Get in the right frame of mind.
Start practicing as if you’re already returning to work. “Talk openly about your career and the work you either used to do or the work you want to do (if they’re different). Practice talking about yourself as a professional, rather than a mom. These small mindset changes, along with a lot of practice talking out loud about work and being a woman who works, will set you up to speak confidently when you’re interacting with potential employers.”
Get some advice.
If most of your friends are fellow stay-at-home moms, you may need to look outside your circle for some advice and inspiration. Try to connect with other working moms to see how they balance work life and family life.
Even if you don’t know many working moms personally, you can use online groups on Facebook and LinkedIn to connect virtually with other moms who’ve either made the return to work or are in the middle of it. Their insights, advice, and friendship will be a huge source of support, energy, and inspiration as you make your return.”
Ask them how they conducted their job searches, what they wish someone had told them when they were looking for a job and returning to work, and any job search strategies for success they may have.
Determine what you really want to do.
You know you want to work, but you’re not sure what you want to do. You’re thinking about going back to your old career because it’s easier than starting over. But, maybe, you want to try something new.
Sit down and think about the things that have brought you joy while you were raising your children. Determine what you truly want to do, and then figure out the steps you need to take to make it happen.
Make a job search plan.
After contemplating the above questions and having a firm grasp on your and your family’s needs, create a job search plan. While it may seem a bit over the top, knowing what you need to do and when you need to do it will help keep you on track and give you actionable tasks to work on if you start getting frustrated.
Set up your job search and networking goals, then mark the dates on your calendar. This could include taking classes to learn (or update) skills, volunteering, or even looking for internships.
Prepare your elevator pitch, personal brand, and five-word job description. Once you’ve got those set, use them when you connect with professionals and conduct informational interviews.
Seek out and verify job search services that can help.
Update your social profiles.
Many people have more than one social media account. But, even if you have only one account, make sure it’s up to date and doesn’t contain anything questionable.
If there are pictures or opinions you don’t want employers to see, consider changing your privacy settings so only people you approve can see your profile.
While you’re at it, set up a LinkedIn account if you don’t already have one. Even if it isn’t your favorite social media site, it may be the most important one to have. Not only does it give you a chance to showcase your relevant skills, but it’s also a great way to show you’re involved and active in your subject area.
Answering Tough Questions About Going Back to Work
Congratulations! They want to interview you. As nervous as that might make you, there are plenty of ways to explain your employment gap in a professional and reassuring manner.
Don’t hide your time off raising a family. Any future employer that does not respect your past choices may not respect your future ones.
That time was not blank or a vacation, but rather a skill-building experience—treat it as such. Employers are going to get the value of the skills you gained, and you might as well be front and center with them. When going back to work, don’t minimize the experience you have gained at home.
Dealing with curveballs.
Whether or not it’s legal and whether or not it’s fair, there’s a chance someone might ask you questions that they shouldn’t. It’s important to be prepared not only to hear the questions but to have a perfect answer ready to go.
Some of the less-than-ideal questions can include:
- Is your career more important than your family?
- How do you let someone else raise your children?
- Who cooks for your kids?
- Do you have to work?
There are, of course, many more like this. But, for the most part, when it comes to answering these curveball interview questions, you’ve got a few options.
The most important thing to do is to remain calm. Losing your cool and pointing out how unfair and biased the question is will only lose you the job. Take a deep breath, and try one of these techniques to answer the question.
First, you could answer the question directly.
Second, you can try a humorous answer to redirect the question and deflect the answer. “Who cooks for my kids? Anyone I can con into it because I am a terrible cook. Seriously.
Third, you could ask the interviewer how the question relates to the job duties. “Who cooks for my kids? Can I ask why this is important? I want to understand the job and all of its duties. If I’m going to cook and be your account manager, I’d like to know that information.”
In the end, consider it a good thing that the interviewer asked this question. It gives you valuable insight into the company and its culture.
What Are Other Options For Stay-at-Home Moms Returning to Work?
If you didn’t get the job, don’t give up! There are still things you can do that will help you return to work.
Part-Time and Temp Work
Consider part-time or even temporary work as a transition step to regular, full-time employment. It may not be ideal, but it’s something to help you and your family get used to you working. It’s also a great way for you to test the waters and figure out what kind of balance works best for you and your family.
It’s also a great way to reintroduce yourself to technology. If the last time you were in an office was when Windows 7 was all the rage, you’re going to have to learn Windows 10. While it’s not that different, it’s not the same, either.
You Got the Job!
That’s great! But, once you start thinking about it, you start getting cold feet. Who’s going to take care of the kids when they get home from school? What about taking them to soccer practice? What if someone gets sick?
Test run child care.
In almost every case, you’ll have about two weeks before you report for your first day of work. In that time, you should find child care for your kids.
Once you’ve got it set up, do a test run so the kids can get used to the situation and the new person or people helping you out. It’s also a great chance for you to figure out what works best in terms of schedule and routine and for you to gain trust and confidence in your helpers.
Once you get back to work, you may find yourself doing everything you can to prove you can do it all. But in reality that isn’t healthy and will only set you up to fail.
Set boundaries and make sure you enforce them—which may mean learning how to say “no” to things you can’t say “yes” to.
That means if you have to leave at 5:00 to get to daycare before 6:00, make sure you leave at 5:00 no matter what. That may mean working a little bit at home as a trade-off, but don’t let anyone schedule a meeting for 4:45 and expect you to stay.
Offer to have the meeting at a different time. Or have a virtual meeting instead. There are plenty of tools out there that allow you to meet with coworkers anytime and anyplace with an Internet connection.
Going Back to Work as a Mom Takes Time
The transition back to work isn’t easy for anyone. Ask for all the help you can get. Reynolds says, “It can also help to work with a career coach who can work with you to find clarity on your goals, get your resume back in shape, practice interviewing, and determine the best return-to-work strategies for you.