While some women are completely comfortable juggling career and family, it was the right choice for my family and for me to stay home and I wouldn’t change a thing.
However, after nine years, my children were old enough that it was time for another transition: going back to work.
This transition is not an easy one. Even if you’ve been out of the workforce for a shorter period of time, there are new challenges to face when deciding to make such a change. A few of my questions included: What do I want to do? How flexible does my new job need to be? Are my skills even applicable anymore? Where do I start? Questions like these popped up consistently in my search and threatened to keep me from getting back into a rewarding career. Luckily, with a few pieces of advice, some help from others, and pure determination, I found a great new career.
If you’re ready to reenter the workforce, the steps below will help you successfully make the transition.
1. Starting the Search
- Research, research, research!After an extended period of time out of the workforce, there will likely be industry changes you’ll need to be aware of. Read industry blogs and publications, and research specific companies and positions. Anything you don’t know, take the initiative to learn! It’ll make you that much more valuable further down the road.
- Use your networkYes, you have a network. Even if you’ve been out of the workforce for years, you’ve made connections in other places. Ask neighbors, friends, PTA buddies, and even former bosses out for lunch or coffee. Talk about your plans to reenter the workforce and what steps they suggest you take. Don’t forget to join some networking groups in your area. There are plenty of women’s groups, and even groups specifically for mothers, which will help you build up your network even further.
- Analyze your skillsTake some time to do a real inventory of your skills and abilities – and not just the ones you built up in your past work experience. Being a stay-at-home mom develops important skills that can translate very well to the workplace. Your time management skills, ability to multi-task, and especially your problem solving skills will come in handy no matter what your new career. During this stage, it’s also important to think about what you’re really good at and what you enjoy. It won’t feel like work if you love doing it!
2. In the Interview
- Be confidentI know you’ve heard it time and again; confidence is key in any job interview. But when you’re going back to work after staying home for a number of years, it’s especially important. Be confident in not only your skills as an employee, but in your decision to stay home. Sometimes women feel the need to apologize for their choice to take time off after having kids. Don’t apologize. Explain that the choice was right for your family and now you’re looking forward to getting back to work.
- Emphasize your skillsRemember when we talked about the skills you build up while staying home with your kids? Now’s the time to show them off. You might get asked about a time you solved a difficult problem (and I’m sure every mom has an answer to that story). It’s ok to cite examples from your everyday life. In the end, it’s important to be yourself and show how you react to challenges that might come up in a job.
- Be enthusiasticAs with any job interview, hiring managers want to see enthusiasm for the job. If you know you’re a great fit for the position, let them see that in your excitement about the company, the job, and what future growth might come out of your contributions to the company.
3. On the Job
- Be ready to learnThere are likely going to be things you are unfamiliar with. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Take every opportunity to learn something new. Not only will that attitude be noticed by your coworkers and leadership, but you will be building up your value for the next steps in your career.
- Build relationshipsMake connections with others in your office. Those people will become part of your network and it’s important to form genuine relationships. Stop by people’s desks for a chat, go out to lunch with a group from work, and take a real interest in their lives. On top of that, don’t stop networking outside of work. Join networking groups or attend local happy hour events. Just put yourself out there and meet others in your industry.
- Be patient with yourselfThis is one of the most important points I learned in my transition. This is a big change and it won’t happen overnight. You’ll likely worry about your family or feel overwhelmed at times by everything you have to learn. Eventually, it will get easier. It takes time to get into the swing of things at any new job but soon you’ll be a pro!
To learn more about how to succeed in making the transition from full-time motherhood to full-time workforce, watch my interview with Fox 9 News and listen to the clip from WCCO Radio. Please share this with those you think will benefit from it.
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