How Do Moms Returning To Work Get Started?
Let’s Get Started!
I get this question a lot from moms who want to return to work after a career break. Some of them are unsure of how to get started because they’re planning to return to a career that’s different from the one they left. Some just don’t know yet what kind of work they want to do. Others know, but need a big dose of encouragement before taking the first step.
If encouragement is what you need, you’re not alone. This is a big transition we’re talking about and you’re going to need a healthy dose of self-confidence to pull this off. But don’t worry, because you’ve got that. You may need to remind yourself occasionally, but you’ve got it and I believe in you. So, let’s get started.
Moms, Make a Plan To Return To Work
To get started, we’re going to make a plan. And write it down.
I’ve already started this for you – it’s called the Back to Business Return to Work Checklist.
It’s long, I know. So let me give you just one thing to work on today: Think about what you want to do for work.
Think big. Don’t limit yourself to traditional occupations. The world is a big place and people make a living doing all kinds of things.
Moms Returning To Work Should Think Really Big!
And after you think about each of these things, take the time to write them down. Do it. The difference between thinking about something and writing it down is often the difference between getting something done or not getting it done. Let’s get this done!
Here are some things to consider (and then write down):
- What are the accomplishments that make you most proud when you look back on your life? Don’t limit yourself to accomplishments made while at work. I know you’ve accomplished a lot, so give yourself credit for everything you’ve done. This is no time to be modest. You’re awesome and we all know it. Now, what are your biggest accomplishments?
- What skills and strengths do you possess that could be clues to finding work in a field that you will enjoy? Put another way – where are your natural talents? Think seriously about what these are and let’s find a way to get you using these on a regular basis in a job you’ll love. Ask a friend if you need help answering this. Others often see things in us that we don’t recognize in ourselves.
- Think about your motivation for returning to work. Is it financial? Do you miss using your adult brain and interacting with people your own age? Do you have time on your hands now that your kids are getting older that you want to do something meaningful with? Understanding your motivation will help you determine if that job offer that comes your way is the right one for you.
- And finally, let go of the idea that you have to be pursuing your passion. Grab hold instead of the idea that you will find what you love, get good at it, and develop a passion through hard work and positive feedback. It can be paralyzing to think that you have to know what your passion is before you can get started looking for a job. I think the passion part kicks in once you’ve found the right thing and realize that you’re really good at it – not before you start looking.
Learn From Other Moms Who Have Returned To Work
You are not the first person to make this transition back to work after a career break. Here’s an article that shares lessons from other moms who have returned to work.
So let’s get started on our plan to return to work….You’ll find more tips here
I’d like to address LinkedIn and how important it is in your job search from a slightly different angle and share some smart strategies for using LinkedIn as a job searcher that you can do today.
Remember, LinkedIn is your ticket to finding out who works where and who’s hiring. For a job seeker, this is important information.
Here are 3 things to try on LinkedIn today:
TIP #1: Look up your dream company using the feature that allows you to see “people who work at…”. Are you connected to anyone who works there? If yes, send them a message asking for a phone call. It can read something like this:
I hope you’re doing well. I’m considering my next career move and have always been really interested in XYZ Company because my background in project management seems like a great fit for the roles XYZ is currently hiring for. Would you have 15 minutes during the next week or two for a phone call so I could ask you a few questions about the company and hear about your experience there?
Thanks in advance!
If you aren’t connected to anyone there, look at the second-degree connections and pick out someone you know who has a connection at the company. This can be either someone in the department you’re interested in (preferably) or a recruiter. Send a message to your connection asking for an introduction.
Here’s a template you can use:
I see you’re connected to Jane Smith on LinkedIn and Jane works at XYZ where I’m really interested in getting a job. Would you be able to introduce Jane and me via email or LinkedIn? My email address is xxx. Thanks for your help!
Did you try it? It’s pretty easy, right? Now try it a few more times – your goal is to expand your network and this will take work every day. Once you get an introduction or schedule a phone call, be ready with great questions, your elevator pitch, and an offer of “what can I do for you?”
Tip #2: For our next trick, message someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time to keep the connection fresh. Just a very brief “hello” is all we’re after here. Here’s an example:
It’s been a while, but I’ve enjoyed following your success on LinkedIn and hope things are going well for you at XYZ Company. I’m working on my return to work after taking a career break and I’m really excited about the possibilities!
Why do this? Because you never know who Bill knows or what kind of help he may be able to provide. If nothing else, you’ve done what people always say they plan to do (keep in touch with their network) but never seem to get around to actually doing – so good for you! Your contacts will recognize that this is smart networking and give you credit for it. Plus, if you need to reach out to Bill with a specific request in the near future, it won’t be so awkward because you’ve checked in with him recently.
Tip #3: Ask for recommendations! Having multiple recommendations is a great way to fill out your profile and asking for them is easy. Use the “Ask for recommendations” feature on LinkedIn. Or you can send your request via email. Allow me to get you started:
Hi Sally, I’m planning my next career move and filling out my LinkedIn profile as part of the process. Would you write a brief recommendation for me? I was hoping you could reference our work together as project managers/my technical skills/the great teamwork we had while working together at X Company. I’d be happy to do the same for you so please let me know if that would be helpful. Thank you!
A few things to keep in mind about your request:
- Be specific about what you’d like people to comment on. This helps them write something quickly and gets you just what you want on your LinkedIn profile.
- Offer to reciprocate.
- Keep your request brief!
- Don’t shy away from asking people for recommendations even if it’s been many years since you worked together. They’ll remember you and the work you did.
Try these out today. Why today? Because doing this now while it’s fresh in your mind is your best bet for getting it done. Also, because these are things you need to do on a regular basis and you’ll get more comfortable as you do them more often. Start today and then do them again tomorrow.
Remember, your job as a job seeker is to expand your network. If you’re returning to work after a career break you’re going to have to tap into your network to find your next opportunity and LinkedIn is a great way to do this.
When not offering tips on making LinkedIn the focus of your job search…well, actually, because LinkedIn IS that important, Katie can always be found offering LinkedIn assistance to her UNC MBA Candidates and women like her who are returning to the workforce. For more information and tips, check out www.backtobusinessconference.com.
Interviewing for jobs can be nerve-wracking! In my role as a Career Coach at a top-20 business school, I hear from multiple recruiters each year about the things candidates did well (and not so well) during job interviews. Here are three things we hear from recruiters that might help you avoid making some common interview mistakes and get the offer:
#1 Bring Your Energy! Maybe candidates are trying so hard to be “professional” that they forget to let their enthusiasm for the company or the position shine through. Or maybe nerves get the best of some interviewees and they just can’t relax enough to show their excitement. Whatever the reason, your interviewers are investing their time and resources bringing you in for an interview and they want to see that you’re excited to be there.
Here are some ways you can show your energy:
- Clearly articulate how happy you are to be interviewing for the position.
- Smile! It sounds basic, but in a pressure situation you might forget this most basic way of connecting with other people.
- Pay attention to your body language – sit up straight, talk with your hands, speak clearly and at an appropriate volume.
#2 Be prepared to talk about why you’re interested in this company. You’ll need to do your research to answer this question well. This is your chance to show that you’re the kind of person who does their homework and comes prepared. It’s also a chance to compliment what you admire about the company and demonstrate that you’re self-aware enough to know why you’d be a good fit for them.
Here’s how you can show your interest:
- Have 3 reasons why you love this company in mind when you walk into your interview.
- Come prepared to talk about how your strengths match up to what the position requires.
- Answer this question in terms of what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.
#3 Ask insightful questions at the end of the interview. A recruiter once told us that she interviewed a candidate whose questions for her hit on the three things that kept her up at night. This candidate had so thoroughly researched the company and the position he was interviewing for that he was able to zero in on the business issues that they were grappling with and ask thoughtful questions about them. He got the job!
Here’s how you can ask insightful questions:
- Know who the competition is, what the trends are in the industry and what, if any, threats exist to the way they currently do business. Use this information to formulate questions that show that you did your homework.
- Research online by reading industry blogs and the company’s website and Linkedin page. Supplement this knowledge by talking to people you know who work at the company to get the inside scoop.
- Be sure to mention during your interview that you spoke with people who work at the company as part of your preparation. This shows you went the extra mile to understand their business.
The keys to interviewing well are preparation and practice. Be sure to bring your energy, do your research so you know why you’re a good fit for the company and ask smart questions of your interviewers. Get a list of common interview questions and record yourself giving answers so you can hear how you sound. Enlist a friend to give you a mock interview and some honest feedback.
Then get out there and show ‘em what you’re made of!
When Katie’s not working to place MBA candidates, she’s writing articles, conducting workshops and MeetUps, and preparing courses to help women like her transition back into the workforce. Find out what’s going on at www.backtobusinessconference.com.
Focusing on our job search means updating our resumes….which means a solid review of our skills – determining which relevant skills we already possess and which require an update. Here are the critical skills we’ve identified and then what some experts have to say about them –
Professional Skills: Communication, Leadership, Teamwork
These are interpersonal skills that are so vital, yet not always common, in a work environment. Clear and concise verbal and written communications, the ability and confidence to have others follow your lead and the ability to work well with others as a leader or member of a team are crucial for success.
Business Basic Skills: E-mail, Spreadsheets, Word processing, Budgets, Scheduling
Being proficient on e-mail and in scheduling is probably not that tough for women re-entering the workforce as we’ve just spent the last many years coordinating our families’ activities! But a Microsoft refresher course is definitely in order with recent technological upgrades and advancements.
Technical Skills: Software-specific, Coding
Recruiters and employers are often looking for technical skills. Search job postings in your area of interest and check on LinkedIn to see what skills people working in your intended field possess. Remember that even if you don’t plan to go into a technical field, it can be important for you to understand the language of technology and have a basic understanding of modern technical terms.
Use our Job Re-Entry Checklist to assess your skills and identify any gaps that might need a refresher or training.
What the Experts Say
These skills are so important, that reacHIRE’s comprehensive PowerUpTM training program includes 70+ hours of training in these areas. reacHIRE has a program in Boston and RTP that helps women to successfully re-enter the workforce. Sonja Neiger, reacHire’s Regional Director, Talent & Training tells us that they include finance fundamentals, working with big data and understanding the software development process in their training.
“Most businesses are very interconnected, so strong communication skills are critical” says Leigh-Wallace Hines of The Select Group. “I typically also look for responsibilities listed on a resume where the candidate has given presentations using various methods (in person and teleconference) to groups of people and written documentation or marketing materials. When speaking to a candidate over the phone or in person, I want to make sure that they speak clearly and that their personality will mesh well with the environment that they will work in for our customer.”
Regarding technical skills, Hines says that “if someone is looking to ‘start from scratch’ and enter the technical world as a Help Desk Analyst or a Network Technician, then having some sort of certification (unless they have a Bachelor’s Degree in the field) will demonstrate that they have the baseline knowledge to be successful in the role. For a data analytics role, having demonstrable experience with software relevant to their field (SAP, SPSS, SQL, etc.) is important. If someone has been out of work for some time, candidates should be able to show some sort of effort in keeping their skills up-to-date by attending seminars, conferences, or classes at a local technical school.”
If you’ve been a busy, involved parent, chances are good that you’ve probably cultivated many of the skills that employers find desirable in candidates while you were on your career break. Many women stay active by managing committees through their churches or children’s schools, leading PTAs, organizing events or fundraising. Don’t overlook the value of these activities. Take a good look at what you’ve been involved in and make a list of the tools and skills you used in those situations, even if it wasn’t paid work.
Once you identify those skill areas in which you are relatively weak, make a plan to improve them. Your plan could include attending Back to Business events where you can brush up on some of those critical job skills in a hands-on environment. And if you’ve been putting off volunteering, now is a good time to pick a few activities that will help you strengthen a skill area you’ve identified as important to your next career move.
Communicating that you possess these skills is the next step. We’ve addressed that in subsequent Back to Business articles on effective networking. So keep working on your checklist and stay tuned!
Whether you’re ready to go back to work after taking time off or just thinking about it, my Returning to Work After a Career Break Webinar will be helpful. It’s full of the professional advice that I use in my position as Senior Associate Director, Career & Leadership at the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School but geared toward women returning to work. Sign-up to receive the Webinar Replay that you can watch at your convenience — it’s about 30 minutes — and the accompanying Worksheet, and return to work the right way.
Returning to Work Webinar Replay
I'll send an email directly to you with a link to this webinar replay that you can watch at your convenience as well as the worksheet.
Preparing to re-enter the workforce can be overwhelming! Download this step-by-step plan to get you going in the right direction.