Even though the number of women "opting out" of career to raise children is not widespread, plenty of mothers often face an uphill career re-entry when onramping. Here are some tips to help women with this transition.
When "Tracey" decided to return to work in marketing for a major company, she was shocked to find that the field had changed in the six years that she stayed home to raise her twin girls. She thoroughly enjoyed her time as a full-time mother, but now she wanted to return to the working world.
But the economy had altered drastically, and many companies now required far more innovative techniques, international networks, cost-saving approaches and collaborations. She thought that reading newspapers such as "The Wall Street Journal" and subscribing to one marketing publication would be enough to keep her up to date, but she was wrong. When she contacted her previous company after six years of being away, she was offered a less responsible and less lucrative position. She felt like she’d been slapped in the face and didn’t know what to do. What advice would you give to Tracey?
1. Get a plan and implement it early. The best medicine is prevention. Start thinking about staying current in your career when you are pregnant.
2. Stay informed. Make a list of all the magazines, journals, newspapers and websites that provide information, trends and ideas. Subscribe to the ones that are most important to you.
3. Stay active. Get a list of the top conferences in your field and find out the themes, dates and calls for papers and presentations. Just because you are not working doesn’t mean your brain has stopped. You can be temporarily unemployed and still present a workshop or serve on a panel. Usually, you have a lot of lead time before the next conference, and you can use this time to develop your presentation.
4. Stay in touch with your colleagues and peers. Attend local and professional meeting and go to lunch at least twice a season with top people in your field.
5. Volunteer. Find one or two local organizations, companies or charities that relate to your field and volunteer quality time—not just stamping envelopes. On your resume you don’t have to label your work as unpaid.
6. Bump up your credentials. Consider using this time to get another certification or educational degree. You could go part-time, including going at night.
7. Reassess. Now is a great time to reassess your happiness level—and do something about it. Were you fulfilled in your career? Did it turn out the way you thought it would? If time were limited (which it now is!), what else would you rather be doing? Some women take totally different career directions, including abandoning careers in law or finance.
8. Consider taking a "lesser" position at your previous place of employment or at a new one. Put your pride aside. Times have changed, companies have to cut back. Look at this offer of employment as a way to learn the latest trends. Your past success and experience will probably give you that edge over many of the other employees.
Your advice to Tracey is to accept the job offer—for now. Learn the ropes and see whether she advances. If not, it’s always easier to get another job when you’re already employed.
One of the best pieces of advice and my favorite workshop is called “Rebranding yourself for the next best job” Discovering who you are, your passion, what you were meant to be, will help launch a whole new perspective on your life and on your career. When you continue to chase after a “job” it’s liking chasing the wind. You end up never getting ahead and always feeling dissatisfied with what you are doing and typically where you are doing it!
Ed.D., MSS, is nationally recognized for her work with women's relationships. Her expert advice is quoted in major publications such as The Washington Post, USA Today, Women's Health, US Weekly, More, Better Homes and Gardens and Woman's Day. Learn more at www.lovevictory.com.