After a child is born, many women decide to stop working outside the home and become full-time mothers. Playdates replace meetings, and anxiety about coughs and colds replace the feelings once brought about by an upcoming presentation. While many moms know they will return to work at some point, few create and organize a plan for re-entry and so, when they return, many women experience difficulty negotiating a salary consistent with their level of expertise or accounting for their achievements during their career hiatus.
With a little bit of planning, research, and creativity -- along with a systematic approach to networking -- you can continue to maintain your professional persona while being a full-time mom. Your transition back to the world of work will become a more rewarding and less stressful experience.
Networking is the cornerstone of a successful job-search campaign. It is an on-going process of building and maintaining relationships with people who have expertise you want and need, and reciprocating with information that is useful to them. As a mom, you are always networking. Mothers swap advice with other moms about schools, babysitters, pediatricians, baby products, etc.
Job seekers share information in a similar way. They approach their contacts for information about a particular industry or company, discuss their skills and business accomplishments and prove how they can add value to an organization. Relationships are built on reciprocity and trust. By solidifying these ties, job seekers gain the opportunity to request introductions into their contacts' inner circles. Each new contact can lead them closer to a new business opportunity. But, it is crucial that they never ask a contact to get them a job -- this would create stress in the relationship, and the expectation is unreasonable. However, asking for information is reasonable, even flattering.
Here are some tips for expanding your network and staying connected to your business community during your child-raising years. Start networking for business opportunities now so you will have more viable options when you are ready to return to work.
1.) The playground. It is often said that more deals are concluded on golf courses than at offices, and a close second to the golf course may very well be the playground. The same principles of networking and camaraderie work with a small child in tow. It is easy to strike up a conversation at the swings or the sandbox. Bring some toys that work best in groups like jump ropes, balls and bubble fluid and you are bound to have a captive audience of kids and adults in no time.
2.) Group classes and sports teams. By the time your children are 3 years old, many classes require parents to dropp them off and wait outside the class area. Use that time to network with the other parents in the class. Try to schedule at least one class on the weekend to maximize the opportunity to communicate with a parent directly. As your kids get older, consider becoming the team parent for your child’s sports teams. This enables you to have ongoing contact with the parents of the team members and positions you as an effective organizer or leader.