It didn't help that I had started my family later in life and was reentering the workforce in my early 50s. Not only did I find myself competing with candidates armed with advanced degrees and better technological skills — those candidates were also almost half my age, as were most of the hiring managers.
To start the application process, I first had to learn how to navigate the job boards: figuring out which keywords to parse, deciding whether “premium access" on LinkedIn was worth it and customizing resumes for each opportunity. “Your resume is now your LinkedIn profile," writes Judy Schramm, CEO of ProResource. “In fact, you should spend as much time polishing your profile as you spent working on your resume in the past."
Finding it difficult to face this new world bravely, many women reentering the workforce find hiring a resume writer and/or career coach can be helpful. In addition, with so many mothers making the transition back into the workforce — there's even a term for them: re-entry moms — career comeback businesses abound. iRelaunch, reacHIRE, Apres and the Mom Project are just a few of the organizations that have sprung up to help women “on-ramp" after a career hiatus.
Eventually, after sending out a plethora of differentiated resumes, I was contacted by a handful of recruiters and, after several interviews, I landed a consulting job. I found that consulting jobs, or “gig work," have become much more common. Many gig workers are working for agencies through which they can buy benefits and have paid days off each year. Often these gig workers work nine months on and three months off, and those who can afford to do so seem to appreciate the break.
Being a consultant or gig worker can have benefits for both the employee and the company for which they work. You can see whether you like working for a company, while that company evaluates your performance and considers eventually hiring you if a suitable position becomes available.
Expect to make some adjustments
Further, having a short-term gig let me ease back into the 9 to 5 schedule without the pressure of a job I had to take home with me. Because, once I got home, I still had to deal with the kids — who had come to expect my almost undivided attention and needed some time to adjust to not having Mom around all the time.
After working as a consultant for a year and a half, I landed a regular, full-time job. Fortunately, my new position gave me the option of working remotely several days a week. My work is seasonal, so a combination of working from home and reasonably flexible scheduling enables me to structure my hours around things like family dinners during busy periods.
A pitfall of working from home, though, was convincing the kids — and my husband — that I was actually working. That meant they couldn't call me and expect me to come running to bail them out if they forgot their violin, homework or lunch money. They also couldn't barge into my office screaming every time the ice cream truck rolled by or they couldn't find their soccer cleats.
For me, there was a physical adjustment to returning to a sedentary job. After spending so much of the day chasing kids around for the past 10 years, sitting took a toll on my back. Some women returning to the workforce may require accommodations such as a height-adjustable sit-stand desk.
The biggest lift you require, though, may be psychological. After an extensive search, it can be demoralizing to accept a salary lower than the one you had a decade before.
When my consulting job eventually led to a full-time position, I considered it a foot in the door. Taking advantage of a company-subsidized MBA program, I began diversifying my resume with the hopes of advancing within the organization. Above all, I wouldn't trade a higher salary for that decade of soccer games and ballet recitals. Despite the challenges of getting back into the fray, I've had the best of both worlds.
Getting back into the workforce after staying home with the kids can be challenging for you and your family, but with patience, flexibility and maybe some outside help, you can reboot your career — just maybe not overnight.