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How can a stay-at-home mom with a degree enter the workforce?


women-workforce-graphic-n8Kara from the University of Wisconsin – Stout asked: 

My goal for the past decade was to be at home with the kids – so I went to school – a lot.  In the meantime, they have grown-up and I have a weak work history.  This has been problematic in the job search…Any advice would be welcomed. 

Hi Kara –

First, I commend you for committing ten years of your life to being home with your kids and going to school.  Raising a family is hard work (don’t let anyone try to tell you otherwise), and the fact that you were a CMO (Chief Mom Officer, not Chief Marketing Officer) and were going to school tells me a lot about you that employers value. Your “CMO” job required:

Time Management Skills

As a mom you have had to pay attention to your own schedule, your spouse’s schedule and the schedules of each of your kids. Your job was to be there on time to pick up, drop off, transfer, deliver, exchange, etc.  You were probably the first one up in the morning and the last one to bed at night.  Your family schedule worked because you made it work. Employers value candidates that have strong time management skills.  You just have to make employers understand yours.

Negotiation and Conflict Mediation Skills

If you are married you understand negotiation and conflict mediation :-).  If you have kids, you have to practice negotiation and conflict mediation on a daily basis.  If you volunteer in your community or in your kids’s schools, you know that the need for negotiation and conflict mediation transcends your own home.  And, if all of these things apply to you at the same time – you can probably teach a graduate-level class on the topic!

If you can negotiate effectively with your spouse, your kids, your neighbors and the teachers and parents at your kids’s schools, you can probably negotiate and mediate conflict among co-workers in an office, with vendors and with customers.

Again, it comes down to you translating your skills for employers.

Financial Management Skills

If you are a stay-at-home mom, that means you are probably managing a family budget fueled by a single income source – your spouse’s income.  If you have to manage a family budget, pay bills, manage contractors around your home, and balance a checkbook – you have financial management skills.  If you ever served as the treasurer of the PTA or any other community organization, you have been trusted to manage other people’s money.  Through all of this, you have developed financial management skills.  Every organization – from churches and non-profits to schools, hospitals and businesses – has bills to pay and finances to manage.  If you have financial management skills, you are valuable to employers.

Event Planning and Logistics Coordination Skills

Soccer leagues, band practice, birthday parties, homework, volunteer services hours, religious education classes, private lessons, family vacations, anniversary parties, community events.  Have you ever been involved in planning, coordinating and managing any of these kinds of events. If so, you have experience in event planning and logistics coordination, which is a skill set many employers value.

I can go on, but you get the idea.  You have a lot of options. I recommend you look at the skills you most enjoy using and see how those might translate into job.  Just remember,

You have to translate your experience into terms employers can appreciate and understand

You have to make “you” make sense to “them”!  If you define and describe yourself as a stay-at-home mom, employers will see you as a stay-at-home mom – not as a prospective employee.  If you define and describe yourself using examples of the skills and experience you offer (emphasis on the skills and the experience, NOT on how or where you got them), employer will see you for what you offer.

You have to be realistic

Kara, I don’t know you so I don’t know the specifics of your situation.

I do know that, regardless of the specifics, you have to be realistic and honest with yourself about where and how you can restart your career and how much you can expect to make.

Employers will pay only what the market requires them to pay.

Re-entering the workplace may mean starting at the bottom – that often means entry-level work and entry-level pay.

Employers really don’t care what you want to earn or how much you think you deserve to be paid; they will pay the prevailing market wage. Be prepared for this. Don’t be surprised by it.

Many job seekers become frustrated and angry because their expectations going in are not realistic.  Don’t let that be you.

So, my last bit of advice:

Do you homework and your legwork – finding a job takes more than “want to”

Looking for a job is a lot like training for a marathon or – dare I say it – trying to lose weight.  You are not going succeed in reaching your goal on “want to” alone.

You have to set up a plan, follow that plan, measure your progress toward achieving your goal, and reward yourself for progress along the way so you will stay motivated.  You have to hold yourself accountable when you don’t do what you committed to do.

Measure and mark the little steps along the way and you will see big progress.  Saying “I want to re-enter the workforce” is the easy part.  Moving down that path is the hard part.

Check out some of my earlier blogs on this topic. I think you will find them helpful

How can I get employers to focus on my qualifications and not my age?

I don’t know what I want to do or what I’m qualified to do. What do you suggest?

Are there any jobs where you can work from home?

With 20+ years until retirement, what should I do next?

And finally – here is an article I found that you might find helpful: Resume Tips for the Stay-at-Home Mom

Hope this helps!



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