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Going Back to Work

Tips for transitioning from stay-at-home mom to career professional

She’d been a stay-at-home mom for about a decade and a half. Her life was rich, full, and demanding. But now that she was ready to return to the workforce, Linda was at a loss.

As she stared at her resume on the computer screen, she saw parts that looked really strong, but also what seemed like a lot of “blank space.” How could she describe her career break in a way that would help—rather than hurt—her job prospects?

Linda knew those years away from the workforce and focusing on her kids weren’t a waste. The time she spent raising her kids had challenged her in multiple ways, testing and honing her creativity, efficiency, and people skills. But how was she supposed to account for that in a job application? She certainly couldn’t put this on her resume:

CEO, COO, CFO & HR Manager, Mommy, Inc. (1994-2014). Executive in charge of human being development, including socialization, quality controls, and logistics. Undertook comprehensive team-building and motivational program. Oversaw complex trade negotiations (valued at up to 1.5 million Legos).

Would potential employers even give her serious consideration after so much “time off?”

The new, professional you

How could she describe her career break in a way that would help—rather than hurt—her job prospects?

As Linda shared her concerns with me over coffee, we both winced knowingly over this common terminology. Describing those years as “time off” makes raising kids sound like some sort of extended vacation. Linda and I both knew that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

I encouraged Linda to approach those years on her resume with confidence, beginning with a compelling mission statement. I pointed out to Linda that she was not the same person, personally or professionally, as she had been when she’d left her corporate job years ago. Nor should she be! Her skills and perspectives had changed and developed over the years in significant and valuable ways.

Instead of focusing on the career she’d left behind, my suggestion for Linda was to take some time reassessing her current professional goals and passions. Doing so would allow her to focus her job search and be able to clearly articulate how her particular skills and interests translated back into the working world.

I did my best to advise Linda, but the real expert is my friend Carol Fishman Cohen. Her book Back On the Career Track: A Guide for Stay-at-Home Moms Who Want to Return to Work and her organization iRelaunch both aim to guide women in Linda’s exact position as they launch back into the corporate world after time away.

Diane Paddison

Diane Paddison is a business professional and founder of 4wordwomen.org, local groups of professional working women committed to faith, family, work, and each other.

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August 19, 2015
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