Easing stay-at-home parents’ return to work

Going back to work can be hard for stay-at-home parents, particularly for those who’ve been out of the workforce for several years. If you’ve been home with your children and are now or soon ready to return to work, this post might help you bound back in with more confidence and direction!

Keep your network healthy

One of my favorite truisms is “It’s not just who you know; it’s who knows you and who knows what you do.” Many employers fill jobs by people they know or have met via networking or referrals. The key is to forge connections with people who have known what you can do—either in the workforce or during your parenting stint.

  • Keep your professionalism activated. As a stay-at-home parent, join a professional group or association; go to meetings regularly. Also join at least one civic organization. Network heavily in both.
  • Consider forming your own professional networking group with others you know who are or have recently been stay-at-home parents.
  • Make contacting your last employer your first stop. Many companies find it easier to hire someone back instead of starting at square one, especially if they were a great contributor. Odds are, they still value you.
  • Network with neighbors, people at church, or people in your children’s sports activities. You can sometimes meet a mentor who is happy to help you with your career search!
  • Leverage volunteering to maintain your skill set. Using your transferable skills in experience that is not paid is nonetheless valuable. People who know your work ethic—you called a hundred people to raise funds for new uniforms—like and trust you. They are likely eager to help; and may even hire you themselves!
  • Explore obtaining additional credentials. Sometimes all you’ll need is one or two courses to update your skills. A bonus is that you can then network with that professor or teacher, the school’s career services, etc. to tap workforce-reentry resources—and perhaps gain a reference or two as well!
  • Consider signing up for a career re-entry seminar at a university or community college near you, to brush up on basic skills, practice interviewing, network and look for job leads.
  • If you like to write, are tech comfortable and have content to share related to your profession, you could start your own website. It can be very simple but powerful. You can build an online professional identity while still a stay-at-home parent.

Use a strategic resume

Don’t assume that your old resume is okay as is. Be strategic. Select the best resume format. While functional resumes are not preferred by hiring managers, a chronological format may not be your best bet. Consider using a hybrid or combination format that allows you to highlight your most relevant skills or experience, while accounting for your employment history.

  • Volunteer / Community Involvement (Fundraising, PTA etc.): If you held leadership roles, plug your accomplishments and the key skills you developed. You can include volunteer work in your Work Experience to cover the employment gap.
  • Professional Development: Show your commitment to the field by including membership in professional organizations and participation in conferences or online networking (LinkedIn is a great resource).
  • Any Paid Work: If you’ve consulted or freelanced relative to your job target, include it. Perhaps you’ve worked part time or from home. Include the experience on your resume.
  • Continuing Education: Convey your refreshed skills through online learning, independent study, and/or courses.

Make no apologies

In all your communications and networking, don’t apologize for your time away. At the same time, don’t be too dramatic.

  • Don’t dress up time at home with silly titles like “domestic engineer.” Instead, identify how you have continued to use your business skills in the time you have been out of the workforce.
  • When interviewing, focus on what you could do for a new employer.
  • Use your cover letter to briefly explain your recent gap, but emphasize that you have kept your skills up to date and are energized to return to the workforce.

You were in the workforce and had talents and value to contribute. You’ve most recently had one of the toughest and rewarding jobs of all—that of raising your children full time. When you’re ready to return to work, focus on what you have to offer and how you’ve filled your time with relevant activities. Here’s to your next career adventure!


Photo:  volpelino

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