Momma (or Pappa) is Going to Work!
Re-Entering the Workforce After Kids
Sometimes individuals may leave the workforce to raise families. The amount of time that we may leave the workforce varies from person to person. I personally had some time “off” while having babies and raising them. In my case, it wasn’t necessarily my choice to take the time off that I did, it was due more to life circumstances (relocation, school, etc.). This may be the case for others as well. Whatever the reason, coming back to the workforce can be overwhelming and scary. This tends to increase with time away. It is important to start early.
As soon as you decide or need to return to the workforce, begin preparing. You must decide if you want to do the same type of work you did before. In my case, I returned to my previous employer after my first child was born and I chose to return to school for an advanced degree after my second child was born. Social media platforms, such as LinkedIn can be helpful to get your name out there and be seen by potential employers. It can also be a great way to seek out those employment opportunities. Reconnecting with former colleagues and getting updates on the industry can be helpful.
Many others may decide to change career paths completely. If you do not want to go back to the same career as before, you will need to spend some time deciding what you want to do. You can look at your interests, skills, workstyle, and values to help you determine a direction. Volunteering or talking to people who work in afield you may be interested in can increase your understanding of what working in that filed would be like. You may need additional training, education, or work experience before entering a new field and this may delay your return to the workforce. After my second child, I decided to get advanced training within my field to move towards educating counselors in addition to being a counselor myself.
Many of us may return to the workforce out of financial necessity and need to look for any job that is open and available. If you have more time to look, creating a long-term action plan may be helpful. This can lead to higher success and satisfaction in the long run. Determine what anxieties you may have about returning to the workforce and talk them out with someone, perhaps a friend or a professional. What if a lot has changed? What if I can't keep up? Keeping your resume or curriculum vitae (CV) up to date is extremely important as well. It needs to match the position you are applying for. This may mean having to tweak it a bit for each application. It should communicate what you will be able to do for a company and reflect the skills, summaries, and qualifications of the targeted job. In interviews, you will need to expand on your resume or CV and provide examples.
You will need to be able to identify critical elements that are needed for the job you seek and how that fits in your family life. This includes schedule, hours, salary, flexibility, workplace culture, and location. Identify which elements are most important or necessary for you and your family. You may need to concede on some of these to find a position you will enjoy and succeed in. Starting out in a new field may mean starting at a lower position and salary than you are used to.
There are some additional challenges that you will need to be mindful of. These include childcare, time off due to school schedules (snow days, sick days, school breaks, etc.), and limited time for errands and household duties. This may mean re-shifting of family and household responsibilities between caregivers, children, and perhaps even extended family. My spouse and I have had to shuffle responsibilities many times throughout our marriage as our job/school expectations shifted. Planning ahead of time for these changes can help the transition go smoother and alleviate some stress.
- Create and/or seek a position that excites you and is worth your time
- Practice interviewing and be prepared
- Make sure the company you will be working for is family friendly and flexible
- Let others know you are available for work and are looking
- Be patient
- Don’t jump at the first opportunity as it may not be a good fit
- Do not feel you have to apologize or be embarrassed by large gaps in employment history
- Don’t feel guilty about your decision to go back to work
Adapted from NCDA Career Developments Magazine, by Laura Lanham, www.NCDA.org