Tips for Stay-at-Home Parents Looking to Re-Enter the Workforce

Many parents take a break from their careers in order to raise a family. But once the kids are in school or away at college, some consider getting back to work, but the hiring process can be intimidating, especially in the current anemic labor market.

Tom Gimbel of the LaSalle Network says the No.1 thing stay-at-home parents looking to rejoin the workforce must have is excitement.

“You have to do is get your mind in a place where you’re excited about working. Then you’ve got to find out where you can leverage your skills, your strength and also the time that you’re able to commit to find something that’s going to be rewarding for you and make it worth your while to be away from the house.”

Gimbel shares the following tips for stay-at-home parents looking to re-enter the workforce:

Set Realistic Expectations 

Your skillset and experience might not be worth what it used to be, especially with the technology advancements that have entered the workforce since you left.

“Think about what’s happened if you’ve been out of the workforce for seven or eight years. Twitter wasn’t around back then. LinkedIn wasn’t as big as it is now,” says Gimble. “You have to really focus on getting an opportunity and then earning your stripes.”

Leverage New Relationships

“Driving carpool can build some interesting conversations in the backseat, but more importantly is at soccer games, at play groups and all those different things. There’s parents who are working parents, there’s parents who used to be very career motivated and aren’t, they all have networks of our own,” says Gimble. “When you’re getting to be able to talk about more than just what Johnny or Sally ate for lunch or breakfast, you really talk about what you used to do, what they used to do or are doing, and all of a sudden, you don’t know what avenues could open up. It’s a really great way to find out about new opportunities.”

Be Open About Career Exploration 

Most likely, you won't be re-entering the workforce at the same level as your exit, says Gimbel.

“Psychologically, you have to be able to say, ‘I’m going in at a much more junior level than when I left, and now I’m going to be maybe reporting to or subordinate to someone who’s maybe a lot younger than I am,’ which hopefully isn’t a problem. You’re trying to re-enter the workforce. And once you’re there, if you’re as good as you think you are, you’ll get promoted quickly."

Target Smaller Companies 

Being specific about what companies you apply to can increase your chances of getting a job.

“A lot of times smaller companies don’t have as many people beating down their doors for the jobs,” says Gimbel. “They might be really excited about somebody who’s got a backlog of experience looking to re-enter and maybe to them, they feel they can get you at a little bit of a bargain and for you, you’re getting an opportunity you might otherwise not have gotten. So it’s really a win-win for both parties.”

Get Back in the Loop

Recognize that getting back into the routine of going to work every weekday and realizing  your family won't be your focus 24/7 will be hard, warns Gimbel.

“I’m not saying that your priorities change, that family isn’t important, but you have to get in the business loop in the community -- knowing what’s going on, reading the papers, following the twitter feeds, looking at different newspapers and trade journals and really being a student.”

Lose Your Ego 

Gimbel advises re-entering the workforce with an open attitude and to be willing to learn new things and play catch up.

“If you go in with a chip on your shoulder, that I used to be such and such within an organization or within an industry and now you’re going in with a completely different role or a lesser role, or even if you’re going in part-time, it might take you a while to be all that you were before,” he says.

"If you go in with an ego, it really makes it more difficult for you to ask for help.”