Re-entering the workforce after taking time off to stay at home with kids can be an intimating process for women. Many females worry about their skills still being relevant and if they will still fit in and adapt to a workplace environment all while juggling their new added responsibilities at home.
The good news is that a recent Korn/Ferry executive survey shows almost 50% of women say having children did not impact their career progression, and 71% say their careers did not prevent or postpone them from having children.
Experts say transitioning back into work life can be a smooth shift with the right attitude and mindset.
“You need to ask, ‘What’s my best plan?’ and not focus on what other women are doing,” says JJ DiGeronimo, VMWare’s director of global cloud solutions and founder of Purposeful Woman. She suggests mothers take a personal inventory of what they want and expect from their careers before launching their job search.
The survey also shows 95% of female professionals say the unique skills involved with raising children are portable to the workplace, increase confidence and energy, and enhance the ability to motivate others, tolerate ambiguity and apply past experiences in new ways.
Being clear on objectives enables mothers to ask specifically for what they need and expect from an employer, says Kathy Woods, senior partner at Korn/Ferry Leadership and Talent Consulting. Females should not hesitate to ask for flexibility or a part-time schedule, but should make the request before a final round of interviews. Woods says being able to clearly articulate needs and objectives will establish credibility and earn prospective employers’ respect.
“Our society has romanticized multitasking and being perfect on many fronts,” says Woods, whose husband stays at home with their kids. “The notion of the perfect mom, CEO, good cook and Sunday schoolteacher is unrealistic.”
From the Employers Perspective
Corporate America is starting to shift its priorities in potential candidates to focus more on personality and attitude, according to David Jones, a human resources consultant for Fortune 100 and 500 companies.
“Employers look for people with a ‘can do and will do’ attitude, so that gender, ethnicity, age, etc., have largely evaporated as considerations,” says Jones, who is the CEO of Growth Ventures and author of Million Dollar Hire.
He advises females returning to the workforce learn how to correlate their skills with the demands of the job, and “ignore the things that are irrelevant, even if they help in being a mother.”
For mothers returning to a previous employer, they need to reference their past success that highlights why they are a valuable asset. “Just because you left the workplace to give birth does not mean the bar gets raised for re-entry,” claims Jones. Employers want to hear one thing: "I'm back, I'm motivated, and I want to do as well as I did before."
Tips for Moms Making the Transition
Talk business with current acquaintances. Reacquaint yourself with other parents on a business level. “Say, ‘I’m looking for a role in X,’ and be clear in stating your objective,” recommends DiGeronimo, a mother of two.
Rate your ability to meet/exceed expectations. If you write down specific objectives, “you’ll find 99% of the time you meet or exceed,” says Woods. “This builds confidence.”
Leverage Social Media. Post your work experience on various social and professional networking sites and join online discussions as a way to open up doors and establish professional relationships. “You can’t do this early enough,” says DiGeronimo.
Own your career “gap.” Don’t try to hide your time away from the workforce; explaining your absence will eliminate any ambiguity, says Woods.
Restructure your resume. Woods also suggests listing key accomplishments on page one and chronological experience on page two.
Role-play your interviews. Practicing interview questions and why you have decided to come back to work will help you perform better and nail your key messages.
Recount parenting experience in a business-like manner. “Say ‘I’ve advanced my game,’ and provide specific examples,” says Woods. “Do not romanticize the experience.”
Keep current with your industry/former company. Stay in touch with your employer, coworkers and prior managers during your opt-out time and follow what’s happening. Be aware of changes—even in your former job requirements, says Jones. “Taking the approach of ‘I’m leaving, but not really’ is a great way to top the list for reentry.”