Returning To The Workplace

By Amy Winter

May 7, 2010 5 min read

You are ready to step back into the job market after staying home with the kids, but you don't know where to start. Don't worry; being nervous is completely normal. It is important to start by brushing up on your skills, networking and developing your r?sum? and cover letter. Remember to remain confident in your abilities.

When starting your job search, be open to a variety of opportunities. Malia Litman, a women's advocate who returned to the job market after staying at home for 15 years, says to present your skills as a stay-at-home mom in a different light; make them applicable to the workplace. Traits, such as being a quick learner and a team player, are valuable in the office.

Networking is key when starting to look for a job, according to Peter Handal, president of Dale Carnegie Training. Talk to others in the job field to get a refresher on the industry and to learn of new opportunities. Litman suggests going to your college alumni office for career assistance, joining a professional network for your preferred job field or checking into local women's business chapters. Stacey Smith, founder of Hybrid Mom Consulting & Media Group, says to "post, tweet and overall broadcast" that you are in the job search process.

When it comes to updating your r?sum?, include volunteer experience. Anything you've been working on can fill the "kid gap," according to Smith. Go for a skill-based r?sum? in order to demonstrate your strengths better. Discuss your employment gap in the cover letter, but mainly focus on your abilities and qualifications. Litman says to include any skills you used when volunteering at your child's school or with other community organizations (fundraising, letter writing, marketing, accounting, etc.).

"You should create a visual bridge between your stay-at-home mom skills and those desired by the employer," Litman says. "If you have a lot of 'empty space' on your r?sum?, consider taking an additional course or line of study, even if you don't achieve an additional degree."

Do your homework before the interview. Make sure your r?sum? appeals to employers, according to Handal. Present your strengths and sell yourself while maintaining the mindset of the employer. Practice your interview skills by talking about your values and experiences with friends and family.

A professional wardrobe can help you put your best foot forward during the interview process. Seeing as 85 percent of all communication is nonverbal, you need your clothes to send the right message to those in the workplace, according to image consultant Marla Tomazin. Torn clothing, scuffed heels and out-of-date clothes won't display your appearance in a positive light. Tomazin has some tips for women to revamp their wardrobes:

--Avoid clothes that are too tight, too revealing or too short.

--Pick a foundational clothing piece that can be worn more than once a week. Choose a base color that flatters you -- black, navy, gray, chocolate or beige.

--Maintain the staple pieces -- a blazer jacket, a skirt and pants in a base color.

--Accessories -- such as a cute belt, a scarf or a piece of jewelry -- can complete your outfit. Be sure to have a nice pair of heels and a handbag.

Becoming an entrepreneur or working as an independent consultant are other options for moms. Litman says that having a business looks great on a r?sum?; it "creates the impression that you are a creative 'go-getter' with initiative and drive." Handal suggests a part-time position as a good option to step back into the working world slowly.

One of the biggest challenges for mothers is getting out of "mother mode," according to Vicki Brackett, creator of Make It Happen For Women. Brackett helps women realize that they don't need to tell the hiring manager every detail during the interview. It is better to discuss flexible work schedules once you are hired. Brackett says stay-at-home moms must learn what skills they should showcase in order to appear confident and marketable to employers.

"Don't say that you are a master at multi-tasking," Litman says, "because even though you are, that signifies a woman who stays at home. Say that you have experience and expertise in setting priorities, in follow-up and in being responsible and accountable and that you are a creative problem solver. You are all these things, but you have used these skills in raising your kids."

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