Ask the Expert: Returning to the workforce

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Staying at home to care for your children isn’t easy. The hours are long, there are no sick days and the other people in the “office” occasionally need you to change their diapers. But the rewards are also endless – like extended morning snuggles, leisurely picnic lunches on random Tuesday afternoons and the gift of witnessing your kids learn new things each day.

For moms who decide to go back to the traditional working world after staying at home to raise their kids, it can seem a little overwhelming.

So we asked Nancy Anderson, the author of “Job Search for Moms,” what women looking to reenter the job force need to know.

A small setback – Warning: Nancy’s first piece of advice may sting a little but it’s better to know now than later. She says you should be prepared to take a lower pay rate or a lower level position than what you held previously. It’s a harsh reality but if you work hard, it may not take long to gain that ground back.

The Moving Mom - Ask The Expert graphicSharpen your skills – Before you start applying for jobs, take a little time to brush up on the skills you’ll need in your field. If possible, attend trainings.

For those in very technical industries, time has been marching on without you so it may be necessary to take some courses to catch up.

Nancy says you could also do freelance work to get your creative juices flowing again or find charitable ways to offer your goods and services. These methods help prepare you to get back to work while doubling as a way for others to see how talented you are. And that could just get you hired.

Advertise your intent – Contact people from your professional network. Haven’t talked to them in a while? That’s ok. Reach out via social media and find out what they’re up to. Chances are that many of them have moved on since then too. And Nancy says they may have a lead for you.

Start the search – The job search process has changed a lot in the past few years so if you’re unsure where to begin, you’re not alone. Nancy says there are plenty of websites dedicated to helping you find a job opening but one general site that she likes is Indeed. However, if you’re hoping for more specialized results, she suggests using niche job boards. You can find a comprehensive list on a site called VetJobs.

Get yourself noticed – Create a profile on the professional networking site LinkedIn, if you don’t already have one. Use the site to write articles on topics in your field, look for profiles of people in your industry (find out how to do this anonymously here) and use the summary section to tell a little about yourself. Here are some other ways to get yourself noticed by employers:

  • Join a professional group
  • Use social media sites like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook
  • Volunteer
  • Freelance

Explaining your absence – When it comes to addressing the mysterious professional gap on your resume, Nancy says be honest. Use your cover letter or the summary section of your LinkedIn profile to state that you are returning to work after spending a period of time raising your children or with your family. However, once you’re in an interview setting, try not to linger on this topic too long. Mention it to explain why you weren’t working for a while and then steer the conversation toward your professional experience and talents.

The elephant in the room- If you are a Moving Mom, then you know that your family’s lifestyle may be of interest to potential employers. So should you disclose that your time in any particular city is likely temporary?

First and foremost, never lie. Nancy suggests that you be honest but don’t feel pressured to divulge too much. Explain that you’ve moved with your spouse’s job and now your family has been transferred to this city for some time. Then do your best to redirect the conversation or highlight how your worldly lifestyle makes you an even more capable employee.

After you get the job…

Warning: Another harsh reality – Nancy says it is the nature of corporate America to pass over transient employees for promotions. Businesses would rather invest time, training and money in workers who will stick around. So Nancy suggests that you think carefully about who you can trust in the workplace and how much you tell them about your lifestyle. While it’s important to develop relationships with your coworkers, she says to be careful not to be more forthcoming than needed. And if you do get that promotion down the road, graciously thank your company upon your departure and then explain why you’ll be leaving.

Nancy Anderson is the founder of Blackbird Learning Associates. She has over 25 years of learning and development, human resources and organizational development experience in the pharmaceutical, finance and insurance industries. Blackbird Learning Associates’ services include program design, development and facilitation. Nancy is also a skilled job search coach and resume writer.

Nancy is the author of the job search handbook,” Job Search for Moms.” This compact, easy to follow book is packed with many of the tools, examples and exercises that she uses in her highly acclaimed courses.

-By Emily Shedek

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