I've been a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom for nearly 10 years, a decision I made after my second child was born. Tired of paying for child care and eager to launch a freelance writing business, I said so long to a steady job, rising professional clout, and a nice, regular paycheck in exchange for being with my kids full-time. I figured, when the time was right, I'd slide back into a full-time job, and pick up right where I left off.
Yeah, not so much.
Between a slumping economy, a new generation of tech-savvy workers, and employers expecting applicants to have a wide range of professional and technical skills, landing a job after being off the market for a while has been, well, nearly impossible.
After spending hours scanning ads for jobs for which I wasn't qualified, unsuccessfully interviewing with several employers, and even landing a job, only to be let go two weeks later due to my lack of computer skills, I've had to rethink my job goals and my professional capabilities.
If you're looking to re-enter the workforce after years of being home with the kids, here are a few tips to consider to give yourself a fighting chance in today's marketplace:
1. Take a few computer classes -- I was devastated to learn I had been let go from a dream job recently, mostly because I wasn't proficient enough at a few essential computer programs. If your skills need refreshing, check with your local library. I found free classes on Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint that were incredibly helpful, and which I should have taken before even applying for my job. Employers today will expect you to know a variety of basic computer programs, so brush up before interviewing.
2. Play brain games -- Yes, I realize that we, stay-at-home moms, use our brains plenty, but it's different on the job. Maybe it's just me, but my mind felt sluggish when trying to quickly learn new tasks at my short-lived job. Since then, I've signed up for a free, online brain game site, Lumosity.com, that sends me daily tests to improve skills like decision-making and problem-solving. Honestly, I already feel sharper.
3. Practice potential interview questions -- If you're fortunate enough to land an interview, look online for potential questions your company may ask. Don't wing the interview, or think that your 'life experience' as a stay-at-home mom is enough to get you by; come prepared with specific answers to some basic questions, so you're not fumbling around. Again, this helped me with several of my job interviews, and I felt far more in control sitting down with my interviewer.
4. Think outside the box -- After my recent job-loss experience, I decided to change my game plan. Instead of full-time, I'd consider part-time. And although I really have no retail experience, I opted to apply for a few seasonal retail jobs, just for the experience. Guess what? I not only got hired by a national retailer, but they asked if I'd like part-time employment, rather than just seasonal. It's not the direction I originally planned, but I'm open to any and all possibilities, now that I know how competitive it is out there.
Trying to land work after being home with the kids can be an eye-opening experience. Prepare yourself, be realistic, and be open to jobs or careers far different than what you envisioned; you never know where you might end up.
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