7 Tips for Moms Returning to the Workforce

Are you a stay-at-home planning a return to the workforce? Here are some tips to help you get there.

  1. Identify a Target. When someone says “what do you want to do?” never answer, “I don’t know”. Even if you are not sure, come up with some answer. It could be an industry, hobby or job of interest.
  2. Create a Well-Aligned Narrative. When we have an interest in something, we usually have some life experiences in that area. This experience may include coursework, volunteer experience or past work skills. Use those intersections to rewrite your narrative.
  3. Update your Collateral. Get your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, elevator pitch and interview answers aligned with your re-articulated narrative. Back to workIt should all speak the same language and tell a story. If you are having trouble elevating your narrative, ask a friend, resume writer or career coach/counselor to help you with this. It is often hard to do this for ourselves. Seek help.
  4. Create a Target Organization and People List. What organizations seem like a good fit for your interests? Who are the people you want to be in the future or have the job you desire now? Who amongst your friends or past colleagues knows a lot of people? Write them all down in a Target List.
  5. Get out of the House. When job hunting, very little happens at your computer. Yes, you want to find jobs of interest and use LinkedIn but your best strategy is to get out in the world to meet people, attend targeted events and generally let people know you are looking. It only takes one person to connect you to the right job but you won’t meet him or her if you are behind a computer screen all day.
  6. Find your aligned Market. If you are seeking flexible or part-time work look for organizations that support these kinds of work arrangement. Try www.Flexprofessionalsllc.com to find flexible work arrangements or talk to friends who work part-time or on a contract basis.
  7. Get support. Look for those who walked the path before you. Find another mom who returned to work. Ask her to coffee or for a phone conversation. What did she do? What could she have done better? What advice does she have to offer? Does she have any other returners that you should talk to about the process? No need to reinvent the wheel.

 

Whether you are just starting to think about a return to work or have considered this for some time, use these tips to get you moving forward. If you live in the DC area, consider taking the Re-Work program. To learn more, go to www.dallekcoaching.com/programs

B is for Balance or Bulls..t

I had the pleasure of spending the evening with some wonderful solopreneurs recently in my Her Corner (www.hercorner.org) group. Many of us DallekCoaching_BisforBalancein the group are moms and business owners.  An interesting theme was echoed about achieving balance in 2014 with a caveat of “I don’t believe in this balance stuff”. I could not agree more with this sentiment.  Balance belongs in the vault with body perfection and doing it all.

One problem is that our perception of balance got off track.  Let’s give a few examples.  If you ever strike a balance pose in yoga, most of us humans, sway back and forth.  If two kids get on a seesaw, one usually has to push off a bit harder to get the same motion.  Even when we balance out a scale, there is an adjustment of each side to make sure the amounts equal.  Have you ever seen a gymnast on the balance beam? Even the Olympians have to regain balance after a jump or they bend their knees to prevent a fall.

For a long time, many of us believed that balance was a perfect striking of equal parts.  The problem is that the parts never equal 100. What would it look like if I asked you to create a percentage of the time you’d like to spend on family, friends, work, self-care and life’s necessities (paying bill and doing dishes).  You’ve probably already realized that there would not be enough hours in the day to do all of your desired and required tasks.

Ergo, we need to shift each day, moment, week, month and year to honor the priority of the moment.  We could be wholly focused at work and get a call about a sick kid.  Then a snowstorm hits and shoveling the walk becomes our priority.  A family member falls ill and paying the bills may go down on your must do list.

If we can just strive to stay upright most of the time, then we’re doing a pretty darn good job.  Next time you try to “balance”, remember to adjust and leave the self-criticism behind.

Playing Twister

“I can’t make a decision”, she says.  “I’m stuck”, says another.  I hear, “I have too many choices” or “there are no choices out there”.

Have you ever played twister?  You put your elbow on red, foot on green and your hand on yellow.  As expected, you get twisted up like a pretzel.

Let’s say you can’t decide what next job or career to go after.  Alternatively, you are having trouble deciding how to brand yourself so that you can align to your next job.  Maybe, you can’t decide what to do to get to that next best job.

That is what the twister board of caDallekCoaching_Twister_Careersreer and job change looks like.  This is what stuck looks like.

Instead, let’s try a new version of twister. Put two feet firmly on red.  Now stop.  Don’t spin the wheel and don’t place any other appendages on the board.  Just stay on red.

Maybe red is your career pursuit in media. Possibly red is pursing a new business.  Red might be getting a new job or trying for a part-time position.  Red can be any one of the choices. Pick one and stay with it.  Maybe you stay with it for an hour, a day or a week.  You decide the length of time.

If red does not turn out to be the right color, you’ve eliminated a choice and next, you can try standing on green.

Up-Ramping

dreamstime_s_20477958There is a lot of talk in the media right now about women who “Off-Ramp” and “On-Ramp” their careers after having children. Why isn’t anyone talking about “Up-Ramping?”

“Off-Ramping” implies that a woman has left the workforce entirely. She is essentially off the career track. “On-Ramping” implies that she is driving back onto the highway full-speed ahead. There are no stop or yield signs along the way.

Yet, so many of my clients want a more gradual return while their kids are young.  This is what I call “Up-Ramping.” It looks more like a dipping a toe into the water rather than fully submerging oneself. And for those who find adjustment for their family to be the greatest hurdle to career reentry, the cadence of “Up-Ramping” can be customized to fit “just right.”

Ways To “Up-Ramp” Your Career:

  • Volunteer strategically in your field of interest and do work that will tie into your future job.  Volunteering can be a great way to keep your skill sets fresh, network and find out about paid job opportunities. Before you jump into every volunteer opportunity, ask yourself “Can this position me for the next job opportunity?” If that answer is yes, jump in. If the answer is no, find another option.
  • Find some contract work. You may have to contract in an area where you have previous expertise. Contracting can keep your resume and LinkedIn Profile fresh, give you an opportunity to build your confidence, refresh your skills and get back in the game. Contracting does not mean you have to start a website or land a big job. You can start with a friend who owns a business or a start-up who needs some extra hands on deck.
  • Look at the part-time job boards.  More and more organizations are seeing the value and necessity of a part-time workforce.  As such, there are many job boards that now advertise and support those types of jobs. Some examples are www.momcorps.com, http://www.mom-entum.com, http://www.flexforceprofessionals.com and http://parttimepros.com.

Whether you are diving back in, slowing wading or dipping your toe in, make sure to find the pace that works for you and then find the resources to support that pace.

Do Something for your Career Month

I’m officially naming May the “just do something for your career” month. Maybe the message isn’t as compelling as Teacher Appreciation Week or as endearing as Mother’s Day, but still, it may have some redeeming value.

May is the month of renewal, warmth and bloom. If we can apply these tenants to our careers, then maybe we can move ourselves into a new and better place.

Start by rating yourself on a scale of 1-10. What is your current level of satisfaction with your career? 1 is soul crushing, miserable and unbearable. 10 represents bliss, complete fulfillment and overwhelming happiness. Where do you stand?

Once you have your number, write down 5 things you could do to move your number up a notch. Maybe you can talk to your boss about a promotion, have coffee with someone who has a job with your dream employer, or connect with someone new on LinkedIn.

Now here comes the tricky part: do something on your list. I’m just asking for one thing to start. If you want to do all five, please do!

Once you do that one thing on your list, you can officially consider yourself part of the “do something for your career” celebration. Who knows, maybe June will be declared the “do two things” month. By next May maybe your career satisfaction self-rating will be off the charts.

Happy “do something month.”

Make Room for Our Friend Failure

I love this article and have wanted to share it for a long time.

The article is all about the key ingredient to success: failure.

After you read it, you may wonder what it has to do with career development.  To that, I say everything.

Career transitions, job searches, and promotions only occur if you first have a willingness to fail.  But it’s not just about failures.  There is another key word this article uses that I believe is critical: grit.  Grit is the ability to fail, dust yourself off, and try again.

Fulfilling careers don’t come through the blind bureaucracy of the Internet and they don’t fall into our laps.  They come through hustle, discomfort, failure, trying new things, and having some grit to start all over again.

I hear many of my clients say “I’m a terrible networker” or “I hate promoting myself.”  It doesn’t matter.  While I try to reframe my clients’ thinking on these beliefs, I know the reality is this: if you want that job and career, you have to engage in what is most uncomfortable to you.  Take baby steps or big giant leaps, but make sure you try something out of your comfort zone.  If you fail, then pick yourself back up and try again.

Are you ready to take the plunge?  Go try something new right now.  Join a group, sign up for a networking event, call a contact, ask someone for coffee, or sign up for a training course.  What is the worst thing that can happen?  You’ll get a skinned knee and you’ll watch it heal.

Happy failing.

Crisis a la mode

Many of my clients come to me in a state of panic. They are prompted to call me because something has gotten so bad at work that they feel they just can’t take another minute of it. It could be a horrible boss whose negative barrage wears them down. It may be a job that is so mind-numbing it puts their minds into a permanent state of frostbite. Or perhaps they have worked extreme hours year after year at a job that they hate.

There usually isn’t an exact moment they can pinpoint, but they know they need to make a change and they simply cannot wait another minute.

Then something surprising happens. Over our weeks of working together, something normally gives. Their boss lets up a bit, a new and exciting project lands in their lap, or the hours lessen. However, these are usually temporary reprieves that often lead to a negative result.

I know what you’re thinking: how can positive changes at work end up becoming negative? Do I really just want my clients to continue suffering in misery? No; of course I’m happy for their well-deserved mini-vacation. The real problem is that these reprieves make many clients lose their negative motivation. The negative aspects of their jobs and careers were what brought them to me and motivated them to seek a career change. Once the negative is removed, even temporarily, the motivators are gone. I often hear from my clients during these respites, “I don’t know why, but I’ve become complacent.”

So the question then becomes, how do you replace your negative motivators with positive ones? Try to imagine what a truly great job or career would look like. Maybe you’ve even experienced it before. What was that like? Can you imagine your life being better? Capture that image, thought, writing or concept. Now put it in your pocket. I mean, literally, put it in your pocket. When you find yourself feeling complacent again, take it out and read it. Allow it to inspire you. Motivation leads to action, action leads to change, and change leads to improved circumstances and a better quality of life. So get your positive motivation, put it in your pocket, and kick into high gear!

The Old College Try

Has anyone ever told you to give something “the old college try”? What does that even mean? I know the expression is used to ask someone to give it their all or to try their best, but why not give it “the old high school” or “pre-school” try?

Personally, I’m finding some irony in this expression right now. In 2012, 53% of college graduates were unemployed or underemployed. You can give college many tries over but still not land yourself a job after graduating.

We’ve established it is not an ideal time to get out of college and into the job market. So what does this mean? You need to work harder and smarter to get a job and manage your career. By the way, this goes for everyone and not just college graduates.

What does it mean to work harder and smarter? First, get clear about what you are after. If you have clarity of purpose, others will see it. Second, get out and talk to people about your career purpose (and use social media to push the message out). If you don’t share it, no one will know it’s there. Third, shake it up. Try something different in your job search other than online application. Try a new approach. There is always another avenue whether it be interning, volunteering or trying to find a mentor.

The only person who is going to make this happen is you. Keep at it. Although college is not producing the results it used to (guaranteed employment in a field of interest), that does not mean it will not happen. This is where perseverance and grit pay off. If college didn’t give you what you expected, you still need to give it “the old college try.” Keep working at it and you will see results.

How Do You Like Your Spaghetti?

How do you prefer your spaghetti, al dente or well done?  Did you know that spaghetti is done cooking when it sticks to the wall?  Go ahead—throw some and see if my theory is correct.  Okay, now throw 99 more pieces.

This is what we do in a career change or a job search.  We throw 100+ pieces of spaghetti and hope that one sticks.  Throw and fall, throw and fall, and so on, until the one piece actually sticks against that wall.

One job application, one new LinkedIn contact, one informational interview, one email to an HR manager, one networking event, for example, all represent those pieces of spaghetti.  It takes many throws, so keep at it!  You never know which one will be the toss that results in your new job.

When you find yourself feeling like that piece of spaghetti stuck against the wall and you don’t know what to do, find a brainstorming partner.  Ask a friend, trusted colleague or family member to help you generate ideas.  Someone who can act as a neutral and supportive party is best.  No naysayers, lollygaggers, or bloviators allowed.

Don’t forget to stretch and warm up.  Then go ahead: throw—and expect many misses.

Remember, you just need one to stick.

Wreck it Ralph

I went to see Wreck it Ralph with my kids the other day.  It is a movie about a guy who wrecks things in a video game at the arcade. He is really tired of always being the bad guy.

The good guy, Fix it Felix, is always getting pies, medals and parties. Wreck it Ralph lives in a dump and eats garbage. So Ralph decides to make a change.

His mission becomes  to change his ways. So he heads out into the world and tries new things: he hops into other games, wins a medal and helps a girl. I won’t give away the entire story in case you are clamoring to see this film.

In the end, Ralph does not change his stripes. He still smashes and breaks things with ease and regularity, but the difference is his intention. He no longer does it intending to be bad. While nothing changes, everything changes.

Ralph is like you. You can’t change your natural stripes. If you feel most comfortable working with variety and thinking big-picture, you are not going to make yourself love administrative work. It just doesn’t work that way.

Instead, you need to find your natural stripes, embrace them whole-heartedly and then go on and find how to best apply them.

So learn your lesson from Wreck It Ralph. Don’t change your stripes; instead, accept them and change your vantage point from there.

If your stripes are not accepted in your career, then make a change. I assure you, those stripes are not turning to spots anytime soon so your best option is to find a place where you are accepted.