|Written by Victoria Salisbury|
bring home the bacon (again)
Some serious strategies for re-entering the workforce
By Victoria Salisbury
The question of the 21st Century. How to balance motherhood and work? The truth is, it hard to know how you will feel about returning to work until after your baby is born.
Some women fight their way to the top of the company ladder only to discover that they cannot bring themselves to return once their infant appears. Others are sure they want to have four children and home-school them all; after six months, they go stir crazy, and they seek re-employment. Luckily (though the juggling act only gets harder) there are many different ways to reenter the workforce: full-time, part-time, free-lance, and home-based, all of which give women a variety of options to balance a career and motherhood.
You, desirable you
First, a bit of optimism. As a result of Katrina (it seems there really is a silver lining to everything), many qualified professionals left New Orleans. According to Kenny Frey, owner of Frey Consulting Group, the people who left town in big numbers were young professionals with children who lost their home and their schools. With this essential infrastructure gone, they evacuated and did not return. “We are lean of talent right now,” Frey explains. “There is a void of that five-to-10 year experienced person.” And this is why many recruiters are tapping into a new, local pool of talent.
So who’s swimming in the new talent pool? You. In fact, you even have an acronym. SWAT Moms, Smart Women with Available Time. Well, they got the smart part right. Who has ever met a mom with available time? Regardless, SWAT is a compliment; it is a label for the professional ex-working mother who chose to leave her well-paid job to take care of children. Considered “qualified and experienced in her chosen field,” she is now sought after by recruiters nation-wide and more so–––here in New Orleans where there is such a dire need for professional, skilled workers.
Keeping the door open
One way to return to work is never really leaving it. Many mothers choose to work a few hours a week while their children are infants, thereby keeping the door open to the chance of returning to permanent, full-time employment at a later time.
Mischelle Thiels of the River Bend area of New Orleans did this with her third child, Beatrice, now age three. Mischelle had been working for a local New Orleans non-profit prior to her daughter’s birth. For four months, she worked remotely from home with the baby. Then Katrina hit and reliable child-care disappeared, and she had to give up her position; she returned to the same company a year and half later, working three days a week. Now that Beatrice is in pre-school, Mischelle makes her own hours, working for her husband’s investment company. “It’s different for everyone,” she says now. “Every working mother feels a pull. [You] have to feel your way and find what works best for you.”
For someone looking for a little fresh air, so to speak, from the 24-hour nature of mothering, working part-time can be a great idea. According to Frey, if you are one of the coveted professionals with a ‘defined skill-set’, companies will find a way to accommodate you. Whether that means allowing you to work remotely from home, or letting you leave early to pick up your child at school, many companies are creating a whole new dynamic to create flexible working arrangements. Frey gives the example of “travel nurses” who make their own hours; this is a job hospitals created to supplement their full-time nursing staff.
Kicking the door open
Now, if you are a mother who closed the door completely on the working-world, taking two or more years off to devote yourself fully to childcare and are now looking to return to work, don’t worry. Katie Boss, of Metairie, recently returned to work after being home with her oldest son Tyler, seven, and her daughter, Gracie, four. After almost seven years out of the workforce, she was concerned. “Am I going to be the oldest among my colleagues? Am I going to be behind in technology?”
Katie has made the transition successfully, as she was promoted within a year of being hired. “The challenging part is trying to balance it all,” she says. “Something has to give. Whether it is your husband, your mother, or a nanny, you have to have somebody to help you.”
There are many ways to reenter the workforce. First of all, once again, if you fall into the category of the coveted, high-level professional—nurse, doctor, lawyer, CPA, or architect—you might consider finding a competent recruiter who specializes in your area of expertise. You can also post a resume and look for work on line. Recruiters look for talent in all the obvious places, the major job boards such as monster.com, beyond, career builder, yahoo, and local job posting sites such as those on craigslist and nola.com.
Another important step to take? Tell everyone that you are looking for a job. Engage yourself everywhere. Why? “Because most jobs are filled by word of mouth,” explains Hollie Nash, Account Executive at Doeker Resource Partners.
So start networking. Take advantage of your mothering group, your PTA meetings, and soccer games to tell everyone that you want to reenter the workforce; tell them what you used to do; tell them what your good at. Print a business card and don’t make it cutesy. Create a resume and make sure to not only list your experience, but your accomplishments. For example, if you were in sales, detail how you positively affected profits for your company. And most importantly, do not get too personal. No age or race on either your resume or your cover letter, and no–– your skills as a parent don’t count. “The purpose of your resume,” explains Holly, “is to get you a phone call. That’s it. Not to give away all the information.”
Try using on-line social networking tools like facebook and linkedin to get back in touch with old colleagues. Join a professional organization like the Rotary club. Rotarians hire other Rotarians. Another good source for job hunters is the Chamber of Commerce. Every new business that comes to town introduces itself to the city or area. It is part of the agenda and these meetings are open to the public. Go up and introduce yourself. Tell them what you do.
And remember: you’re now a SWAT mom.