How to Make a Confident Return to the Workforce

A huge fear around returning to work after you’ve been a stay at home parent for a few (or several) years is the gap in the old resume. Companies won’t even look at me because I’ve been away fro 5 years/10 years etc…

I was in that boat as well a few months ago. I was out of the work force for 4 years. That’s a pretty big gap. A lot changes in 4 years. Computer programs you once used may have changed quiet a bit or have even become obsolete. The place you worked at before you became a full time parent may no longer be around or may not be hiring when you want to return. Your contacts in the company may have moved on and are no longer around to give you a glowing review from within.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, there are somethings you can do to help fill that gap and return to the work force with relative ease.

1. Don’t sit around and do nothing for years. Yes because that’s what we do as stay at home parents right? HA! I’m really referring to your professional development. When you’re an at home parent it’s easy to be consumed with doing things for other people ALL the time. But there needs to be time for you as well.

There will come a time when you want to or need to return to work and having a relevant skill set will be a definite asset. Keep current on the latest Microsoft Office package, learn to use the Internet effectively and if you’re in management take a refresher course on effectively managing people. If you have a continuing education program or adult education program in your area seriously consider taking a course or two that could directly apply to your potential future role.

2. Don’t use cutesy terms for being a stay at home parent. I’ve seen this before – the cutesy terms for an at home parent – “domestic goddess” “domestic engineer” “super mom/dad” etc… In my opinion, this is very unprofessional and comes across that you’re embarrassed to say what you’ve really been up to.

Be honest and be proud that you took the time off to raise your family. You should not leave this time on your resume blank, since a 4 year absence from the work force looks a bit suspect, but include something simple like: 2001-present:  Stay-at home parent to 2 children. This tells your potential employer what you’ve been doing for the past several years and provides a topic of conversation should you get an interview.

3. Do something. Similar to the professional development I mentioned in the first point, try expanding on a hobby or tackling something completely new to you. For me this was blogging, writing e-books and teaching online courses. This was all completely new to me but it quickly became something I truly enjoyed. Turns out these side projects, which I initially started to give me something to do in my down time, were something that really intrigued my new employers.

In addition to my regular work I now write a seasonal newsletter, customize and create surveys and will be designing other sites related to our department. All using the experience I gained in my spare time.

How can you best prepare?

While there is no one answer that can satisfy everyone I do have a few suggestions on how to best prepare for re-entering the work force.

  • Brush up your skills by taking a course. Taking a course keeps our skills up to date but it also gets you out and interacting with other adults and it could be a great opportunity to network.
  • Start an online portfolio to showcase your work or talents. If an online portfolio is out the question create a paper one that you can bring with you to interviews.
  • Start networking or touch base with people you worked with in the past.
  • Know what you have to offer and what it is specifically you’re looking for in a job.
  • Update your resume. Jobs are posted with little notice and are filled or taken down with the same short notice. Having a resume ready to go at a moments notice is a really good idea.
  • Yoga pants and a t-shirt are not ideal interview attire. If you’re like most stay at home parents your wardrobe may be a tad dated or just a bit too casual. Have a go to outfit for interviews should one pop up out the blue.

There are a lot of things you can do to prepare yourself to return to work. Take it slow, have a plan, and proceed with confidence.

Do you have any other suggestions on how we can prepare to return to the workforce?

18 Responses to “How to Make a Confident Return to the Workforce”

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  1. Kathi says:

    My comment only applies to women who are making the decision to stay home, not to those who are there already: Consider a part-time job, no matter how small, just to prevent that resume gap. Talk to your current boss and see if there’s anything you can do, consulting-wise or otherwise. I am extremely lucky–I telecommute about 10 hours a week for my old company. I don’t make enough to afford a sitter, so it’s not always easy to fit in around kids (though when my youngest goes to K this fall, it’ll be a breeze!). I also don’t get benefits, obviously. However, this has been the right decision for me, especially since I work in the computer field, which doesn’t suffer resume gaps at all.

  2. Heidi says:

    I’m so glad you wrote this! I think there is a real dearth of information about how to prepare to re-enter the workforce and it is undoubtedly a very intimidating experience!

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