When my son was born, I knew that I wanted to step away from work to care for him. That break was eventually extended due to the pandemic, and I just recently started working again after a four-year hiatus. Finding a new job took me over six months and involved many applications, interviews, and rejections.
I’m not an expert, but I feel that throughout my experience I learned a lot. I want to share tips for parents who are returning to work after a career break, and what you can do to maximize your time and effort during your job search.
Tip #1: Decide your non-negotiables.
The first thing you should do when deciding about returning to work is to think about what kind of job you need to fit your lifestyle. This could include things like working in a specific field, working from home or in a hybrid setup, having a short commute, working specific hours, being near your child’s school, being somewhere you can get without a car, or any other specification that you might need to work there.
For example, I chose to work a swing shift at my new job because it allows me to maximize time with my son after I pick him up from school. This will not work for everyone, which is why it’s so important to think about what you want and need from a job.
You want to keep yourself open to opportunities, but having a defined list of what you need will help you narrow down your search and focus your energy towards opportunities that may be a good fit.
Tip #2: Network, network, network!
This is a tip that you will hear from absolutely everyone when it comes to job hunting and returning to work, but it’s very true that networking is often very helpful during a job search. Networking can come in many shapes and forms. The most obvious is by talking to and reaching out to friends and family–you never know who might have some kind of connection to a job that you are interested in!
If you don’t know anyone personally who can help you find a job, LinkedIn is an excellent tool that can help you network with people who you may not already know. While I was job hunting, almost every interview I did came from applying for jobs and networking either on LinkedIn or through personal connections.
If you can afford it, a LinkedIn premium membership can be very helpful with this, but you can have success using the free version as well. Don’t be afraid to send a message to a recruiter, or make new connections. It’s such a useful tool in furthering your job search.
Besides LinkedIn, there are several other sites that can prove to be helpful tools in your job search, such as Indeed, Glassdoor, and and FlexJobs. There are even job boards meant exclusively for moms like The Mom Project.
Tip #3: Update your skillset.
The longer you have been out of the workforce, the more this step is going to help you when you’re returning to work. Your past experience and education is going to weigh heavily in your job interviews, and most interviewers will simply ask you most questions about your last work experience. However, there are several ways to update your skillset.
Some people choose to go a more traditional path and get a master’s degree or certificate. There are many online certificate courses you can take as well, on websites such as Coursera, Udemy, or via colleges and universities. Think about the direction that you see yourself going in, and do the research to find what works for you. With so many options, it’s becoming easier to find something that fits your needs, budget, and schedule.
Also, don’t be afraid to take advantage of free resources that are available. For example, you can prove your skill by taking a LinkedIn skill assessment. These assessments are optional and available in a variety of subjects. If you pass the assessment, it will show on your profile and help to bolster your candidacy.
There are also several Youtube channels and other online resources that can help give interview and job application advice. One of my favorites on Youtube is Brigette Hyacinth. Her videos really helped me with interview skills and boosted my confidence. There is a lot of great content online, and you can always search and see what suits you.
Tip #4: Think outside the box.
You have your list of non-negotiables, but don’t let that limit you too much. Some people may hold a specific degree or certification and know exactly the line of work for themselves. But if not, keep an open mind and consider opportunities that may be a little different than you originally expected.
You never know what you might come across that could be a great fit for you. Don’t keep your scope so narrow that you miss something that could be amazing.
Tip #5: Don’t get discouraged.
When navigating the path of returning to work, you will most likely get rejected. A lot. Unless you know someone who can connect you with a job right away, you will face rejection in a tough job market. This rejection is not a reflection of your self-worth or value. You know your strengths and skills, and moms are some of the best employees out there!
Go into your interviews confident and prepared. Research the company and interviewers, and try to learn from each opportunity. Don’t let anyone tell you that having a resume gap means you are less qualified. Prove to them that you aren’t.
Being a caregiver is not a vacation, and even if you weren’t earning a paycheck during that time, you gained invaluable skills. If anyone tells you otherwise, perhaps it’s best to look for work at a place that respects your experience. You’re a mom, and that is one of the toughest jobs out there.