Are you a mom who has been thinking about returning to work? Here are some quick tips on everything from the back to work resume to the "comeback" interview (excerpted from The Back to Work Toolkit: A Guide for Comeback Moms):
1) Clear your calendar to make time for the search: Ideally, you should plan on spending at least fifteen hours each week on job-search activities connected with your back to work search. If you already have that amount of time available in your schedule, that's great. But if not, you’ll need to “create” that time by eliminating your non-essential time drains. By non-essential time drains, I mean all those volunteer commitments, social obligations and household chores that can be reduced or outsourced with a little bit of advance planning (and perhaps some arm twisting).
2) Create a hybrid or combination resume: The vast majority of employers, and almost all recruiters, will tell you that they prefer to see resumes formatted in the traditional reverse chronological style (this is the resume format you used in the past when applying for jobs). Unfortunately, this preference creates a real dilemma for women who have been out of the workplace for an extended period of time and don’t want “Homemaker” to be the first entry a potential employer reads. To address this conflict, if you have been out of work for at least a year consider changing the format of your resume from a chronological style to a “hybrid” or “combination” format that blends the best of a chronological resume with the benefits of a functional resume. Because combination resumes are accomplishment oriented, instead of date-centric, they provide a framework for showcasing your capabilities without drawing attention to the gaps in your work history.
3) Enlist a success team: In the business world, savvy companies depend upon guidance from their Board of Directors. As the CEO of your job search, you too can benefit from the input of a few trusted advisors. Who might serve on your success team?
- Colleagues and clients from your “former” life.
- People you’ve met as a result of your volunteer duties
- Contacts you make by attending industry association meetings or conferences.
- People you’ve met through “former life” networks (perhaps college, graduate school or sorority networks).
Think about specific areas where you need assistance and then ask for help. While you may feel like you’re imposing on others, most people are all too willing to help. Be specific when explaining how a person might assist you and of course always remember to express thanks for their time and guidance.
4) Dress for success: When interviewing, a good rule of thumb is to dress for the job you aspire to, not just the job you are interviewing for. However, tune into cues. If everyone in the office wears jeans, don't wear a navy skirt suit; instead opt for a pantsuit or wear tailored pants and a cardigan set. Please leave the "soccer mom" accessories at home. Headbands, tote bags and necklaces with dangling baby charms detract from the sophisticated look you need to convey in the interview.
5) Be proud of your decision to stay home with your children: When asked about your decision to stay home with your children, be upbeat and positive. Use phrases like “I elected” or “I chose” to emphasize that your decision to stay home was planned and deliberate, not just a default position. Explain that you feel fortunate to have been able to be home with your children while they were young; emphasize that you have gained valuable skills during this time period; and then quickly steer the focus of the discussion back to your interest in the job. Whatever you do, never apologize for your decision to stay home or make excuses about why you didn’t return to work earlier.
6) Believe in yourself: Keep the gap in perspective! If you do your homework and learn to clearly articulate your strengths and unique qualifications, that confidence will serve you very well during this process. Being able to negotiate from a position of value, instead of from a place of need, will help you secure the best job possible.