Re-entering the workforce after being a stay at home mom can be daunting for any woman. Many feel out of touch and wonder how their in-home experience will translate to an office setting. Even more mothers fear being judged by recruiters and employers for their decision to stay at home. They worry that they’ll be seen as unreliable employees. Thankfully, there are ways to convey how driven and dedicated you are to potential employers.
A year before you are planning on re-entering the workforce is the perfect time to begin making the transition. Start by deciding what career you’d like to pursue and what skills employers are looking for in their employees. If you are entering a new career you can gain some experience by volunteering or working part time. Try to focus your time on opportunities that will help you in the future. While working at a soup kitchen is admirable and can still be done on your own time, if you plan on being an administrative assistant when you reenter the workforce, you’d do better volunteering in a nonprofit office.
If you are reentering a career path you had already begun before staying at home, now is the time to get back up to date with advances in your field. It’s the perfect time to start acquiring any additional professional certifications you may need. Also check with your local college to see if they have adult education classes in your field to refresh your skills.
Once you’ve started acquiring more experience and getting more current information on your chosen field, there are some other things you can do a year before you plan on applying for jobs. A proper work wardrobe is important and it’s costly to buy it all at once especially before you’ve received your first paycheck. Keep your eye out throughout the year for good bargains on appropriate work and interview clothes. Start working on your resume as well. Many career centers have resume writing resources. Spend a significant amount of time perfecting your resume, in most instances it should be no more than a page long and convey your relevant experience and career accomplishments effectively.
Networking is still a very important part of finding work and it is difficult for stay at home moms to network with people in their profession. Once you have decided what career you’d like to pursue it is time to start finding contacts in your field. Tell your friends, family and social groups all about your plans. Ask if anyone knows someone who works in your field. Try to attend professional events. When you find someone who already works in an area you’d like to work invite them out for coffee in exchange for some time picking their brain. These connections will help mentor you and can provide valuable leads on future job opportunities.
These activities should keep you more than busy throughout the year. It’s incredibly difficult to do all this work, essentially without pay, while still looking after your little ones and taking care of the home. The benefit is that the work will pay off in the end. You’ll be eligible for higher paying jobs with proper experience, certifications and connections. You’ll also save time on the job hunt as more employers will be eager to scoop you up.
A month before you plan on beginning work is the absolute latest to start applying for jobs. Most employers are perfectly willing to wait a month before a new employee can start but it can take several months to find the perfect job.
Once you have the interview, there are a few things you can do to help you get the offer. One of the most important things is to be at ease. If an employer already has your resume and has called you in for an interview they know you are qualified for the position. One of their main goals is to assess your personality, make sure you’d be a reliable employee and see if you would mesh well with the office culture. Shake hands with your interviewer and look them in the eye. Speak clearly and be strong in your statements without being aggressive. Don’t be afraid to make some jokes but it’s not a comedy audition and constant joking is a defense mechanism when someone is feeling insecure or uncomfortable.
You should also be prepared before stepping foot into the interviewer’s office. Research the job requirements, the company and have some questions prepared beyond the standards about compensation and benefits to show you’ve taken the time and have a real interest in the position.
Your main talking point should be your strengths and experience. Discuss the things you have accomplished in the past year and prior to leaving the workforce. Do not avoid the subject of your time at home. Any interviewer will notice a large gap in your employment history and want to know about it. Discuss the skills you used while staying at home–time management, organization and work ethic—but don’t make it the focal point of your interview. Employers are more interested in your work related experience. Above all else convey that you are comfortable in your new work environment and are excited about returning to work.
Reentering the workforce is daunting and difficult for any former stay at home mother and some biases still exist. Following these steps will help streamline the process and make your transition smoother. For any reasonable employer, you’ll be a valuable asset to their company and they’ll look forward to working with you in the future.