Jumping Back into the Workforce After Raising Kids?
Here are six ideas for getting started well before you're ready to launch.
This column is part of a special series Halbert Hargrove produced in honor of March being Women's History Month to highlight women's accomplishments and challenges.
You’ve been working at home raising kids. Now you're ready to transition to work outside the home. I’ve been there, and I know it’s a leap! And it’s one you can clear — you just need a running jump. Here are six things to think about before you leave the ground.
1. Give It Time
Kids are known for repeatedly asking, “Are we there yet?” during a journey. It’s a question you might start asking yourself once you start looking for a job. The psychology of positive waiting is this: If you have a realistic expectation of how long something takes, the waiting time feels shorter.
According to a recent Randstad survey, it takes an average of five months for a job hunter to get hired. Considering that number’s an average, plan on it taking six months (if it’s sooner, great!). Meanwhile, take advantage of that time to work through the rest of this list.
2. Get Social
If you aren’t using social media, now is the ideal time to create and maintain a LinkedIn profile.
Just like you should check the web presence of a company you are scoping out for employment, you should expect a hiring manager to search the web for you. And since 60% of job hunters land work by networking, let people you know — not just friends and family but also former business colleagues — you’re searching.
3. Practice Makes Perfect
A recent survey found that 80% of employers value a candidate’s soft skills — specifically those related to success in teams, attention to detail and customer service — to be equally or more important than hard (technical) skills. Pinpoint the soft skills you’ve already mastered and those you want to hone, and be prepared to talk about them. Use this list of the 50 most common questions asked in interviews and practice answering some of them out loud to yourself or with someone you trust.
Practicing in a mirror is also great, as is recording a video or voice memo — and don’t worry, you can delete it after listening! Taking the time to both identify and articulate who you are and what you are good at won’t just help you in your job search, it will help you in all areas of life.
4. Put It in Writing
Whether you apply for jobs online or leverage your network to find out about an opening, you’ll need to have a résumé to circulate. As you review your work history, remember that you’ve likely acquired highly translatable hard skills that you might have overlooked.
I learned a lot in a panel interview for my first position at Halbert Hargrove. One of the interviewers noted that my recent (at-home) job experience — managing rental properties, overseeing the financial and logistical aspects of my household, and being the primary caregiver — assured him that I could easily handle the job I was applying for. He pivoted the conversation and asked more about me, and what I was looking for long term.
That interaction bolstered my confidence and helped me to permanently reframe my work history. The attitude of the interviewer also turned out to be reflective of the organization I still work for, where a child care reimbursement policy and other employee benefits provide tangible support to working parents.
5. Expand Your Search
Depending on what you did before becoming a parent, it’s possible that the industry you worked in has changed since you left, making it harder for you to re-enter that sector. Using the same expansive thinking that helped you name your soft and hard skills, ponder what other jobs you might be qualified for. This is where your network can also be a great help! Often someone outside a situation can see it more clearly.
6. Plan for Your Kids’ Sick Days and Holidays
Besides the usual before- and after-school care, plan for how you’ll handle scheduled school holidays, including spring, summer and winter breaks. You’ll also need to consider who will be home when a child is sick. If you have a partner, start the conversation now about how to handle these unplanned days off.
One of my colleagues switches with her spouse every other time — dividing the labor evenly. Determine what will work for you. The best time to start thinking about this is now — before your child has strep throat for the fourth time in four months. (Yes, that happened to me.)
As for me, after years of working in education and raising my son, I never imagined I’d be working in finance. It turned out that this was the next right place.