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A Mother's Guide to Getting Back into The Workforce

If you’ve decided to make the transition from full-time mom to 9-to-5, here’s a guide to help get you going. [TWEET]

You've changed dirty diapers, tended to scrapes and bruises, and have provided your child or children with as much love and support as you know how to throughout the years. You made the choice to take some time away from your career to put your children first, and now, it's time to put some focus back on you. But where do you begin so you can assimilate back into the workforce? This is a question many mothers ask themselves when they decide to pull the work attire out of the closet once again.

There is a lot of career advice for new moms out there, as well as many options and steps you can take to prepare to transition back into the workforce, some of which I've shared below. But first, as you begin this journey, be sure to step into those powerhouse shoes, tuck some patience, tenacity, and belief in yourself into your back pocket, ask for help along the way, and know that you can do it. Consider this career transition advice for new moms.

1. Get clear on what you desire

Make a list of what you're looking for when you do go back to work. What type or organization? What type of position? Do you want to work for a company with promotion opportunities, or are you looking for a job where you can go in, do your work, and head home without having to worry about your team or how others are doing? The clearer you are with what you desire, the easier it will be to hone in on specific jobs to apply for that match your list. This will also help you to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the many job postings you might be pursuing.

2. Update or prepare your marketing materials

Similar to when you listened to initial career transition advice and landed your first job right out of college or high school, you'll want to have an up-to-date resume and cover letter that speak to your experience, education, and capabilities. When applying for positions, tailor them to fit each position for which you're applying. For support on writing and updating your resume, consider reading Avoid The Resume Black Hole With These Tips. If you've been out of the workforce for a while, then 7 Assumptions Hiring Managers Make from Reading Your Resume has some nuggets you might find helpful.

You might also consider developing a website that includes your professional bio and resume. You can easily build a simple, yet professional website with Wordpress.com, Squarespace.com, or ehost.com, to name a few options. Wordpress offers free website options, whereas the others mentioned will host your site for a relatively low annual or monthly fee. For more insight into creating a professional website, refer to Boost Your Online Presence with A Professional Website.

3. Update your professional social media profiles

Per LinkedIn's About Page, LinkedIn has over 400 million members in more than 200 territories and countries throughout the world. LinkedIn is a great tool for you to use to promote yourself, as well as seek out potential employers. I've used it to research potential employees for hire, as well as employers I might be interested in or want to network with.

Also, employers often Google names of applicants these days, so it's a good idea to confirm that you'd be OK with an employer seeing what you have posted online or what comes up when you search your name. Keep your personal social media profiles set to private, as well.

4. Get out there and network!

It's not who you know, but who knows you, as the saying goes. As you're preparing to get back out in the workforce, begin researching local networking events and online groups in which to participate. If you're an HR professional, for example, you might seek out the local Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) chapter to network and keep eyes and ears open for possible job openings. Meetup.com can also be a good resource to seek out local networking groups specific to your interests and needs, as well as LinkedIn mentioned above.

Further, send an email to family and friends and former coworkers and managers with your resume. Share with them the type of position for which you're looking and ask them to forward your resume if they know of any positions for which you might be a good fit. People like to connect people to opportunities when they can.

5. Consider part-time or temp work

If you find that your search for a position is taking longer than expected, consider part-time work or seek out a temp agency who can help you land a temporary or temp-to-hire position. Do an online search for local staffing agencies in your area and give them a call or send them an email to request an interview. If you get your foot in the door with the right company and prove yourself, then chances are good you'll receive a full-time offer. Another reason to consider part-time work is the fact that it gives you some time to adjust to being back at work before going full-time.

6. Prepare to answer the inevitable question about your gap in employment

Interviewers are most certainly going to ask about any gaps in employment on your resume, especially ones that are a year or longer. You can choose to answer this question in a couple of ways, but it is important to consider this piece of career advice for new moms and provide an answer if it comes up.

1. You can confirm that you took some time away for personal reasons, which was the best decision for you at the time, and you're now ready to return to work.

2. You can confirm that you took some time away to be a mother, because it was the best decision for you at the time, and now you're ready to put the focus back on your career.

The first choice is vague and could leave the interviewer with suspicions as to why you wouldn't share your "personal reasons." With that said, I understand the second option can raise some sensitivities around parenthood and whether or not you'll be away from the office due to having children. It's not uncommon for mothers to take some time away, so this won't be a new scenario to most interviewers. Plus, a good and knowledgeable interviewer will focus on your ability to do the job vs. your role as a mother.

When asked about gaps in employment, be honest and brief, and always bring the interview back to the position and your qualifications for it. Assure the interviewer that you're qualified for the position and you're very excited to return to work.

Depending on how long you've been away, you can also choose to use a functional resume to highlight your accomplishments within certain skill sets vs. a chronological resume that highlights your time with each company. In other words, a functional resume will help detract attention away from your employment gaps. Another option is to use years for the timeframe with each company, vs. the year and month, as long as you're consistent throughout your resume if you choose to do so.

7. Forgo desperation and be focused

Patience is important when it comes to searching for the right job, regardless of where you are in your career. Once you're clear on the types of positions you're interested in as discussed above, begin searching and only apply for those types of positions. Be careful not to apply for every position a company has posted, as this could reflect desperation and a lack of clarity on your part. I do understand that it can sometimes create insecurities since you've been outside of the arena for a while, but you still deserve to land a great position that's the right fit for you, so keep that in mind as you navigate the job search process.  

8. Keep your options open

I know I mentioned to be specific about the type of work you're looking for. At the same time, it's good to keep an open mind. For example, you might go into an interview for a position, but the manager thinks you might be a better fit for a different position or group. Or, if you've always worked in the same industry, consider looking at similar positions in other industries that might work for you. If you have enough experience, you could explore working for a consulting firm, as well. There are lots of options, so be clear on the type of culture and position you're looking for, but be open to possibilities and opportunities that could fit within your specifics, yet expand your horizons at the same time.

9. Know your rights

My goal is not to make anyone overly sensitive to discrimination or create the mentality that it could be an issue for you. Quite the contrary, my career transition advice is to go into an interview knowing you are qualified for the position and that employers want to hire the best person for the position. Own that interview!

With that said and all fun aside, discrimination does exist, unfortunately, and it's good to be aware of the issue. Discrimination Laws exist to protect against gender, race, disability, age and other types of discrimination for a reason. To better understand these laws and your rights, refer to the Laws Enforced by EEOC.

10. Believe you can do it, and be gentle on yourself

If you've been out of the workforce for a while, it can be nerve-racking to go through the whole process of searching and interviewing for a job, as well as assimilating to a new company. Be gentle with yourself and take care of yourself throughout the process, from the prep stages to after you've been hired. You've done it before, so you can do it again, and with some patience and perseverance, you'll find your next position in good time. Once you're in the door, give yourself some time to adjust to your new schedule and don't expect to know or learn everything overnight.

11. Communicate with your family

Especially if your children are still school-age and living at home, having a heart-to-heart with them about your decision to return to work will support the transition for them and you. This type of conversation helps to manage expectations for the home and the new demands on your schedule due to work. It might take some adjusting for the family, but with open communication, the adjustment period will hopefully go smoother than it might without it.

Whether you've been out of the work arena for as little as a year, or for more than twenty, congratulations on making the choice to return to work. We hope this career advice for new moms helps. Continue to research ways to help you launch back into the workforce, such as the book Back on The Career Track by Carol Fishman Cohen, and best of luck to you on your new adventure.

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Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!