5 Tips for Re-entering the Workforce for Stay at Home Parents

By Camille Block

Years ago, you made a choice. To work or not to work with children at home - either choice was hard, no doubt. Back then, the debate was raging. Both choices had pros and cons and no matter which one you chose, there were drawbacks, and everyone took sides. But in your case, you made the choice to stay home to raise the kids. It most likely meant giving up a good job title, a decent paycheck, upward mobility, prestige, health benefits, nice clothes, a company car, perhaps a nicer home, reimbursable expenses….and, let’s face it, an identity (or so I thought). I know because I made this choice – and it wasn’t an easy one at the time. 

Back then, I worried a lot about some of the cons:  What would I now talk about at a dinner party? Would potty training and baby food options be a viable option? Without a job title, would I get any respect? (Funny, recently a friend reminded me I actually gave myself a title, Chief Home Officer (CHO) AND real business cards in an attempt to re-brand my position and gain superficial respect from my friends who made the other choice). And, how would I ever re-enter the professional workforce later on after a long gap in my resume? (My first job out of college was in HR recruiting and I was trained to look for those dreaded gaps.)  

Fast forward a couple of decades and I now have some answers. First, the dinner party conversation worked out OK. I learned people were not just interested in what job title I had – they actually were riveted in topics of all kinds (it was all in the delivery), even our kids! Second, while re-entering the job market wasn’t the easiest thing in the world, it was not worth all my worry. Sure, I gave up some things by having a large gap in that resume, but I have also changed over the years and my goals are no longer the same. So, this too has turned out just fine. And, I’m grateful for my choice. 

Going back to work happened somewhat gradually for me as I did some part time, remote work during several of my “stay at home mom” years. So, I guess I cheated a little. But, when I took the plunge to take a truly professional position requiring full time hours working with executives, my world changed as I was officially “back to work”. I’ve learned a few things from my “re-entry process” and hope they are helpful to those heading back in to the workforce after taking some time off to raise a family. 

Here are a few tips for re-entering the workforce:

1.  First of all, don’t stress!  

Take time to reflect on questions such as, “What have I always wanted to do?”; “What am I good at?”; “Do I need to get new skills, and if so, how would I do that?”; and “What do others always say I would be good at doing for a living?” For more things to think about, read my articles on “What do you want to do when you grow up?” and “What’s all this talk about personal branding?

2.  Next, do some research on the areas you are interested in.

Read books, google, take some personality and business assessments about what makes you unique and what environments you thrive in. Take a class and talk to people who do what you think you may want to do. Allow yourself time to think, journal, investigate, meditate and pray. Look for the reasons people ask for your advice – find the themes. What are you known for? How do others describe you? Write it all down!

3.  Pull out your old resume and begin the painful (but important) process of revising it – 

making sure to add all the volunteer and part time work you’ve done and marketing your strengths and personal brand that may have nothing to do with past jobs. Do the same with your LinkedIn profile (if you don’t have one, now is the time to get one!). Add genuine connections once your profile is optimized (all filled out and ready to be discovered). If this feels overwhelming, either take it slow and spend some time doing it right, or get some help – a good career coach or a friend who may have some expertise in this.

4.  Create a marketing plan - it will provide you with greater clarity and something tangible you can show your network for conversation starters.

Your network will be your best asset in this new season. The marketing plan should list your contact info, skills and talents, types of positions you think you would enjoy and are qualified for, and a list of 10-20 target companies in your geographic area that would make a good match for your goals. While the document itself may be helpful to hand out to some, more importantly, the exercise of putting it together will be most beneficial as you consider your options. And if you have always wanted to go into business by yourself, do the same thing except fill the marketing plan with your own entrepreneurial business ideas - your services, products, skills, and your target customers and their demographics.

5.  Think about who is in your network – personally and professionally.  Now be intentional about communicating with them.

Talk to people and let them know you are looking for the right opportunity to go back to work. Set up networking "coffees" with people – friends, acquaintances, business connections and friends of friends. Remember, people like to help people and give advice, so ask for help and advice! Show them your marketing plan. Ask for a 15 minute call for an informational interview (and then keep it to that amount of time!).  Write thank you notes. Ask for referrals to people they know. Search job sites and LinkedIn and see who is hiring, and then search for who you know who works there – then ask for an introduction.

Sound do-able? It is! My first few “re-entry jobs” came from a personal referral. I never had to  apply for a job – it was the result of my personal network - or connections. And, this is the best (and most common) way to get your next opportunity.

So, the nest may now be empty and the transition is no doubt bittersweet to many.  

It’s funny how when our little birds fly away, we are left in the nest wondering if we even remember how to fly. We've spent so long teaching our babies, our wings are a little out of shape. Sometimes instead of us waiting in our nest, it feels more like a cage. While we were the ones to open the locked door after giving our babies the wings to fly, we are left still inside the cage, trapped only be an open door.

The years went by fast – just as the little old ladies in the grocery store told us when we had our bundles tied to the shopping cart. But in these years, we have acquired wisdom, maturity and skills that someone out there needs. And, perhaps, we need to be needed as well. After all, we too were meant to fly. And remember, you already know how, you just need to make the choice to take that first jump.

If you need some help figuring out your next step professionally, consider working with Connectivity.  As a career consultant, my specialty is helping you figure out where you want to go and then bridge the gap with the right set of tools to help you get to your next opportunity. Contact Camille at Camille@connectivity.cc and let me know how I can help you.  For more on my background and services, see www.Connectivity.cc