According to Center for Work-Life Policy and the Harvard Business Review, about 93 percent of the highly qualified women who opt out of the workforce want to return to work later in life. Unfortunately, the study shows that only 74 percent of those women end up rejoining the workforce and, of those, only 40 percent are able to get a full-time job with benefits.
“Many talented, committed women take off-ramps but an overwhelming majority can’t wait to get back in,” says Sylvia Ann Hewlett, President of the Center for Work-Life Policy and an author of the report. While work-from-home options -- like starting your own company, joining an online business, freelancing, or consulting -- are available for many working moms, others prefer to return to full-time employment outside of the home. There are things you can do to make opting back in to the work force a bit easier.
- Be determined. Do the math, figure out if returning to work is right for you and your family, and start your job search with confidence.
- Ask for help. If you need assistance revamping your resume, ask for it. Get tips on how to ace job interviews. Take a class or hire a coach if you need to -- there are plenty of people out there whose job it is to help you help yourself.
- Develop an “elevator pitch.” An “elevator pitch” is a two-minute summary you use to tell people what you want (in this case, a great job) and why you should get it (what makes you the best candidate). The folks at Your On Ramp have put together a great article on crafting your own elevator pitch.
- Invest in yourself. Keep your skill sets up to date, attend conferences and classes, and keep track of your achievements. Staying current can help make you a more valuable potential employee. Also, make sure you’ve got the right tools (up-to-date computer, BlackBerry, high-speed internet, etc) you need to make your search a success.
- Keep up (and really use) your network. Your network is made up of more than just your professional contacts. Tell your friends, and have them tell their friends, that you're going back to work, what kind of work you're interested in, and what your skills are. Then tell a few more people. Maintain your personal and professional connections, and consider building up a “mentor panel” of advisors and role models to consult when you need help.
- Be realistic. Don't expect the job market to respect, validate, or reward your decision to stay home with children, Leslie Morgan Steiner, editor of Mommy Wars: Stay-at-Home and Career Moms Face Off on Their Choices, Their Lives, Their Families, tells MSNBC.com that, instead, you should play up the skills you have that make you a good job candidate. You should not project ambivalence to potential employers or waste interview time justifying your choices, she adds.
- Stay in the same city. According to the Harvard Business Review study, only five percent of women who are returning to the workforce intend to go back to the company they left earlier. Even if you’re looking to work for a different company, it is often easier to leverage connections you already have and reference work you've already done if you keep it local.
- Consider going back full-time. Perfect part-time work and flex time are hard to come by, no matter what your situation. Be prepared to work full-time. If that’s absolutely not an option for you, carefully evaluate company’s family-friendly claims, make sure you understand what a flexible or compressed work-week entails, and be prepared to negotiate.
- Overcome emotional obstacles. Don’t take rejection personally, and don’t let it interfere with your family life. Visualize what success looks like to you, and then go for it.
- Opt back in sooner rather than later. Steiner’s research shows that many headhunters and human resource managers say a three- to five-year absence is now relatively easy to explain, but 10 years or more is difficult. It can be done, of course, but the longer you wait, the more age-related bias can be a problem as well.