From Kids to Career: Jumping Back Into the Workforce after a Parental Break was originally published on Vault.
From giggles and snuggles to messes and tantrums—being a stay-at-home parent is a non-stop job. Indeed, the job description would intimidate even the most impressive candidates: organizing schedules, coordinating appointments, planning activities and parties, cooking, cleaning, caring for sick kids, mediating arguments, actively engaging an audience with a limited attention span, and executing your duties on no sleep.
But when the primary caretaker decides to relaunch his or her career, it can be difficult to determine exactly how to market these skills or how to find relevant opportunities. Below are some tips to strengthen yourself as a candidate after a parental break.
Network, Network, Network
Parenting can be a grueling job, but one positive is that there are often opportunities for play dates, classes, and child-friendly events. And any time there are other grownups around is a perfect time to network. You may be surprised who you find among the other parents at Gymboree or birthday parties. Opening yourself up to these connections may lead to informational interviews, introductions to people of interest, and a useful sounding board for job ideas and goals.
But you aren’t only a parent. You have a network from prior jobs, school, family, and friends, and it never hurts to check in with people from your past. Even a casual hello may lead to a conversation about an opening at a friend’s company.
You also may feel uncertain about transitioning back to work and how your skills may fit. Take advantage of informational interview opportunities, leveraging your network to reach experienced professionals in the field. Talk to them about the industry, how it may have changed while you were out, and how your skills may match certain roles. Most importantly, keep in touch with that person and nurture the relationship, as you never know what opportunities may arise.
Networking doesn’t mean an automatic job, but it is useful for figuring out what you want to do, delving into the industry, and learning about potential opportunities.
Scout Out Valuable Experiences
Once you’ve completed some informational interviews, you may have a better sense of the types of skills employers in your field are seeking. And if you’re a veteran in your field, you probably already know what you need to make yourself stand out. It may be more difficult to find such experiences while you’re still a full-time parent, but with some creativity and determination, you can make it happen. Seek out opportunities at your children’s school, in your town government, or at a nonprofit through which you can volunteer time. If you are a writer, for example, consider volunteering time to draft web copy for a local grassroots organization or even one of your child’s clubs. Perhaps you need some current event-planning experience—consider planning fundraisers for your children’s school or the local scout group. Whether it be town committees, local clubs, or volunteer organizations, you can develop skills and references while still rocking the parent gig.
Working for free is not plausible for many. And let’s be serious—your time is important, especially if you are using the precious free time you have outside of caretaking. Another option—or one that can be combined with volunteering—is to log some freelance hours. One approach is to check if one of your prior employers is interested in you contributing some hours as a freelancer. You also may access your network to see if anyone knows of organizations in need of some freelance help. And, of course, you can search through online job postings. Building a freelance portfolio gives you flexibility to make your own hours while remaining connected to you industry of interest and bolstering your skills in that field. Plus, freelancing allows you to try different areas within the field to see what interests you the most.
Find a Transition Program
Depending on your industry, you may be able to find a program that helps parents transition back into their profession, through classes, fellowships, or some other method.
For example, in the legal industry, OnRamp Fellowship matches experienced attorneys—who have left the workforce—with paid six-month to one-year fellowship opportunities at law firms, legal departments, and financial services firms.
The Second Shift is a matching system through which female professionals in marketing and finance are connected with companies for flexible working opportunities as independent contractors.
Another potentially useful tool is iRelaunch, which offers an array of resources for those transitioning back into the workforce, including articles, YouTube videos, information on re-entry internships, personal coaching, and more.
These are just three of many resources that parents may find as they dip their toes back into the workforce.
Embrace Your Parenting Skills
Parents tend to downplay the day-to-day work they do as though it isn’t applicable to their career. But skills you’ve learned while wrangling kids—from time management to budgeting to meltdown negotiations—can be assets in relaunching your career and your work when you’re back in the saddle.