Are you considering rejoining the workforce after being a stay-at-home mum (SAHM) since baby was born? Here are some tips on how to land the job you want.
Perhaps being a SAHM had been a deliberate decision for you the day that baby was born. Or perhaps it had been a move driven by external factors such as an unexpected illness or retrenchment. In either case, while there are no regrets in spending more time with your children, you are starting to experience a vague dissatisfaction lately.
Other than an irrational resentment towards your family members − which may sometimes manifest itself as anger or irritability − you are plagued with a sense of worthlessness. For women who had been in high-flying careers, the feeling of having given up something big may be even more acute. Increasingly, you cannot help but wonder if it is time to go back to work.
Stay-at-home mums have many reasons why they want to go back into the workforce. The authors of the book Back on the Career Track, Carol Fishman Cohen and Vivian Steir Rabin, have identified six motivators for SAHMs who decide to ‘relaunch’ their careers:
- Levelling the marriage playing field
- Intellectual stimulation
- Avoiding empty-nest syndrome
- Serving as a role model
(See also: The Best Time for Mums to Get Back to Work)
Let’s say you find yourself attracted to one or more of the motivators above. Don’t be too eager to rush into submitting a job application. Take some time to take some time to reassess your priorities and options.
What a Girl Wants…
In March, Joyce Wong, 36, re-entered the workforce after being a SAHM for five years. “There are instances where one cannot have your cake and eat it too,” the mother of two explains. “My priorities now are totally different from my priorities 10 years ago. You have to have a good match between the jobs you are looking for and your priorities. If your priorities are your children and your job requires you to work 70 hours a week, you’d be miserable.”
Instead of returning to a demanding career in an investment management firm, Joyce took on an unfamiliar role as an administrative assistant in an architecture and engineering company. Although the industry and job scope are completely different, Joyce enjoys her new role as it allows her to balance the desire to work while being a hands-on mother.
(See also: Work-Life Balance for New Mums!)
Once you have a clearer idea on how much you are willing to commit to your new career, the next step is to assess its content. Perhaps you have always wanted to start your own business. Or maybe you wish to work in a charity so as to respond to a higher calling. Rather than viewing your current circumstance as a disadvantage, think of it as an opportunity. You can now reassess your strengths and weaknesses, as well as your personality and new outlook on life. For many SAHMs, going back to work means finding jobs that appeal to them emotionally, even if it means taking a pay cut.
…What a Girl Needs
Petrina Tan, 38, is one of those SAHMs who have transitioned into a new career. It combines her passion for writing and the skill set she acquired as a patents executive in a law firm. “I reflected on the skills I had that could translate into paid work and spread the word among my circle of contacts that I was looking for assignments,” she says, recalling her unconventional job search.
Like Joyce, Petrina had deliberately sought out a less demanding career. “I switched fields because patents law runs on strict deadlines,” she says. “It was not feasible working part-time or flexi-hours when clients would regularly send urgent instructions on the final day.” Today, the mother of one takes pride in her new role as a freelance writer and editor, having found her first assignment through word of mouth.
While you might have been motivated by ambition, prestige, or money in your twenties, you may find that those have paled in comparison to a need for flexibility and control over your working hours. For some mothers, this may mean trading in a competitive work culture in the corporate world for a relatively less demanding nine-to-five job in the government sector. Or it could be choosing a company with flexible arrangements such as staggered hours or shortened work weeks.
Concrete Steps towards Nailing that Job
Once you’ve created a broad framework for yourself, it is time to get down to the specifics of the job search.
1. Get the word out
Many SAHMs feel hesitant in revealing their intentions to find a job after having been out of work for so long. However, this is not the time to be shy. Research has shown that most people get employed through personal connections more than any other channels. Tapping on your network is a must in this day and age, especially since some companies do not even advertise their most coveted jobs in the papers or online.
“Tell people around you that you are looking to go back to work,” says Joyce. “Some may help, some may not. But if you don’t say anything, no one can help.”
2. Update your skills
Depending on how long you have been out, you may need to invest some time to brush up on your skill set. You may have to familiarise yourself on new software or read up on the latest business news. Making sure you are up to date will put you one step ahead of your competitors. If you are thinking of entering a new industry, you may want to consider earning an additional degree, an MBA, or a technical course certificate.
3. Plan for help in childcare
Even before you get hired, it is important to consider your childcare options, especially since many of the popular childcare facilities have long waiting list. Will you need to make arrangements with your parents or in-laws to assume the role of after-school caretakers? If not, you may need to start asking around for a reliable nanny or start the process of hiring a maid.
Despite government subsidies, childcare costs can still burn a hole in your pocket. If you are able to think through the financial aspect of childcare vis-à-vis your desired salary, you will be able to move forward in your job search with more assurance and confidence.
4. Prepare your résumé & cover letter
This is one of most important things you need to get right if you are to get a foot in the door. The authors of Back on the Career Track write, “Think of your résumé as your business card or a brief profile of your professional and educational experiences. It’s not intended to tell people everything about you, but rather to give the important highlights and pique their interest so they’ll want to meet you.”
The optimal length of a résumé is one page. It is usually accompanied by a cover letter that highlights your key strengths.
5. Prepare for interviews
It pays to do your research. Knowing the company and industry well will show you to be a serious candidate. Go on the internet. Ask to chat with people who are in the same industry, or even better, in the same company. Dress appropriately, be on time, and exude confidence even if you are a bundle of nerves.
Let’s be clear on this: As a SAHM, you will face significant hurdles in getting back into the job market. Even after being shortlisted for interviews, there is a good chance that you will not be chosen. Painful as it is, there are multiple benefits to being rejected. For one, they help you realise what doesn’t work, thus forcing you to streamline and refocus your goals. With every rejection, you gain more practice and practice is what you need to nail that dream job. As a mother, you possess a maternal wisdom and perspective that are highly transferable.
Motherhood brings with it a plethora of social and management skills that we never had before, says Petrina. So make the most of these and use that fierce, protective mama tenacity to go get what you seek. Good luck!
- Back on the Career Track: A Guide for Stay-at-home Moms Who Want to Return to Work by Carol Fishman Cohen and Vivian Steir Rabin
- Sequencing: A New Solution for Women Who Want Marriage, Career, and Family by Arlene Rossen Cardozo
- Getting It Right: How Working Mothers Successfully Take Up the Challenge of Life, Family, and Career by Laraine T. Zappert
- Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career by Herminia Ibarra