When Heidi Englebert had her first child, Avery, in 2001, she decided to take a one-year leave of absence from her job as a business analyst. That one-year break turned into a 10-year stint at home as Englebert raised Avery and her second daughter, Anna. As her children got older, Englebert grew restless and decided to go back to work full-time. “I was determined to get a job for my own personal well-being,” she says. “I wasn’t satisfied being at home anymore, and I was ready for that next step in my life.”
Englebert is not alone. According to a recent survey by ForbesWoman and thebump.com, almost half of the stay-at-home moms surveyed said they anticipated returning to work full-time. Two- thirds of those moms said they were worried the tight economy would make it difficult to re-enter the workforce. Fortunately, should you ever need or want to return to the daily 9 to 5, there are steps you can take to stay connected to the workplace.
Here are five ways you can stay employable while working at home raising kids:
1. Know yourself. If you aren’t sure what type of job you would like to do, check out ‘My Next Move’ at mynextmove.org/explore/ip. Using this free tool, you answer questions about the type of work you might enjoy and then the site suggests careers that match your interests and training. Another site worth visiting is myskillsmyfuture.org. This free tool lets you type in different jobs you’ve held in the past and then lists other occupations that might be a good fit for you. You can also head to your local library or bookstore and check out StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath. This book and its accompanying online assessment help you quickly identify your top five work talents and learn how to play to your strengths on the job. Qualified counselors can also administer career assessments and go over the results with you. Universities or community colleges may offer career counseling services to adults in your area. You can also find out if your college alumni association offers career counseling services to alumni.
2. Go back to class. Nancy Collamer, M.S., a career coach and founder of jobsandmoms.com, says skills needed in different industries vary but, in a rapidly changing economy, it’s critical to keep your skills current, especially your technology skills. You don’t need to be an expert in social media marketing, but you should have basic knowledge of social media tools, she says. As a time-pressed mom, you might want to take a workshop, seminar or an online class. If you prefer a classroom setting, a hybrid class - a combination of online learning and in-person meetings - may be right for you. Good places to look for classes include universities (check out their continuing education departments), community colleges, libraries and local recreation departments.
3. Network, network, network. Networking simply means building genuine relationships where you can connect and share information with others. “When it comes to finding a job, it’s more about who you know. That is certainly the most important factor in job search success,” Collamer says. Fortunately, your mom status gives you lots of opportunities to interact whether it be at a playgroup, on the PTA, at your church or in a class. But don’t limit your network to other moms. Also build solid relationships with the professionals you come in contact with such as doctors, dentists, teachers, photographers and hairstylists. You never know who might give you a great job lead.
4. Get LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the primary social media network for professionals. When you open a free account, you can build your online resume, post professional recommendations you have received and grow your network. “LinkedIn is even better than a normal rolodex, as users can see the connections of their own connections, which is a great way to network and expand the number of people one knows by asking to be introduced to people you’d really like to meet,” says Laurel Cavalluzzo, president of Madison Marketing Communications. It’s also a great way to stay in touch with old colleagues. “If you get a LinkedIn status update about a colleague that’s gotten a promotion or has switched jobs, it’s always nice to send them a note of congratulations and that way, when you’re ready to go back into the workplace, you will still have those connections,” Collamer says.
5. Volunteer strategically. There’s no guarantee, but you might be able to leverage your volunteer experience into a job. When Jane Gardner left her job as a preschool teacher to raise four children, she continued substituting in the classroom and served as the school’s board president. When a veteran teacher left several years later, the preschool director immediately offered Gardner the job. Choose experiences that give you the opportunity to explore new interests and build your skill set. Volunteering is also a great way to earn current references. Collamer says to include your volunteer experience on your resume as long as it’s relevant to the job you are applying for. Work is work, so you do not need to indicate on your resume whether the work was paid or not, she adds.
If you have babies or toddlers and already feel overwhelmed, start small. It may be as simple as choosing to follow a few people from your industry on Twitter or signing up for a useful email newsletter, Collamer says. Keeping in touch with the world of work now could help if you decide to re-enter the workforce later.Laura is a freelance writer specializing in parenting issues. She and her husband have two children and a giant Bernese Mountain dog.
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