9 Tips for Stay-at-Home Parents Re-Entering the Workforce
Updated March 10, 2023
Deciding to stay home for the family is a big one, but returning to work after being a stay-at-home parent can feel like quite the transition. But with the proper preparation, some personal investment and a confident, realistic outlook, you can make the return to a gratifying career.
In this article, we explore career tips for stay-at-home parents returning to work, the importance of preparation and best practices on how to re-enter the workforce.
Why is it important to prepare before re-entering the workforce?
Preparing before re-entering the workforce helps you focus on a job search, gets you ready for an opportunity when it presents itself, and establishes realistic goals. It also can reduce anxiety, boost confidence and concentrate your energy.
Finding a job after being a stay-at-home parent is more common than in years past. Companies can find talented candidates in those returning to work, though it's important to recognize the transition. A lot may have changed in your profession, and while gap years between employment are not rare, it requires a thoughtful explanation.
Even if your field saw dramatic changes or you no longer hold licenses or certifications, your highly transferable skills can apply to other professions, roles and perhaps even a career pivot. Re-entering the workforce after being a stay-at-home parent can be a time to align your new interests with a career change, which may even prove more rewarding than your previous line of work.
9 tips for re-entering the workforce after being a stay-at-home parent
Focusing on what kind of job to pursue and how to best present yourself to follow it is a task in itself. Consider this career transition guidance for returning to work and see how it can help you navigate finding the right role:
1. Uncover what you really want
List out your needs and wishes—the clearer you are, the easier it is to narrow down the number of job openings and focus on those that match your wants. Start by asking yourself what kind of company and position you'd like. For example, you might be interested in a corporate role with room for growth and higher-level opportunities, or you might desire a low-key role that contributes valuable work without intense demands or additional time.
If you're unsure, use career self-assessment tools to understand your interests and uncover new skills. Consider asking yourself these questions:
Would I like to work part-time or full-time?
What kind of career growth am I seeking?
What are my financial goals with re-entering the workforce?
What are my passions, skills, training, education and experience?
Do I want to find a job, or is there an opportunity to be my boss?
Am I able to do consulting, contract or freelance work?
What roles fit with the rest of my schedule and responsibilities?
Related: 12 Jobs for Stay-at-Home Parents
2. Update your materials
Updating your resume is a given with any job search. If your employment gap as a stay-at-home parent is long, consider a skills-based resume outline rather than a typical chronological one. Add important causes and accomplishments that call attention to your strengths, like:
Coaching your daughter's gymnastics team
Organizing fundraising events and your son's school
Bookkeeping for the family's small business
Tutoring neighborhood children
If you have a portfolio, consider building an online website to showcase your work and link to it on your resume and other materials. Digital portfolios are significant for many industries, including:
3. Refresh your skills
Maybe you want to freshen up your work skills or learn new ones. Going back to school is always an option, though there are plenty of ways to invest time in your skill set and re-engage with your career field. Here are a few to consider:
Sign up for classes, conferences or certifications. Whether in person or online, these are great ways to get reacquainted and learn about new advances in your career field. Check out libraries, community colleges or business development centers for free or low-cost classes to improve skills or gain new ones.
Connect with your college or university. Most have a job posting board, and many offer career counseling for alums seeking work, not just those who have recently graduated.
Take part in a returning talent workshop. Many major companies and businesses host seminars and workshops geared toward those returning to work, and it's a great way to network and make connections that could lead to an offer.
Do consulting work or volunteer. Putting your skills to work on a recent, relevant project not only refreshes your talents but also helps fill the employment gap on your resume. Aim for an organization that has volunteer work with a connection to your career field.
Read up. Find books about your area of expertise to inspire or learn from as you re-enter the workforce.
4. Get active on social sites
Create or update your profile on professional websites to grow your network and be visible to job recruiters. Use these sites to connect with former employers and coworkers, target and follow companies you'd like to work for, research career recommendations and search postings for open positions.
Visit stay-at-home parent sites, too—many offer workshops, events, newsletters, job postings and encouraging success stories to help stay-at-home parents return to work.
5. Call on your network and make new connections
Networking is making connections and doing favors as a gesture of goodwill, and people are often happy to help. Some may offer advice and be a source of support and motivation, while others may know of opportunities or colleagues to connect you with.
Renew connections with your existing network and build new contacts, too. A previous manager or a former colleague may be eager to rehire you, or the parents of your child's friend may know about a hiring opportunity.
Job leads can come from anywhere, so tell people you're looking. Share your resume with friends, family and former coworkers and tell them your ideal position, or invite someone to coffee to talk about what in your career field has changed or how you can prepare for a new profession.
Read more: The Complete Guide To Networking
6. Look at all of your options
Explore all of your options for finding work. It could be freelance, a temporary role from a staffing agency, or part-time or contract work. Be open to possibilities that are a good fit, yet expand your perspective. One opportunity can lead to another, generate income and help you gain new skills and connections. Here are two non-traditional ideas to consider:
Search for opportunities based on your skill set. It's OK to focus on your profession, though often skill sets can translate to other industries and roles you might not think about. For example, a former retail marketing specialist who loves social media and started a blog while being a stay-at-home parent could be a great candidate for other positions within the industry.
Consider a "returnship" at a company. These paid roles are often more in-depth than traditional internships and focus on candidates returning to the workforce. Many large corporations and companies offer programs that can lead to full-time positions.
7. Practice and prepare
Practice your interviewing skills before being invited to one to help build confidence and become comfortable answering questions. Compile a list of common interview questions and practice answering them out loud, even while doing household chores like laundry, cooking or even showering. Ask a friend or your spouse to do a mock interview with you and get their feedback on your answers, body language and presence.
Once an interview is lined up, prepare with research about the business or job. Having background information and knowing the company culture is important to show the interviewer that you're prepared and helps answer the common question: "Why do you want to work here?"
8. Talk up your gap years
When asked about employment gaps, be honest and brief while sharing who you are and what you can offer. Bring the interview back to the position and your qualifications, affirming that you are qualified and enthusiastic to return to work and advance your career.
Emphasize your transferable skills, share what you've been up to and how it applies to the position, be confident when explaining your decision and talk about your career and what you envision next. Here are a few examples of suggested ways to address being a stay-at-home parent:
"My last job was one that I loved, though I decided to be a stay-at-home parent for the past few years while my children were young."
"I focused on parenting these past few years, and I'm looking to return to the retail industry part time."
"Now that my sons are in middle school, I'm looking for a position in marketing with room for growth. I worked at Launch Publishing nearly a decade before my children were born and still follow their work. I've also kept up with the field through volunteer work at the Kids Gateway Foundation, where I focused on social media marketing."
9. Be patient and persistent
Keep searching and submitting applications, even when interviewing. An average job search can take several months or more, and other factors like high-salary positions and longer employment gaps can take even longer. Try to remain positive and be patient and persistent.
One way to stand out as a candidate is by sending a thank you or follow-up message after interviewing. Handwritten notes are professional and thoughtful, though if a hiring decision is happening quickly or a physical mailing address isn't available, a thank you email is acceptable.
When checking in on the status of a position, be mindful of an appropriate timeframe to demonstrate persistence rather than pester. Doing this shows you can take the initiative while still understanding the pressures of a business. If a family member, friend or colleague referred you as a candidate, wait a few business days to make sure your resume made it to the right person or department and then follow up.
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