A friend recently messaged me, asking how I re-entered the workforce after being a mostly stay at home mom for sixteen years. I was reminded that I’ve been meaning to share this information for a while.
Soon after re-branding the blog, I wrote about lessons I learned since going back to work, but I never really wrote about how I got back to work in the first place.
Going back to work for me had everything to do with timing.
I knew that I was going to look for a new job once the youngest went to school full time. But, when our youngest was entering kindergarten, I was not quite ready to get a full-time job–and, I learned that he was not my youngest child! In January of his kindergarten year we welcomed a set of twins into our already bustling family. Those twins (and their dad and brothers) were my full-time job for the next three years.
When the girls turned three, I began to get restless. Three may be my husband’s favorite age, but it is not mine. The three-year old demands, times two was threatening to push me over the proverbial edge. Meanwhile, my oldest was a Junior in High School. . .college, and the expenses that go with it was sneaking up on me.
I began to keep my eyes open for “just the right” position. I knew that I wanted regular daytime hours, and I knew that I wanted to make enough money and have benefits that made my being out of the home “worth it”.
During all of this I was not looking very hard or very far. At the time, I was doing some freelance work from home, and I enjoyed it. (however, working at home with a pair of three-year-olds is not the idyllic scene you would envision.)
Then, one day, a friend on Facebook posted a job opening in her department. One of the requirements was a B.A. In English or Communications. Someone really, truly, wanted to hire an English major! I woke my husband up to tell him (I probably read the posting at about midnight). I’m pretty sure he had no memory of my telling him about the job, but the next morning I decided to buckle down and work on a résumé.
That is when I learned that resume’s have changed a lot since 1994! No longer were they to be typewritten on thick, fancy paper. Resumes now must be optimized for email. Not only was my form all off, I had some gaping holes in my resume! WorkingMother.com has a good blog post on resume tips. I also liked this post from SheKnows.com. Some great advice: volunteer work looks great on a résumé! I spent countless hours organizing fundraisers for my MOPS group– now I get paid to organize similar fundraisers for the non-profit I work for!
So, I got my résumé together, hunted down my college transcript (oops, I made a mess of my semester studying Shakespeare), and wrote up a cover letter. I dug through my closet for something marginally professional (not yoga pants and nothing with boogers crusted on it). I drove to town and dropped off my application in person.
And then I waited.
Just when I had given up hope of being even close to hireable (is that a word?), the phone rang. I had an interview.
That is when I panicked. I began to second-guess my real fitness for an actual career-type job. I realized I had not even begun to line up childcare for the girls. Let’s face it, I had NOTHING to wear for that interview. But, I had a week. I spent that week working hard. I shopped and shopped to come up with the perfect interview outfit, including accessories (I stink at accessorizing). This website has a nice gallery of several different interview outfits.I researched the industry I was hoping to work in. I studied up on potential interview questions. Here is a priceless list of common interview questions and how to answer them.
I went to that interview. I was as nervous as all get-out. I think I presented myself well. I know that I did. And then I waited. And second guessed my answers.
Three incredibly long weeks later I received yet another phone call. I had a second interview. I was even more nervous and I had to pull together a second outfit. I’m not sure which part made me more nervous, the interview, or the clothes. Of course I aced the interview. And I waited, and waited, and waited.
Finally a call came.
I was passed over for the position.
I was crushed.
I did not think I would be so upset, but I really was. I sat, and I sobbed. My husband let me wallow for about 45 minutes. Then he told me to go find another job, a better job, a job that would need me.
This, my friends, is when I got serious. Up until this point, I had only submitted the one application. But, friend, I had spent days poring over that résumé and cover letter. Quite frankly, I had already done all the heavy lifting. It was time to get noticed!
So I took on a more “spray and pray” approach to applying for jobs. I applied to just about anything that caught my fancy. Overqualified or underqualified, it did not matter. I was getting my name out, and I was going to get a job!
I made job hunting my job. I set aside time every day to apply for jobs, answer emails and drop off resumes. My husband got into the spirit by emailing me leads. (He actually emailed me the job listing for the position I now hold).
One day, A little more than a year ago, a call came to set up an interview. The job was a Development Director–a professional fundraiser. Other than balancing our family funds and raising money for MOPS and PTA, I had no real experience in the area. . .except I do have experience. Loads of it. . .just not paid experience. I came home from the interview excited and nervous. After my first experience interviewing, I was not overly confident.
For a few days.
And then, my phone rang.
A second interview.
That ended with a job offer.
I could hardly believe it.
And yet, here I am, a year later, ready to head into my second fundraising cycle.
I love my job. My kids have adjusted well, and love their new-found rhythm to life.
I love the financial security I am able to contribute to the family. But even more, I am so thankful that I found a career that I never knew I wanted. I am helping wonderful, wonderful families, and changing lives.
Are you ready to re-enter the workforce? Have questions? Ask them in the comments section and I will answer them or pass them along to someone who can!
My three quick and dirty tips:
- Don’t sell yourself short.
- Aim high
- Get your family on your team