Having a baby changes your life forever. It may sound banal, but it is also true. Many women realize this and choose to opt-out of their career for a while, in order to stay home while their children are young.
Later — sometimes as soon as a few months and sometimes after all the children have left for college — some moms choose to return to work. A good number of them find that getting back into the workforce is hard. Even women who had a spectacular professional reputation before they took time off aren't always being greeted with open arms.
If this is you — if you are staying at home with children now but want to go back to work, or are actively looking for a job this very minute — there are a few things you can do that will give you a better chance of getting hired.
1. Evaluate Where You Are Now
Some women know for sure that they want to go back to what they were doing before. Others, though, find that they would prefer a change. Consider where you and your family find yourselves. How much money do you need to make? Would you like to work full-time? Have you developed any new passions that you'd like to pursue?
Answering these questions will help you figure out where you are and what jobs might be a good fit for you and your family. They will also help you get in touch with how you feel about going back to work, why you want to work, and what you really care about.
2. Look for a Job That Fits You
Once you've answered the questions above, decide what you want to pursue. If you need to, do some research to discover what's out there that might suit you well. See this as an opportunity to find a career that's right for you, rather than just going back to what you did before because it is what you know.
If you aren't sure what you want to do, try finding a temporary job or, better yet, a temporary-to-permanent position. That way, you can "try on" a new career like you might try on some clothes, making sure that it fits before you're fully invested.
3. Make Sure Your Skills Are Relevant
Whether you decide to go back to work in the same field or find a new one, you will want to evaluate your skills based on expectations for the jobs you'd like to have. This can be as simple as making sure you know how to use the latest versions of Word and Excel, or as complicated as getting certified in new technology.
There are many ways to update your skills. Take classes, get a certificate, volunteer somewhere, attend an industry-wide conference, or study on your own. Once you have met the minimum requirements mentioned in most job postings, you will be ready to apply.
4. Brush Up on Interviewing
Interviewing is absolutely a skill, and it is one that may feel foreign to you if you've been out of that world for a while. Being interviewed can feel particularly intimidating when you aren't sure how potential employers will view the gap in your resume.
Fortunately, coming across well in an interview can be as easy as applying some basic tips. Dress up. Own your story and your skills. Speak clearly. Make appropriate eye contact. All of these things will help a potential employer know that you are ready to return to the workforce. (See also: 10 Essential Steps to Take Before a Job Interview)
5. Find Child Care You Trust
Most women opt-out of the workforce for a while because they love their children. When they opt back in, it's not because they love their children any less — but because the kids are older, or they need the money, or they need a change of scenery and some adult interaction. Whatever the reason, the love remains, and that means that you need to feel really, really good about wherever you're leaving your child.
Some moms wait until their kids go to school to begin working again. This is great, if you feel good about the school and the before and after-care program offered. For younger children, make sure that you feel like your child will be loved well, whether you are putting the child in daycare or having a friend or family member care for him or her. This will free you to give more of yourself to a new job, and it will help you feel good about your decision to go back to work.
6. Make Peace With Imperfection
Most moms find it hard to hold all of the demands that being mom brings. This can be an even greater struggle for working moms, simply because they often have less time with their children than their stay-at-home counterparts.
It helps to remember that no mom mothers perfectly, and that your kids will be okay. If you are tempted to spend a lot of time worrying about how your working will harm your children, though, you may want to reconsider returning to work right now. Your other choice is to make peace with your imperfection, to focus on loving your kids well when you are with them and to remember that you are also loving them by working. Only then will you be able to work without guilt, which will help you perform better both at work and at home.
Rejoining the workforce can be scary, especially if you have been out of it for a long time. Take a deep breath and begin doing these things. Once you're moving forward, you will likely see that it isn't so scary after all. Not nearly as scary as bringing that tiny person home from the hospital, anyway!