I just finished running a Job Seeker Workshop series and many attendees were moms (and dads) looking to return to the workforce. For some, it’s been 5 years since they last worked in their field, for others, closer to 15.

When a parent leaves the workforce, the demands of raising young children and the sheer economics, often make staying home a better option. Sometimes a stay-at-home parent is out of the workforce longer then they intended to be and the return can be very daunting.

Stay-at-home parents thinking of returning to the workforce are typically overwhelmed by:

  • how to restart a network
  • how to switch paths when they don’t want to return to what they’ve done/been
  • how to job search in the era of social networking and computer automation

Thinking about a job search is so overwhelming that that the anxiety of starting a search often postpones the search even longer.

Crafting a job-search plan is completely personal to one’s situation but here are some strategies that anyone can employ to kick-start their search.


8 Strategies for Returning to the Workforce


  1. Start reading inspirational books. My two favorites are What Should I Do with My Life by Po Bronson and How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen. These books will get you thinking of big-picture questions specific to what you want your life to look like. When you’re thinking about returning to the workforce, even on a part-time basis, being employed will cause significant changes in your home. Designing a life that serves your family is critical to choosing your path forward.


  1. Build your budget. Get a clear picture of money in and money out to better understand why you’re going back to work. A six-figure job will come with outsourcing house maintenance, cleaning, childcare, and maybe even more that you weren’t expecting. A part-time job may not pay enough to cover childcare. Get a handle on how the money will be used and determine if it aligns with how you want to spend your time.


  1. Get your spouse on board. Whether you want to work full-time (and have to accept a long commute) or decide a part-time job is better, make sure it’s a family decision. You’ll need your spouse’s backing 100%, both for your own confidence and for those days when the kids are sick and one of you are traveling.


  1. Rekindle your old work network. Organize your current one. It’s time to swallow your pride and start calling former work colleagues. Schedule coffee/lunch/dinner – figure out where everyone is now and see if they can help you re-enter your field. Don’t believe this can work? Read the story of one of my client’s about the miraculous result he achieved through networking. Connect via LinkedIn so that you can leverage your contacts’ second-degree connections. Start mobilizing your new network – the soccer field on a Saturday morning is a great place to start. Ask people where they work and get comfortable with a short summary of what you do, a k a your elevator pitch.


  1. Designate the time on your resume as Career Sabbatical. To define recent years out of the workforce, call it a Career Sabbatical and then list, as applicable, any consulting/contracting that you did during that time, even if unpaid. Do not list volunteer work such as PTO/school groups. Do list if you’re on a civic or corporate board.


  1. Get yourself covered. If you have young children, figure out where they’re going to go while you go on interviews. Build a deep bench of last-minute babysitter options.


  1. Find support. Find an accountability partner who can cheer you up and help you think of creative new ways to tackle your search when things slow down or decisions feel overwhelming. For the sake of your marriage, don’t make your spouse your sole accountability partner.


  1. Don’t apologize. Pretend you hold all the confidence in the world. You intentionally chose to take a career sabbatical and you’re intentionally choosing to return to the workforce. Don’t apologize for decisions or for lack of current work experience. Own your strengths and spin things in a positive manner, even if you’re cringing inside.


None of this is easy but making intentional decisions, having patience, and laying the groundwork for a good search will all go a long way toward a positive outcome for you and your family. When we scramble and jump at the first opportunity, we are often led down the wrong path. Take your time, employ intention and focus, and, in the words of Amy Cuddy, fake it ’til you become it.

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