Resources for Parents Re-Entering the Workforce

Parent hugging toddler at beachLately, I’ve been working with several parents (not just moms!) who are returning to the workforce after a hiatus spent on caring for children.

Many, understandably, worry about how the gap in their employment may be perceived, and one of the first topics they raise is how to speak to that gap, both in writing and in person. A few reassurances:

  • Taking time to care for children (or other family members – often, I hear about ailing parents and devoting time intentionally to caring for them) is valid and reasonable. You don’t need to apologize or hide what you’ve been doing, no matter how long you’ve been outside the realm of paid employment.
  • Sometimes, it’s helpful to build a specific section into your resume that highlights what you were doing while you stepped out of the paid workforce, especially if some of the skills that you used are relevant to work that you’re seeking. On the other hand, you might simply create a very brief one-liner in your resume or LinkedIn profile that specifies that you were a stay-at-home parent or caregiver. Your target will direct you when you get to this question.
  • How you think and feel about your employment hiatus directly impacts how you speak to it, so it’s helpful to rehearse and be intentional about your description so that you don’t inadvertently come across as defensive, overly apologetic, or unfocused.
  • If you’ve had some volunteer roles during your employment gap, it can be useful to include that content on your resume, and if you’re struggling to find work-related examples to use in an interview, it may be useful to pursue volunteer work, professional development coursework, or other training to add depth to your resume and interview responses.

When clients tell me that they’re worried that they can’t compete in today’s job market, I look to see what’s at the root of their concerns. If it’s self-confidence, that’s something we can address in our sessions by looking at their self-talk and underlying patterns. If their skills are outdated, on the other hand, there are many possible avenues for them to pursue as they address this issue, including:

  • Professional Development Coursework: A few sites that could be helpful here include:
    • Lynda: monthly fee provides unlimited access to courses in business, web development, design, software development, free trial period offered (before you subscribe to this service, check your local library to see if it offers a free subscription with your library card)
    • Udacity: nanodegree programs and courses in many cutting-edge topics
    • Skillshare: free trial period followed by annual or monthly fee
    • FutureLearn: courses in business management, creative arts and media, tech and coding, and more; free access, but upgrade is required to obtain certificate
  • Returnships: Internships for adults! Plug this term into your search engine and review the results that you get there. iRelaunch is a website devoted to parents who are returning to work, and it includes some content on this topic.
  • Apprenticeships: This link is to Colorado’s apprenticeship program, but look at your local workforce development center or unemployment office for something near you.
  • Remote Work: It might be useful for you to work from home as a segue to work outside the home. Some reputable sites include:
    • Flexjobs. This is a subscription-based site, but you can preview some of the options before you opt in. Try using the coupon code “save30” to get a discount if you decide to opt-in (I don’t get a kick-back if you use it – it’s just a site that I like and respect, so I’ve partnered with it for some projects).
    • The Muse. Click on Search Jobs/Remote and Work from Home Jobs.
    • Indeed. type “remote” into the “What” field and the leave the “Where” field blank. Click “Find Jobs,” and consider setting up a daily email from Indeed (see box in sidebar of Indeed after you run a search, and you’ll find “Get new jobs for this search by email” with a space to enter your email address). Caution with Indeed: look to see how old the job posting is when you view opportunities that you’re interested in – Indeed often has listings up for months – I suggested going after only those that have been posted within the past week
    • Working Mother. Good resource for jobs that may be remote or companies that may be receptive to parents returning to the workforce. There’s actually a great article that outlines some additional resources.
    • Hire My Mom. Potential contract work.
    • Career Contessa. Click on Jobs/Location/Remote

If you’re searching for help beyond what’s listed in this article, set up time on my calendar, and we’ll talk through what you’re seeking.

You Don’t Have to Answer Your Phone

Introverts: here’s your permission slip.

You are hereby excused from answering your phone.

Decide when you want to answer your own phone.Even when you’re in a job search, there’s no need to respond to that ring tone (unless it’s a scheduled job interview).

Let callers leave a message. Then you get to deliberate about what you want to say and call back with your carefully phrased response.

I hate answering my phone, and I hear from countless clients who cringe at the idea of sliding their fingers across their phones to accept a call. “Ignore” sounds like a rude option, but it’s totally cool to respond on your terms. You’ll be composed and present and in a spot where you have great reception.

Take Your Time to Compose and Engage

A hallmark of introversion is taking time to compose and engage, and hitting the “pause” button in a conversation is absolutely legitimate.

You’re not alone if you glare disgustedly at your phone when it rings. It’s a clear sign that you’re in this tribe.

Show up in ways that matter. Let your calls go to voice mail when it makes sense and it contributes to your well-being, and then later, respond on your terms in ways that preserve the connection and honor the purpose behind each call.

Some places you might put your attention:

  • Make sure your outgoing message is clear and represents you well. If you have the default message with just your number, it doesn’t let the caller know that they’ve reached the right party.
  • Respond in a timely manner so that you encourage the communication if that’s your agenda.
  • Allow yourself to have additional time for deliberation if something unexpected comes up in a call when you’re live with someone. “Let me think about that and get back to you,” is one of my mantras, and if the caller is offering me something that I don’t want to block (a job offer, for example), I check to make sure my suggested timing suits the caller: “Will Tuesday morning be soon enough to get a response to you?”

No need to squelch your introverted wiring at every turn. Route your phone calls to voice mail when it makes sense and release any guilt that you were holding onto about that practice.

Remove Humiliation from Your Job Search

You’ve found the perfect job, the perfect job for you, and with tenacity, grit, and stellar preparation, you made it to the finalist round.

It’s been a week since the last grueling interview, and you’ve heard nothing. You’ve spent the week dreaming into the job, imagining your new office, considering what you’ll negotiate for your salary and benefits, and strategizing about who you want to eat lunch with.

Yet, time ticks by and no word from the company. Silence.

As it becomes increasingly clear that you weren’t the Chosen One, you wonder what you did wrong. Your confidence starts to slip, you ask whether your judgment is off about other things you thought were a sure bet in your life. Why didn’t you even merit a courtesy phone call? What’s up with THAT?!

The emotional fallout from a job search can be difficult.First, know that this crushing experience isn’t something that just descends on you. We all feel our guts twist at some point in the job search process. You’re not alone, and this decision isn’t a referendum on you and your value and worth and what you can command in the marketplace.

Everyone, every single person, experiences doubt about their career progression. There isn’t a single one of us who dodges this agonizing “will I measure up?” gremlin.

The universality of this painful process doesn’t lessen the impact of it, but knowing that you’re tapping into a process that sits squarely in the world of Human Experience brings you company, and hopefully encourages you to reach out and connect with your supportive community so that you’re not suffering alone.

The good news is that there a key insight that you can use to combat the squeeze of pain that a job search inevitably brings to your life.

Know that It’s Not Personal

It’s a buyer’s market in the world of work right now. Hiring authorities have the advantage because they can draw upon a very qualified pool of applicants. That doesn’t mean that you won’t have a place or won’t soon get an offer. It just means that there’s no simple mechanism for hiring managers to get feedback that their silence and slowness has enormous impact on job seekers.

Plus, almost every company out there is having to stretch existing resources further than ever before. People in corporate America are often buried in work, stretched beyond their normal capacity, and they’re doing all they can to stay afloat. They’re often doing the work of more than one person due to cutbacks and demands from those at the next level above them.

When hiring authorities get mired in overload and don’t surface long enough to attend to common courtesies (like returning phone calls and formally closing the loop on a job search), it’s easy to jump to conclusions about your own value and worthiness rather than see the big picture that drives their behavior.

It’s not that they’re rude – some of them certainly are — but most of them are just surviving themselves. They probably don’t have formal training or guidance about how to handle the hiring process, and they don’t recognize how much it means to people waiting to hear about their decisions. They may bungle the process in many ways:

  • Taking an extraordinary amount of time to give you the formal “no” (or, worse, never getting back to you)
  • Giving you no feedback or bland, completely meaningless feedback (“we went in another direction” – what are you supposed to do with THAT?!)
  • Giving mixed messages during the interview (“Our top priority is X” and then later “We’re putting all of our resources this year into Y” or “We’re paying particular attention to candidates who have A qualification” and then a few minutes/hours/sentences later, “It’s important that the person we hire have Opposite of A characteristic”)

Forgive them.

They’re usually tired, getting mixed message themselves, and lost in the sea of their own worlds.

It has nothing to do with you, your merit, your fit, your value. It’s just a sad commentary on our busy world, one that admittedly has you as collateral damage, but one that doesn’t have to define you.