It's challenging being a stay at home mom returning to work.
Are you a stay at home mom returning to work? I know exactly how you feel. Just a few months ago, I was standing where you are now!
I felt nervous about making such an enormous transition, and worried about how my family would adjust. I had also lost all of the confidence that came from my previous roles and successes.
In my mind, my only remaining skill set included wiping butts and picking up toys. Would potential employers still view me as qualified and relevant? I wasn't sure.
It was a long road as I learned what worked and what didn't, and how best to market the skills I knew I had. But in the end, I moved into a nearly equal position to the one I left to become a stay at home mom, not one step backward on my career path. And I found a full-time position whose schedule still afforded me a solid seven hours with my daughter every workday.
What's the secret sauce for a stay at home mom returning to work? Here's what worked for me.
Market what you already do
Consider how to market all of the extras you do.
Do you volunteer at your child's school? At your church? Are you, or were you at one time, active in an MLM like Doterra, Beachbody, or Mary Kay? Do you utilize any skills within a hobby that could be applied to a job?
Checking children into the nursery at church every Sunday might not feel like a very big deal. But when you consider you're managing a check-in station, greeting new visitors, entering their information into a database, and working cohesively with church staff, it feels and sounds like the significant contribution that it is.
If you haven't been involved in much outside of your home, start now.
Consider what field you're trying to enter, and take on any small, applicable volunteer opportunities you can find.
For example, if you'd like to become an administrative assistant, volunteer to take phone calls for an hour or two a week at your child's preschool. If you're looking for a writing/editing job, volunteer to write and/or edit your church's bulletin, weekly announcement slides, and/or email communications. It's always helpful to be able to point out current, relevant experience in your field, paid or not.
Consider taking any applicable trainings, obtaining (affordable!) certifications, or attending relevant conferences.
These provide just one more way to demonstrate how you've remained up-to-date within your field, even while away for a period.
Give yourself some credit
Create an elevator pitch.
One of my biggest challenges when I was attempting to return to the workforce was explaining my time away without sounding dismissive of the incredibly significant contribution it was.
The truth is, you've been working your butt off doing one of the most important jobs in the world.
Saying, “I've just been a stay-at-home mom the last 10 years”? It makes it sound like you've been binging on Netflix and chicken nuggets. But the truth is, you've been working your butt off doing one of the most important jobs in the world.
How much more confident does it sound to say, “I'm a former tech manager. I took a break to invest in my children these past few years, but am looking to make my return to tech.” You could also tie in those extras if you have them! “Now that the kids are in school, I have time to get back into marketing. I've kept my skills sharp by volunteering to market events at the local library.”
Practice your elevator pitch over and over, until you recite it with ease and confidence the next time someone asks you what you do. The more seriously you take yourself, the more seriously others will take you.
Address your time at home on your resume.
An unexplained gap on your resume creates questions rather than addressing them on your terms. Be upfront about the circumstances, while providing a professional description of your time away.
Don't forget to include any side gigs, volunteer work, or training in which you might have participated during that time. You certainly aren't required to do anything above and beyond caring for your children. And you don't have to prove to potential employers you did. After all, it's not really their business to judge your time away, right? But marketing any volunteering, hobbies, etc. can help to convince more close-minded interviewers that your break didn't diminish your relevance.
Start looking early and make it known
Start looking early.
My husband and I had agreed I would return to work when our daughter started preschool. So with a looming start date in early September, I began my job hunt in June.
Starting early gives you more time to land a job without the added stress of a quickly approaching, or worse, passed deadline. It also allows you to be a little pickier about the job, pay, or schedule, than you might otherwise be able to.
Look for referrals.
I can tell you from experience that it's incredibly difficult to land an interview with a long break in your employment history, even if/when you position your break perfectly. You're much more likely to hear back from a company if someone on the inside can vouch for your character. Don't be afraid to let family, friends, and neighbors know that you're in the market for a job! They might just have the inside scoop or connections you need to get your foot in the door.
Broaden your search
Don't rule anything out!
You might be surprised how much you enjoy a different industry, schedule, or location. I was convinced that only an at-home job would meet our family's needs, and so only applied to at-home positions.
But when I finally broadened my search, I found a position in a traditional office just 15 minutes from my front door, with a 2–11 p.m. schedule that still allowed me to attend all of my daughter's preschool events. I was surprised at how much I actually enjoyed leaving the house, and was blown away by the company's benefits and perks. Don't be afraid to think outside of the box. You might just be pleasantly surprised.
Consider starting part-time
Sure, your ultimate goal might be a full-time position, but sometimes it's easier to land a part-time gig first. Companies are often more willing to take a chance on a candidate when there are no insurance premiums or vacation hours at stake.
A part-time position not only allows you the opportunity to prove your worth to an employer (and possibly open the door to further opportunity), but also puts recent and relevant experience on your resume while you continue to seek out full-time work.
Make sure your new gig is worth it
Although you may want to jump at your first opportunity to return to work, you'll want to make sure it's worth it. I had a friend who was busting her tail waitressing, only to do the math one day and realize she was only bringing in enough money to cover childcare costs. She was literally working so that someone else could watch her kids…so that she could work. Make sure that the offer makes sense for your situation and your family. It should be 100% worth your time, energy, and sacrifice.
Wrap it up
Just because you're a stay at home mom returning to work doesn't mean for one second you'll wind up at a dead-end job.
By marketing yourself well, broadening your search, and weighing the benefits, you can land a job you not only need, but want. You've got this, momma!
Taking time away from the working world to be a parent doesn't need to hold you back. Our free and confidential resume review can help you make sure your resume is ready for the jobs you want.
Editor's Note: This article was originally written for Deb Takes Her Life Back. It has been reprinted with permission.