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by Debbie Schoeneshoefer
Being a stay-at-home parent can be the job of your dreams, but eventually many moms make their way back to the workforce – by choice or necessity. Before you dig out your resume, dust it off and gulp, “How can I compete?” read on. Whether you’ve taken time out of the workforce for just a few months or 10 years, there are steps you can take now, while at home, that will make you an attractive candidate to hiring managers when the time comes.
Steal this trick from the recruiting industry: Headhunters make a target list of companies from which to pluck their talent. Spin it; you’re the talent and are targeting companies that you want to work for. Make a list and read everything you can about these companies – and their competitors. Take in annual reports and press releases, and read other industry news daily.
Also, watch and take advantage of your industry’s association websites. Are there classes (often free) to help workers assimilate back into their careers? Can you enroll in a class to brush up on the latest laws or changes in your field and obtain a new certificate? Be well informed and keep on top of your industry; this makes you competitive.
When asked for the most important piece of advice for a comeback careerist, Laura Robinson, a senior recruiting manager for a housing construction firm, says simply, “Networking. Beyond a doubt.” In fact, 47 percent of her company’s hires last year were through referrals. Robinson, a recruiting professional since 1986, says she herself was promoted last year, “and I attribute it directly to networking. Network with anybody and everybody – that is how you get to where you are going.”
As a stay-at-home parent, you’re probably already doing it. You likely talk to other parents about naptime, feedings and preschools. Take it to the next level and ask your parenting friends whether they’re home or still in the workforce. Ask what they did before they had their baby. And use these parenting connections to build a professional network. “You never know who will have an in or know of a job opportunity,” says Robinson.
There is no other business networking tool like LinkedIn. The percentage of people Robinson’s company hired through LinkedIn has increased dramatically over the last year, she says. “It is almost the only tool that I utilize in recruiting. There are so many ways to leverage it; use it to reach out and connect.”
Open a LinkedIn account, build your profile, and start sending invitations to former colleagues. Grow your LinkedIn network and manage it to forge connections within target companies on your list, right down to the teams with whom you want to work.
What you do in your limited time outside of the home should be done with a mindful eye to the future. Doing consulting work or volunteering are great ways to keep your skills fresh and your references recent.
Mom of three Janet Wood kept her foot in the door at the environmental consulting company she worked at when she left in 1997 to have a baby. She worked on an extremely modest call-back basis and managed to stay connected with her company by consulting for a client of theirs minimally – about 60 hours a year. When her youngest, Henry, turned 4, Wood went back to her office on a part-time basis. “The transition back to the office has been very easy, almost like I hadn’t even left,” Wood says.
As any parent knows, volunteering opportunities at your child’s school are endless. Join the PTA or PTO and volunteer for a committee or nominate yourself as an officer, like treasurer. These jobs can provide you with resume-worthy achievements and rich networking opportunities. You may even find your career again through the volunteering that you do.
Traci Silva, a mother of two boys and a former school principal, read in the newspaper about a proposal to bring a new charter school to her community. She applied to the volunteer board position and spent two years helping to bring the charter in; then she applied for the vice principal position when the school opened. “I was so energized and excited every time I went to a board meeting or spoke to parents at an open meeting. After staying home for seven years, I was really ready to get back into a job that I was passionate about.”
A resume is meant to present your professional history, achievements and skill sets. It’s best received if it’s straightforward and professional. Creativity will fall flat, so don’t add Domestic Goddess or CEO of the Household as a heading. If you’ve volunteered, freelanced or taken classes, you won’t be tempted. Be concise and use results-based descriptions of your accomplishments.
The gap in employment should be addressed in your cover letter. Simply saying, “I left my position in 2002 to start a family” is enough. You can include information about what you’ve done to keep up your skills and maintain your competitive edge, and then let your resume speak for itself.
Debbie Schoeneshoefer is a freelance writer and mother of two, with 10 years of experience in the recruiting industry.
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