How to Successfully Re-enter the Workforce

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After pursuing a thriving career as a social worker and therapist, Kelley Stewart gave birth to twins—joining the son she and her husband already had.

She decided to take some time off to care for her children. Time flew ... and 13 years later she was ready to rejoin the workforce.

She's not alone. According to a study done by Pew Research Center, 27% of all mothers did not work outside the home in 2016. Like Stewart, many of those women plan to return to careers. Regardless of why you choose to take a break from full-time employment, here are a few pointers for the day you decide to return.

Choose wisely. "Don't be afraid of pursuing a different career path," said Michelle Bryk, Program Director for Women's Resource Center, in Grand Rapids. "It may seem safer to go back to what you knew, but this is a good opportunity to make a change."

Stay active. Kelley Stewart, while home with her children, volunteered for nonprofit organizations and for her children's schools.

"Doing so allowed me to explore other areas I was interested in."

Stewart also read a lot and stayed current on industry trends and changes, which is important. "It shows employers that you're actively seeking knowledge and that you're a serious candidate," Bryk explained. "It's the little things that make a difference."

Adjust expectations. Sometimes women expect to return to the workplace at the same pay or same title they had before stepping out.

"Be realistic and know you may have to take a step or two backward in order to move forward again," said Bryk.

Update your résumé. "Think about what you did during that time off that demonstrates you've added to your skill set or kept your skills vibrant," Bryk suggests. If you'd like help, Women's Resource Center, which works with women in transition to help them pursue careers, offers a variety of workshops—among them those that focus on résumé writing and interviewing.

"We also hold workshops that address the soft skills, like time management, stress management and how to cope with different generations in the workplace," Bryk said.

Understand the process. Applying for a job today goes far beyond sending a hard copy of a cover letter and résumé. "I had to figure out how a career search worked now," said Stewart. "The landscape has changed. I created a LinkedIn page and relearned the process of looking for a job."

It's who you know. "Don't undervalue networking," Bryk said. "Everyone you know should know that you're looking for a job and what you're looking for. People have gotten jobs from other soccer moms sitting on the soccer field."

"I put a lot of feelers out there," said Stewart, who reached out to people whose careers interested her and to other women who had returned to the workforce, meeting with them informally to gather information. She also contacted former colleagues to let them know she was ready to get back in the game.

Think like a Scout: Be Prepared. Show up for your interview ready to shine. Practice being comfortable explaining why you took a break but keep it brief. Stay focused on your skill set, what you can bring to the role you're applying for, and how you can positively impact their business.

Final Thoughts

If you are uncertain where to start, consider the workshops at Women's Resource Center. The organization also offers one-on-one sessions if you'd like more personalized help. "Wherever you are," Bryk notes, "that's where we try to meet you."

Kirsetin Morello is a Michigan-based author, speaker, writer, travel-lover, wife and grateful mom of three boys. Read more about her at www.KirsetinMorello.com.

This article originally appeared in the Feb/Mar 2020 issue of West Michigan Woman.


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