How to re-enter the workforce after being a stay-at-home mom

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If you're a stay-at-home mom trying to rejoin the workforce, chances are you have lots of questions about the smoothest path back to employment. Maggie Mistal, a career consultant on Martha Stewart Radio, has good advice for women re-entering the workforce.

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  • Maggie Mistal

    Maggie Mistal Career Coach, Martha Stewart Living Radio Maggie Mistal is a certified life purpose and career coach. Her passion is her career consulting practice, working with individuals to identify their ideal careers and helping them make career changes. more about this expert »

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How to re-enter the workforce after being a stay-at-home mom

Regaining confidence about your work skills:

It’s normal for mothers returning to the workforce to feel that their skills are a little out of date, so try to figure out where you could stand a boost to your confidence. Is it that you don’t feel like you have a good handle on what the trends are in the marketplace? Or are you concerned about not being up to speed on new technologies or computer applications? Once you figure out what skills you need to improve, sign yourself up for a class. In fact, a lot of MBA programs now offer alumni training courses. These classes allow alums to take courses to brush up on the latest industry, business and technology trends. In just a few weeks a stay at home mom can get up to speed on new tools and applications in use. If you can’t make time for a course, find a friend that's still in the workforce and have them tutor you.

Working mother-friendly companies:

The companies that are most sympathetic to moms re-entering workforce are the ones that make the “100 Best Companies for Working Mothers” list put out by Working Mother Magazine. You can go to www.workingmother.com to see that list, which is published every year, and see all the perks companies are using to attract the stay at home mom returning to the workforce. A lot of the perks are things like job sharing, working parents networks, and even part-time jobs that in the past weren’t really an option. Companies are being more flexible than ever before. If you are concerned about going back to a 9 to 5 workday don’t feel like you have to have a full-time schedule. Rather, find a temporary position working a few days a week. That will enable you to transition back in more easily.

Earning power after taking a break from the workforce:

Moms re-entering the workforce shouldn't expect a salary cut just because they’ve been out of the workforce. In fact, you may come back to the workforce making much more than you did before you left. You should be able to get paid the market rate for the job. In fact, in a lot of the careers such as accounting and finance there is high demand for good, skilled employees. Even if you haven’t used your skills in three to five years your skills are likely to be so valuable that you’ll be in high demand. Whatever you do, don’t undercut yourself financially by thinking that you are going to have to take a salary cut.

Returning to work in a whole new field:

Mothers returning to the workforce may be surprised at how many of their skills are transferable from one career to another. If you're switching careers you need to define what it is that you really want to do. A great way to figure that out is to think about what you are most passionate about. Here’s how to figure that out: think about a time of ecstatic engagement—a time when you felt your best, you were happiest, and you were doing something that you love doing so much that you lost all track of time. You’ll get excited when you really start thinking about it because you’ll uncover that you actually do have a lot of transferable skills to start a new career.

 

Additional Resources:

Working Mother Magazine's "100 Best Companies for Working Mothers"

 

 

Transcript

ROBYN:  I’m Robyn Moreno for howdini.com. If you’re a stay at home mom trying to rejoin the work force, this is definitely a challenging time. What’s the smoothest path back to the on-ramp of outside employment? To answer those questions is career consultant Maggie Mistal, who is also a career coach on Martha Stewart Radio. It’s not uncommon for professional women to leave the work force to raise some children. But what happens when they’ve been outside of the work force for a while? They want to go back in, but they’ve lost their confidence. Any tips for regaining that confidence?

MAGGIE:  Oh, absolutely. The question is, is where are you lacking confidence? Is it that you’re not sure what the trends have been in the marketplace and you feel you’re skills are a little out of date? Are you concerned about technology, and maybe you won’t know how to use the computer or the new applications that you might need to? The question is specifically, is what do you need confidence boosting in? Because there are, now, tools and techniques, classes you can take, things that you can take advantage of. For example: a lot of MBA programs are now offering courses to their prior students – so to the alums of their, their programs, where they can come back for two weeks and get trained on all the latest industry trends, all the latest business trends, all the latest technology in their area. SO if technology, or, you know, the, the latest information is what’s keeping you out of the workplace, find a way to take a course or get tutored by a colleague that’s stayed in the workplace, so you can build those skills and abilities. You know, maybe you’re concerned, your confidence isn’t there because you’re concerned about going back to a nine to five schedule; you haven’t done that in several years. Well if that’s the case, what I recommend is that people don’t force themselves back to a nine to five right away; rather take a temporary position where you work a couple days a week nine to five, see if you like it, see if you can build yourself a bit of a transition bridge back as opposed to going from one lifestyle to another.

ROBYN:  Okay. So when women are ready to make their resumes, they sit down, they realize: you know what, there’s a big gap in my resume. What can they do about that, and are employers sort of emphatic about women who’s been outside of the work force for a while?

MAGGIE:  The companies that are most sympathetic, Robyn, to working moms are the ones who make the hundred best companies list for working mom, put out by Working Mother’s Magazine. You can actually go to the Working Mother Magazine website and see that list year in and year out, and see all the new perks that companies are using to attract moms back from, you know, being stay-at-home. And a lot of the perks they are offering are things like job sharing, working parents networks; even part-time opportunities that in the past, weren’t really an option, now are. So don’t rule out, or don’t already think, ‘well, I can’t go back the way that I want.’ No, absolutely you can. And companies are being more flexible than ever before.

ROBYN:  So let’s talk salary. Can a woman expect to make the same amount of money that she made when she left the work force? And, you know, if not, should she be expected to take a cut in pay?

MAGGIE:  That’s such a female thing to ask. I don’t mean against you, but we’re so, women, negotiating salary, is one of the things that we don’t do well. And the way I like to look at it is, your skills are valuable. And in fact, if you’re going to perform a job today, you should be paid the market rate for that job today. And in fact, in a lot of the careers, such as accounting and finance, there is such demand for good employees, that even if you haven’t used those skills in three to five years, they’re still so valuable. So don’t already undercut yourself financially by thinking, ‘I’m going to have to take a salary cut.’ In fact, you may come back making much more than you did when you left.

ROBYN: So what about a woman that’s looking for a job that is totally different than the job she help before? Should she expect to just start at the bottom?

MAGGIE:  No; and that goes back to transferable skills, right? So don’t think you have to start back at the bottom. What you do need to do, though, is define, well what is it that I want to go back into doing? And again, I always like to start with what you’re passionate about. So if you’re saying as a mom, well gosh, you know, I’m passionate about my kids, but other than that, I don’t, I don’t know, I can’t remember. So I like to say, think of a time of ecstatic engagement. And a time of ecstatic engagement is a time when you felt your best, your happiest; you’re doing something that you love doing, and you lost all track of time.

ROBYN:  Thank you so much, Maggie Mistal. Smart advice for women who are looking to get back into the work force.

MAGGIE: Thanks Robyn.

ROBYN:  I’m Robyn Moreno for howdini.com.


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