The past few years have been a dream. Babies, laughter and sunshine, affectionate hubby, changing diapers and elaborate dinners, afternoon naps and kids hockey games – hopefully you have enjoyed at least some of these delights of motherhood during your maternity leave. Sleepless nights and gaining weight are also a normal part of life which you probably had to contend with.
But the wheels of time turn & now that your kids are grown up, you would like to go back to work – you may even be entering the workforce for the first time.
Though your children are growing, it is still natural to feel guilty (& anxious) about not being there for them all the time. Most working mothers grapple with conflicting emotions. Is my house clean enough? Am I neglecting my partner? How can I contribute to my family’s finances? I would be away from my children – is my job worth it? Am I using my education? Am I taking care of myself?
Remember, one of the ingredients of being a good mom is showing your children that women can – YOU can – succeed professionally. You want your children to be proud of you. You don’t want them growing up with the burden that you had sacrificed your happiness for their sake.
Paradoxically, working mothers who are my friends have a much more satisfying life at home if they are able to find fulfillment at work – job stability, an opportunity to learn & grow, and opportunities for advancement.
Here is a three step plan to get you started.
Step – 1: Get Fit
The hardest part of entering the professional life is the change in your everyday life. You are used to having your children around you all the time. Yoga in the late morning – after you drop off the kids to school. Putting your feet up in the late afternoon for a short nap or a television show. And of course, the weekly book club – (Wine Club!) – meetings with your girlfriends.
How do you make your transition easy and painless to a structured life where somebody else will be setting your days agenda?
The secret lies in being fit. Typically, people who have less energy find it more difficult to break cozy habits. To really enjoy going back to work, focus on getting fit. Set a goal for yourself.
Set SMART goals for yourself. Goals which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time based.
Remember the human body needs a minimum of three months to show a change – so you need to set realistic goals. Losing 5 pounds in 1 week is not a sustainable goal. Losing 10 pounds over three months – and being able to “do the cross-fit elliptic training machine for 60 minute at a stretch” is a realistic goal. Consider joining a gym; home-based exercise resolutions always peter out.
Bonus Tip: Install the free app – MyFitnessPal – I found this gem to be the easiest and most sensible way of losing weight.
Step – 2: Assess Your Career Options
Make a list of three jobs you want to target. Make this list carefully since you would need to have a list you would confidently in – even if you don’t see immediate success in your job search.
Do not make a very long list since you want to focus on specific jobs. You need to focus on the requirements of those specific jobs and possible trainings and certifications needed in those areas. Nobody wants to hire a jack of all trades – everybody wants someone who can do something especially well.
However in your list of potential jobs you will need to balance many elements.
The free zavesti.com Career Explorer (free) is a very useful tool for filtering and analyzing potential jobs you can target. The tool has been specially designed from a viewpoint of back-to-work moms.
Examine a job from a viewpoint of financial gains as well. You certainly don’t want to end up spending more on your job – commute, parking, clothes, iPads, daycare – than what you actually earn.
Bonus Tip: Use zavesti.com Career Explorer (free) to shortlist potential jobs you want to target.
Step – 3: Get Some Inside Scoop
Identify at least one person (for each of the potential jobs you have shortlisted) with whom you could talk to. This person could be a family friend or someone you find through your own network.
Find out from him if his company is family friendly and has a culture of trust. Is there flexibility – if your son needs to go to the doctor, can you leave early afternoon and finish off your work from home? Are co-workers supportive?
Ask him (or her) what are the three things he would look for when hiring another person in his team. And ask him – what are some things that he sees as your strengths for the job and something which is missing in your portfolio.
Do not be dismayed by the weaknesses or potential objections you discover. Take a step back and see how you can handle these objections. Too old? Get fit – put biking and hiking as your interest areas in the resume. No prior experience? Examine how you can position past, apparently unrelated experiences as transferable skills. No college degree? Check out any quick professional certifications you can do.
Bonus Tip: Find local chapters of the following associations. In these associations you will be able to find other women who can share with you some inside scoop of the jobs you are interested in: Associations For Women: Opportunities To Network & Find A New Job
In Conclusion: Go with a positive attitude
I strongly believe that nobody is out to purposely victimize anyone. Employers really want their work done. When women, back–to-work moms or others come in to the interview room, the hiring manager is not thinking, “O God, not another woman. I simply hate women”. Instead, he is thinking if you can do the job, if you will come to work on time, if you will bring energy, initiative and intelligence to the team.
Every hiring manager is under scrutiny by his manager on the effectiveness of his team. If he doesn’t hire you for a job which requires extensive travel or visiting clients at night, it’s not because he hates your sex. It’s because you have not been able to convince him that you could fulfill those requirements better than anyone else. If you were the hiring manager, would you hire yourself as a night guard? Or in a job which requires extensive travel if you have just had a baby? If you are a profit minded businessperson – you would not. Here’s a woman to woman advice – Be confident, nobody will consciously victimize you.
Feel confident: Managers will want you if you show value
As someone who has interviewed scores of candidates, I can reassure you that hiring managers, contrary to popular misconception, do not prefer their incompetent kinsmen over better qualified candidates. No successful manager can achieve his or her targets with an underperforming team made up of unskilled family members. A manager always wants candidates who can prove that they would be indispensable to the manager’s success.
So, go for it with the right attitude – Success is just steps away!
Read how Monica – a back to work mom – found her new job.