There are more than five million stay-at-home moms in the U.S. in 2011, according to the Census Bureau. Of those millions of moms, though, many want to return to the workforce, whether for financial reasons, personal fulfillment, or both. Returning to work after an absence is challenging for anyone, but when you’ve been focused on raising kids for five years or more, it can be even more difficult. The good news is that a 2007 study by the Work Life Policy Center revealed that the vast majority of mothers who want to return to work have been able to find work.
Determine that you are ready to go back to work full-time and that you’re ready to commit to a position. According to author Leslie Morgan Steiner, many mothers returning to the workforce project feelings of ambivalence about working, and employers hesitate to hire them.
Limit your job search to the field you left and the geographic area where you live. Staying local allows you to use your existing contacts and experience.
Revamp your resume to highlight your experience and skills. If you have been out of the workforce for an extended period, a chronologically formatted resume will only highlight a gap in your employment history. Instead, focus on the skills and talents you can bring to the employer, and the highlights of your career before you had children.
Update your skill set. If it’s been several years since you used common computer programs, take a course at your local adult education center or university extension to refresh your skills. Knowing how to use the latest versions of computer software sets you on a level playing field, and reduces the learning curve when you do land a position. If you are in an accredited field, keep your credentials current with continuing education.
Educate yourself on the latest news and changes in your industry. If you have been out of the working world for several years, there have likely been significant changes. Read industry publications and trade journals to get up to speed on the present state of the industry to prepare yourself for interviews.
Leverage your network. Former colleagues and associates can be a valuable source of job leads, but do not overlook other connections you’ve made while you’ve been out of work. Other parents, educators and volunteer colleagues can also help you find a new job. Tell everyone that you want to go back to work, what your skills are and the kind of work you want.
Explore child care options and make tentative arrangements before you land a position. Finding quality child care takes time, and you do not want to have to scramble for a babysitter or daycare when you start work in a matter of days.
Refresh your professional image. You may have spent the past few years in casual clothes and a low-maintenance hairstyle, but you need to project a professional image to return to work. Get a haircut, and purchase or borrow a few professional outfits to wear for interviews.
Don’t attempt to gloss over your employment gap in an interview. Explain what you have been doing honestly and without justification. Some returning mothers even list “Stay at Home Mother” on their resume, and detail their responsibilities.