Re-Entering the Workforce
An increasing number of women are taking a few years off from their careers to have children and then re-entering the workforce once the kids are in school, so-called "sequencing moms." According to a survey by marketing strategy and research firm Reach Advisors, approximately 84 percent of Gen-X stay-at-home moms are considering returning to work after having children.
Returning to the workforce after such an absence can be a nerve-wracking experience for many women. Who will hire you? How do you explain that seven year gap on your resume? How do you get back up to speed with new technology and business practices? How do you turn your years as a PTA volunteer or bake-sale organizer into marketable experience?
In years past, companies did shy away from returning mothers, overlooking their former work experience and more recent time-management and life experience. But an increasing number of companies are beginning to recognize the valuable assets this group of women possesses and are now courting them. In fact, in 2004, more than a dozen large companies and prestigious law firms in the US and Britain created the "Hidden Brain Drain," a task force to advance women and minorities in the workplace. One of the topics discussed in their very first conference was how to create so-called "on-ramps" for women trying to get back into the workforce. According to a recent study, more than 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies say they would likely hire a sequencing mom on a contract or short-term basis. And top business schools, such as Harvard and Dartmouth, are helping sequencing moms get back in the game by offering special training programs.
Sequencing moms have more career and life experience and proven skills, and tend to be highly educated, highly trained and motivated. The tide has turned in your favor, so if you are considering diving back into the work-a-day world, here are some tips to get you back in the swing of things.
Search Your Soul. Before you begin, ask yourself what you really want to do. Do you want to go back to the same industry you left or strike out in a new direction? In many ways, this is a golden opportunity to follow your dreams. It's so easy to fall into an unintended career path after college (who among us actually used our major?). If you weren't especially fulfilled by your last career, why not choose one that stimulates and fulfills you?
Revamp Your Resume. Fill in that gap in your resume with any volunteer projects you worked on. Did you manage your child's school bake sale? Were you treasurer of the PTA? Turn those experiences into management and finance experience. If you haven't been much involved in outside projects since you had your children, get out there now. Join the PTA, volunteer with community groups and take leadership positions if possible.
Network. If you haven't stayed involved in any industry organizations or professional groups, join up now. This will not only get your head back in the game of your chosen industry, they're great opportunities to meet potential employers and peers that can steer you in their direction.
Reconnect. Check in with your old employer. He or she knows your previous experience and qualifications better than anyone else and may be thrilled to have you return. Some employers are even willing to hold jobs if you want to take time off - an extended sabbatical of sorts. Two such companies, IBM and Deloitte & Touche, allow qualified employees to leave for several years, stay connected through a mentor program, keep their skills current using company resources, and then return to their old positions.
Educate Yourself. Take a few classes to brush up on your old skills or learn new technology. Or, if you want to head in a new career direction, consider getting a Master's or finishing that undergrad degree you never wrapped up. Classes can get expensive, though, so make sure you have fully researched the industry and really want to do it before you sink thousands of dollars into a new education.
Be Flexible. Consider working part-time or on a contract basis to get your foot in the door. This is also a great way to explore new career paths before you invest time and money into education or committing to a full-time, permanent position. Many companies will allow you to retain a flexible schedule once you are permanent. More and more employers are realizing the benefits to them and their employees of allowing them to work flexible schedules or telecommute.