Trying to Re-enter the Workforce: An Adventure Tale

by Susan Silverman

I miss the working world. Plain and simple. Sure, being a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) has been rewarding: I’ve been able to witness my child evolve on a daily basis. But since my first day of maternity leave, I have missed—no, I think the word is ached—for the professional world. That was two-plus years ago. I have been out of the professional game for that long and I’m freaked out that no employer in my field will want me. Why? Because research by the Center for Talent Innovation shows that only 73% of highly qualified women who wanted to return to work were able to do so, and just 40% of those landed a regular full-time job. 

And you wonder why I’m freaked out about not finding a job?!?! I’m already starting with people perceiving me negatively. Or even worse, not even perceiving me at all.

As much as I’m aching to go back to the working world, I am filled with dread. No matter what I read about companies touting their reputations of wanting to hire SAHMs, or others who took a break from the professional world, I firmly believe this is a crock of bologna. A Harvard Business Journal article backs up my gut feeling. In a study that kept popping up all over the internet, Kate Weisshaar, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill found that, “The results show just how heavily parents reentering the workforce are penalized for their career gap: 15.3% of the employed mothers, 9.7% of the unemployed mothers, and 4.9% of the stay-at-home mothers received a callback.”

But even more telling, Weisshaar

found that people viewed both unemployed applicants and stay-at-home applicants as less capable than continuously employed applicants, perhaps thinking their skills had become rustier while they were not working. Respondents viewed stay-at-home parents as less reliable, less deserving of a job, and — the biggest penalty — less committed to work, compared with unemployed applicants.

Weisshaar, “Stay-at-Home Moms Are Half as Likely to Get a Job Interview as Moms Who Got Laid Off.” Harvard Business Review, 22 Feb 2018.

Gap on your resume: So, do I include this two-plus year gap on my resume or not? The jury is split on this one. Some suggest a “functional” resume format, which allows individuals to play up skills and downplay dates and gaps, `a la this Monster.com article. However, others recommend against this as hiring managers may perceive it as “hiding something.” Others advocate listing the time as SAHM on your resume, complete with skills – like multitasking, budgeting, operating under pressure – that comes with full-time parenting, but some hiring managers strongly recommend against this, even demeaning it as ‘cutsie.’ For myself, I’ve decided not to include the gap or even mention parenting on my resume. Rather, in cover letters and interviews I will highlight: 

  • Our family’s decision to live overseas, with all its benefits 
  • Regular engagement with former contacts 
  • That I continued to read up on developments in my field
  • Volunteer work I’ve done 

Know your strengths:I recently had the opportunity to sit down with two of my favorite mentors/bosses, or as I prefer to call them, “she-ros”, to discuss strategies. They both said that I need to know my strengths so I know what to play up in networking and interviews; and as former supervisors, they are the perfect ones to point out my strengths. They held up a mirror that allowed me to better appreciate what I would be good at, which will help me in my search. By asking the question, they also helped me prepare for a favorite interview question: “What are your strengths?” Best of all, former bosses who understand your strengths make for great references.

Network, Network, Network: During these years away, I regularly emailed my former colleagues, clients and contacts. It was just to keep me in the minds of these people, kind of like me waving a loud “Hi! Remember me?!?!?!” In many of these emails I remind people that I’ll be coming back in the summer of 2019 and will be job hunting. If you haven’t networked or kept in contact with people, start with friends and family members. Let them know you are looking—be as specific as possible regarding what you are looking for. See who they know.

In addition, I updated my LinkedIn profile regularly to show contacts, recruiters, and potential employers that I am still actively tracking the field. If you aren’t familiar with LinkedIn, think of it of a 21st century Rolodex (and if you don’t know what a Rolodex is, hit up Dr. Google). I include articles that are of interest to others in my field and regularly comment on other contacts’ postings. I want them to know I’m still here and have value to add.

While writing this I stumbled upon The Mom Project. Its tag line, “we’re committed to helping women remain active in the workforce in every stage in their journey,” is a LinkedIn-esque website for Fortune 500 companies and women who want to work for them. What a great idea! Time to create a profile.

A Job is a Job: One of my she-ros reminded me that she took an interim job at a retail store after leaving a job without having a new one lined up. She had a very difficult time finding a job that was fit for her, as she is a top brass in her field. For us Type As, that’s a hard one on the ego. But, she said it was one of the best times she had. She successfully balanced part-time work and job hunting/networking. And, money is money; every little bit helps. Especially if you’re facing the chicken/egg conundrum of exorbitant child-care costs.

So I’ve read the advice, I’ve got a plan, and still I am terrified about this search. The statistics are against me getting a job, in my field, at my level, at my salary grade. It drives me insane to know that in the 21st century we are still having to address the penalties of balancing motherhood with the professional world. So, dear reader, wish me luck! I will keep you updated of my search and any other tips I come across. 

I am amazed by, and thankful for, Susan’s article on the biases parents face when they try to re-enter the workforce. Even as I am grief-stricken to learn how much bias is still out there. Even as I wonder, why haven’t more boutique career placement services, organizations like The Mom Project but keyed to geographical or functional economies, popped up to serve the market of women with amazing skills seeking to bring those skills back to the workplace? Good luck, Susan – and keep us informed! And to the rest of you, if you’ve made the leap back into a career and want to share your story, or if you see interesting data about the back-to-work challenges SAHPs face, or if you know of groups seeking to address this gut-punch bias, please, please share it with us! Share the links in the comments here, or stick the articles to our Facebook page

-Thea

Thank you, Susan, for all of your research. I know it sounds cutesy, but man, it would be great to explain to prospective employers how your multi-tasking abilities improved whilst shopping at Target with toddlers – how you got everything on the list, kept screaming tots amused with dollar bin finds, and managed to have a 30 second conversation with another mom in passing. The next sales meeting with President Cranky Pants will be a walk in the park! My friends who have returned to the workforce after stepping away to raise kids for a while have had a broad range of experiences with getting back in. Some of them more discouraging than others. But, parenthood has shown us how resilient and creative we are – and I look forward to hearing more about your experience, Susan. You’re gonna be someone’s she-ro!

– Julie



The Space Between in 2019

Greetings In-Betweeners!

Can you believe it’s been a year already since our little community began to coalesce? And WHAT a year! We’ve pondered issues of identity, mental health, advocacy, and intentionality. We’ve strategized on how to manage technology’s impact on our kids, set up a successful summer camp schedule, and achieve your writing/revision goals.  We’ve celebrated the seasons and shared tips for surviving the holidays. We’ve been buoyed by guest bloggers and touched by hearing from you about the issues that impact your lives.

The common thread that strings our articles together has been our desire to support and grow a community of individuals busy raising kids while at the same time trying to find time and space for creativity. This year, we’d really like to grow the community aspect of this endeavor. We value each and every comment we receive on our website. You have no idea how much happy dance goes on every time one of you writes us a comment there. (Want proof? Write a comment, particularly a comment telling us what you want to see more of from the Space Between in 2019, and Thea will video a happy dance and post it back – use #proof in your comment to get the dance.)

We get that some folks just don’t feel comfortable posting to a blog space. We also understand that social media is much more in your face daily than our little site. We know because social media is also way more in our faces than our little site. “If you can’t beat ‘em…” as the old saying goes. So you’ll find that we’re upping our Facebook activity. Perhaps you noticed even in the last week that we’ve been posting a number of articles that relate to Julie’s latest post on implementing your words for 2019. We would be delighted – we would do more happy dances – if you would join our Facebook community (if you haven’t already) and post your thoughts on the articles we’re sticking to that wall. In fact, consider our locker your locker, and feel free to stick up articles that you’ve found, or questions/tips/funny memes (Thea particularly loves a good meme) on the site. We want it to be a community site. Our intention for 2019 is to take the Space Between from a website designed to support you to a community where we support each other.

You might also notice we’re shifting from publishing a new article on the website every week to every other week. We’re taking it down a notch while we focus on community engagement. You’ll still find guest bloggers (there’s a great one coming up at the end of January!). You’ll still find advice and insights and musings. Tell us what you want (see happy dance promise above) – either on the Facebook page or here on the website – and we’ll do our level best to serve it up.

Thanks for helping us grow and connect in 2018! Here’s to continuing our journey together in 2019!

Happy 2019! Wait, What Was My Word?

Welcome to 2019!

Did you pick your word or words?

Have you forgotten about your word and all those good intentions?

(It’s January 6th already, I understand.)

Here are a few tips on how to keep your word alive all year.

1. Post it. Duh. We’ve been over this, but it bears repeating. Post it where you can see it. Got a vision board? Post it on top of the board. Or, you could make a new vision board for the year. Check out our Pinterest board for some ideas on that.

2. Brainstorm what you want this word to look like in your life. There’s a reason it resonated with you, right? We can use the word “restore” as an example. How are you going to translate that word? Do you have goals around that word? Maybe one thing you want to restore is your physical fitness. What do you want the end goal to be? Exercising 4 times a week? Running a 5K? Doing your first triathalon? And maybe you want to “restore” connections with old friends. You can apply your word to lots of areas. Once you figure out the goal or why you are drawn to this word, you can break it down to baby steps over the year. Which leads me to #3…

3. It’s time to map your word over the year 2019. STOP! Here’s where you have to acknowledge that this may, in fact, all blow up in your face. You can make all these awesome plans and then life happens. Unforeseen circumstances can take your year in a direction you never expected or wanted. SO, don’t stress this part. Keep it loose, knowing life is full of surprises. Here goes…

Continue reading “Happy 2019! Wait, What Was My Word?”