Returning to Work After Staying Home
By Kathy Zucker
I am a worrier. Nobody is immune to divorce, job loss or illness, so how do you maintain your career if you decide to stay home?
Parenting is unpredictable, expensive and incredibly time-consuming. No matter what child care option you choose, you are inevitably going to be dealing with child sick and vacation days that exceed your work-allotted time off. Summers are especially difficult for working parents to manage. When one parent travels a lot and/or works long hours, sometimes the only way to cope is for the other parent to stay home.
So how do you reenter the workforce? Whether you have been home for three years or 17, connections and skills are paramount.
In this fast-moving digital age, it is increasingly important to keep your skills current regardless of your work setup. That means reading industry publications and interacting with peers. I have found Twitter to be an invaluable tool for meeting new people and learning new things. LinkedIn is a great way to stay in touch with former colleagues, and Facebook is good for maintaining personal networks.
How do you demonstrate your skills? Through part-time work, volunteering, and social media. I am not a big fan of volunteering as a means to returning to work because so many non-profit organizations operate in a haphazard fashion. Your work experience is only as good as the organization; if projects languish for months on meeting agendas, that is not beneficial for your resume.
Meanwhile, if you work with an established corporation, the experience looks legitimate on your resume. I have been a reference for three moms who worked on part-time projects with my marketing firm, and all three were hired because it was clear they were accomplishing verifiable goals. Whether you volunteer or work with a for-profit organization, make sure the work you are doing fits your established skill sets so it strengthens and affirms your resume.
What about finding a job? Every single job I have ever gotten has come through connections. Approximately 80% of all jobs are never advertised. That means those positions are being filled through informal networks, often of former co-workers or college alumni. This is where communication is critical; your network only knows what you choose to tell them. By creating and updating a LinkedIn profile, you can pull in content from Twitter or a blog that lets them know what projects you have accomplished and what kind of work you are looking to do, on what terms (part-time, 32 hours/week or on a project basis). Sometimes the best path to a full-time job is to start with part-time or project work since it gives you a chance to build relationships.
Also? There is a lot to be said for starting a business. It’s a lot easier to get a job with a small business than it is with a large corporation, especially if you are looking for work that is different from your prior career. Small businesses tend to partner with each other; if you have a good relationship then the owner is a lot more likely to hire you or recommend you to another business.
Tags: CHOICES, planning