If you are a stay at home mom and want to go back to work, you face unique obstacles that other people don’t. Besides the challenge of balancing work and family there are three main snags that might stand in your way :
- There might be gaps in your resume (sometimes exceeding 10 or 20 years).
- You might lack specific work experience for the opportunities you want to pursue.
- You might need to get up to speed on the technical skills that are in demand now.
How do you conquer those challenges? Using the following 5 step plan, you can indeed go back to work regardless of these or other problems.
1. Decide What You Want
Do you want a specific job or are you willing to compromise? In a perfect world, you could decide what you want to do and only go after those opportunities. But sometimes you just have to settle. This is especially true for those who don’t have a degree or other training. Just be aware that trying to get any job that has an opening has it’s problems too. First, you’re going to get a lot more rejection. That might weaken your resolve. Also, you’ll probably make less money.
There is no shame in pursuing employment this way. Just make sure your expectations are right-sized.
Regardless, the first step is to decide what you want to do and why you want to do it. Again, you can either go very narrow or very broad. But please take time to think this through. Take out a sheet of paper and write down a description of what kind of jobs you’re going after.
Now that you are clear on what it is you want to do, be proactive.
Make a list of employers who might value what you bring to the table. Once you make a target list of 10 or more potential employers, find out what it is they are looking for. Use social media (especially Linkedin) to discover the kind of people they are hiring. Do a Google search for the name of the company and “jobs”.
I did that for a very large bank and again for a huge internet company. Here’s a screen shot from the bank’s site:
After I plugged in some information I got 240 job listings for this bank alone. Each had a description of the job, the required background and the skills the employer was looking for.
Once you know what these companies are looking for you can do two important things:
- Tailor your resume to address this employer’s needs.
- Go out and acquire the training you need in order to qualify for this position.
If the company you want to work for doesn’t have this information on their site, it’s not a problem. Find other companies in the same industry that do have the information available. Most positions have similar background requirements regardless of which company it is that is hiring.
3. Resume 2.0
Now that you know what your potential employers value, tweak your resume to address those concerns as I suggested above. Your cover letter should also address the concerns I mentioned above. If you’ve been out of the workforce for an extended period, bring it out into the open. Even though you may have spent some time at home, that doesn’t mean you weren’t working. Use your cover letter to weave in clues about your responsibility, work ethic, honesty and adaptability. These are all skills that smart employers value.
But if you lack vital skills or experience this employer really insists on, it’s another matter. I was recently looking for an additional operations person with 3 to 5 years’ experience in the industry. I made it clear that this experience was not negotiable. Although I did receive a number of very qualified candidates, 80% of the resumes I received were from people who didn’t have any experience at all in my industry. This was a waste of time for them and for me.
If you don’t have the experience and/or skills that the job calls for, my suggestion is to keep looking while you acquire that training or simply re-focus on jobs that you are qualified to do.
(Don’t worry if you have very limited professional experience or training. We’ll get to that shortly.)
I am a huge fan of networking but not in the traditional sense. I suggest that you interview people in and around the field you are trying to break into. Prepare a list of 10 to 15 questions that will help you better understand the industry and the specific challenges these employers face.
Your next step is to interview people familiar with this industry. Don’t ask for a job. Ask them for the opportunity to learn more. When you interview these people, the last question you should always ask is,”Who else should I speak to in order to learn more?”
Your goal is to go out on interviews every week and stay in touch with the people you meet with. Sooner or later, somebody is going to know somebody who needs what you have to offer.
The steps outlined above are great – but what do you do if you haven’t got the required skills but really do need to get back to work? The answer to this is “be flexible”. Here’s what I mean.
If you don’t currently have the skills the job demands you aren’t going to get that job until you acquire that experience. That doesn’t mean that you are stuck. Contact the employer and ask about other lower-level positions. Don’t be afraid to work your way up. Be tenacious and don’t give up.
If the employer doesn’t have anything she can offer you right now, stay in touch. Send a hand written note to the employer thanking her for her consideration and time. Then, every month or two drop her note or send her an article that she might find interesting. Just stay in touch anyway you can. Sooner or later this magic will work. Very few people demonstrate this kind of professionalism these days. When you do, you’ll stand out like a beautiful rose in a field of weeds. Be patient and flexible and don’t give up. This will work.
If you are a mom who wants to get back to the workforce, you can do it. Be willing to adapt. Find out what the job requires and either obtain that training or go after something that requires a little less experience. Don’t think of your first job as your last one. You are on a journey and this is a process. Get out into the world and let people know what you want. Look for opportunity, network and interview. You may not get your dream job right off the bat, but you’ll be at your starting point – the place where the journey begins.
Are you a mom that re-entered the workforce? What other tips would you suggest?
And stay-at-home-dads, too!
Volunteering is a great way to get experience, and often overlooked.
Neal Frankle, CFP ® says
Absolutely right Rob. Nice reminder – and important!