Career Interrupted: Moms Going Back to Work after Staying at Home

Career Interrupted: Moms Going Back to Work after Staying at Home

by Kathryn M. D’Imperio

Many moms dream of staying at home with their kids, picturing fun activities, crafts, adventures and timeless memories. For working moms, sometimes the decision to leave the workforce can be a difficult one. Sometimes, those who actually do take on the title of stay-at-home-mom may eventually wish to re-enter the workforce, even part-time, once the kids head to school. But where do they begin?

Getting Started

Getting back on the saddle at work can be a little rocky at first, especially if the selection of available jobs doesn’t exactly line up with your degree, experience and interests. It may take time to adjust to your changing lifestyle, and you may find yourself battling all the emotions of being back to work. 

“Take time to reflect on what you would like to do,” advises Karen Kuczynski, a career counselor at Lehigh University and independent consultant. “Do you want to go back to the same type of job or industry you previously worked in, or would you like to get involved in another industry? Either way, do some research. Look at companies in your field of interest, see what they are doing and what types of jobs they offer. Look at professional associations related to your industry. There are great articles on those types of websites and they typically offer a career or job section.

“Most importantly, and I can’t say it enough… NETWORK. 80% of jobs are found through networking. Talk to professionals in your field of interest. Connect with former colleagues, get the word out that you are looking to re-enter the work force.”  

Applying for a job isn’t just about what a company wants from a potential employee, it’s also about what you want.

Also an independent consultant for Georgetown University, Kuczynski performs resume reviews and helps alumni who are looking to get back into the workforce. She offers insight on the career move as well as how to get started. Kuczynski advises on different ways to get involved with working again, keeping women’s individual personal preferences in mind, for example with something like part-time work for an easier transition and volunteer work for someone who may not have the right career skill set off the bat. 

Helpful Tips for Moms Wanting to Go Back to Work

Kuczynski has worked with thousands of students and alumni at numerous colleges and universities over the past decade, helping to discover the match between their interests, abilities, and skill set with prospective career opportunities. Additionally, she is a mom herself and has worked hard to find the right balance for her family life and the career she has passionately built for herself.

•Understand that going back is a very personal decision. “We are all different and what is right for one woman is not necessarily right for another,” says Kuczynski. “I think if you have the desire to work you’ll know. At that point, begin to talk about your interests with your spouse/partner as well as your children.”

•Verbalize your interests so that others can give you guidance. “Be sure to talk with your spouse and family to understand the changes that will take place,” she says. “Being organized and having good communication will be key.”

•Explore your options. Read job descriptions and examine the key responsibilities to help you find the right fit. “Don’t be shy,” she says. “Get out there. The opportunity won’t just come to you.”

•Look into some of the Lehigh Valley’s colleges to gain additional knowledge and skills. “We are so fortunate here in the valley to have so many excellent academic institutions,” Kuczynski says.

•Talk to professionals in your desired industry who can advise you on different skills needed and possible tips on breaking into the job market for that field. 

•Visit the Occupational Information Network online at onetonline.org to learn about the various skills needed for different jobs and to find similar career choices that might appeal to you.

•Consider reading the book “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg. “My favorite chapter is “It’s a Jungle Gym, Not a Ladder,” she says. “This resonates with me so much. After my son was born in 2003, my career became a jungle gym. I’ve made decisions based on my family. I used to regret some of my decisions until I read this chapter. I now look at my career as a jungle gym… how much more fun is this then a boring, straight ladder! I have no regrets and am so glad I made the decisions I made. I highly recommend Sheryl Sandberg’s book.”

•Take advantage of your alumni or career services department at your alma mater. “Many universities/colleges offer services such as career counseling (even by phone or skype) or career related webinars to their alums,” she shares. “Many of the colleges I know about offer these services for free, or if not, a nominal fee. Check this out first. I’m definitely partial considering my line of work.”

As with most things in life, career choices are personal and should be treated with an individualized point of view and attention to detail. Your situation may grow and evolve over time as you adjust to the new lifestyle (or the old lifestyle).

“Really reflect on what you want,” stresses Kuczynski. “What type of experience will be meaningful for you? I like to think about this from the perspective of time. Full-time means 40 hours a week 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. What do you want to do with all of those hours? What kind of organization and professionals do you want to work for during the prime hours of the week? Applying for a job isn’t just about what a company wants from a potential employee, it’s also about what you want. Be sure that you are finding an opportunity that fits with your personal interests as well as parallels your knowledge, skills, and abilities.”  

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