With the latest unemployment numbers dipping to 6.1 percent, opportunities for moms to get back into the labor market are better than they have been since the financial crisis.
Mothers ready to jump in after years of raising children and running the household need to think about new approaches, as the world has changed since the last time they held a job.
1. Jump in and grab your resources.
Many women who are thinking of going back to work don’t even know where to start. They wonder about the gap on their resume, about switching careers, about how it is going to work with their family.
Stop worrying and just begin. You don’t need to put a resume together yet, but think about the things you like to do, what you are good at and what could be of value.
Then, dust off your social media connections. In order to see what’s out there, you need to remember who is out there. Get on Facebook and “friend” the people you know. Open an account on LinkedIn and invite people you used to work with, who you see at school or who look like they are doing cool stuff. Get a sense of what people you know are doing. Read articles that are interesting to you.
2. Mind the gap.
Raising a family isn’t time off. Don’t hide it. Any future employer that does not respect your past choices may not respect your future ones. Make a list of the activities you do as the primary caretaker. I’ll bet many of them translate to the business world.
Do you pay bills and manage the budget? Are you a volunteer at school, or chair a fundraiser? These are all skills that can translate into the workplace. That “time off” was neither a blank nor a vacation but rather a skills building experience—treat it as such. Employers are going to get the value of the skills you gained; you might as well be front and center about them.
3. Meet and greet.
Make a list of your connections (and their connections) that seem interesting—former colleagues, clients, bosses or that working mom who seems to have it together. Start setting coffees, lunches or meetings with these people. Let them know you are getting back to work, are exploring different opportunities and ask if you can pick their brain.
Treat this like a job—every day, try to connect with someone. Then ask questions about their position, opportunities, how they manage work and life, what qualifications a person needs to do certain jobs and how to access those jobs.
Home in on the positions that sound interesting, but be realistic. What type of training might you need to do the jobs that sound the most interesting? Do you need to go back to school? Are you prepared to start at the ground floor?
Don’t forget that, while these aren’t interviews, you are showing off the new working you, so be professional. Confirm, do your research, pick up the tab and follow up with a thank you.
Ask the people you met with if they have anyone to connect you with. Repeat.
4. Focus on short-term projects and how you can help.
As I have written about before, short-term, closed-ended projects are a key to getting moms back into the workforce. Once you have listened to the needs out there, follow up with solutions. Maybe there is not an exact position in your area of interest, but there is a problem you can help solve in a short-term manner. If events are your thing, ask if you can plan a company retreat or holiday party. What about writing a grant or press release, organizing the office or doing a cost-benefit analysis of a potential strategy? Maybe it isn’t something that is paid at first, but who knows what will come of it.
By focusing on short-term projects, you are able to see what suits you and whether you are a good fit for a specific position or organization. Also try temporary opportunities and get a sense of what is out there.
No matter what you ultimately decide to do, going through these steps will help you position yourself for success. Good luck!