A Career Guide for Moms Re-Entering the Workforce

According to the White House Council of Economic Advisers, over 75% of American mothers currently work full-time. After many women had to leave the workforce during the pandemic to care for children, it’s heartening to see so many women back at work. If you’ve been out of the workforce for a while, though, you may not feel confident about joining the ranks of the working moms.

Whether you’ve been staying at home since your children were born or shifted to full-time motherhood because of the pandemic, it’s normal to feel worried about rejoining the workforce. The job market is markedly different from just a few years ago, and your resume may need a major overhaul. However, by doing your research, setting goals, and writing a solid cover letter, you can find the position that is perfect for you. 

This piece is our comprehensive guide to returning to the workforce as a full-time mom. No matter your industry or experience level, we can help you find a job that needs your expertise. There are a lot of lessons you learn as a stay-at-home mom that apply to the workforce, so go into the job hunt knowing that you are a competitive candidate. 

Understanding the Current Job Market

Between the pandemic, the rise of AI, and remote work becoming more common, today’s job market has morphed intensely in just a few years. Even if you only left the workforce in 2019 or 2020, job hunting may feel like a completely different process now. Here’s how to get familiar with the new working world. 

Researching Industry Trends

Of course, the changes and trends most relevant to you will depend on your industry. What you need to know as a healthcare professional is entirely different from what you need to know to succeed as a marketing executive, and vice versa. The trick to being prepared is doing the proper research before submitting a job application. 

Look into industry reports for your sector for the most detailed and data-driven insights. Turn to authoritative sources within your industry - companies and publications known for their research prowess and expertise. Also search through databases like IBISWorld to access years of data at the click of a button. 

But it’s a good idea to look at first-hand accounts from people currently in the field too. Social media and the internet can lead you to beginner-friendly thought leaders and influencers within your industry. Create a LinkedIn profile, follow companies and topics relevant to your job hunt, and read through the discussions you see there. 

While reading, ask yourself: 

  • What are people trying to change in your industry? 
  • Why are people joining the industry? What inspires people to stay? 
  • What kinds of workers are hiring managers looking for right now? 

While you observe, try to identify any common skills between successful people in your industry and try to emulate them during your job hunt. 

Of course, data reports and LinkedIn posts aren’t the only way to find specialized insight into your industry. Blogs and print publications specifically aimed at people in your industry can be invaluable - not only do you hear the thoughts and insights of leaders within your industry, but you may learn about smaller companies or startups in your sector that may be hiring. For unfiltered opinions, look for online forums and communities dedicated to your industry. Reddit forums and discussion boards could give you a better idea of what day-to-day life in your industry is like. 

Adapting to New Working Norms

If you left the workforce before the pandemic, you may feel nervous to try out a remote or hybrid role. After all, remote work comes with its own etiquette and best practices, and you may have a bit of a learning curve if you’re used to in-person work. While researching the state of your industry, determine whether the kinds of jobs you’re qualified for are typically remote or in-person. For instance, most healthcare workers work primarily in person but are expected to have some familiarity with telehealth and digital patient portals. 

Similarly, AI is much more prevalent in workplaces than even just a year ago. Many industries utilize chatGPT for generative functions like copywriting and editing, and having familiarity with standard AI programs can make you stand out among other applicants. Some research has shown that as many as 80% of companies are now using AI in some capacity. Take some time to play around with chatGPT and other AI programs, or take a course on using AI in your industry. Even if you don’t have experience using AI professionally, AI familiarity is a highly sought-after skill in the current job market.

How to Build Skills and Bolster Your Resume

If you’ve been out of the workforce for a long time or want to hone your skills before you jump headfirst into the job hunt, this is a great time to do so. Here are some of the best avenues for strengthening your hard and soft skills. 

Identifying Relevant Certifications for Your Career Path

If your industry requires any kind of specialized skills, you’ll likely need to seek a certification or two. If you were certified in certain things before leaving the workforce, get re-certified in those first. Otherwise, start by researching certifications in high demand within your field. Are there any new technologies or methodologies that employers are particularly keen on? Industry-specific forums, LinkedIn groups, and professional associations can be excellent resources for this information.

Once you've identified potential certifications, delve into the details. What are the prerequisites, costs, and time commitments involved? Be realistic about what you can manage, given your responsibilities as a mom. Also, consider the format: online certifications offer more flexibility, which might be essential for your work-life balance. In contrast, in-person programs could offer more hands-on experience or networking opportunities. 

Balancing Studies with Family Obligations

Earning certification while managing a family can be a daunting task, but with the right strategies, it's entirely feasible. Start by setting realistic study goals. What does a successful week look like for you regarding study hours? Be honest with yourself about what's achievable, and remember, consistent small steps often lead to significant results.

Building a support system is crucial. This might mean joining study groups with fellow moms or finding family members to help with childcare. Don’t hesitate to lean on your network; you’d be surprised how willing people are to lend a hand or offer advice.

Lastly, make the most of online resources and flexible learning platforms. These tools are designed to fit education into your life, not vice versa. Many platforms offer bite-sized learning modules, allowing you to progress at your own pace and schedule, which can be a game changer when balancing studies with parenting duties. Pursuing further education is not just about career advancement; it's a powerful model for your children about the value of lifelong learning.

Embracing Digital Literacy

In today’s market, 92% of jobs require you to be proficient with computers and technology. These skills are often considered essential across various industries, whether basic proficiency in Microsoft Office or understanding cloud-based tools. Begin by assessing your current digital skill level and identify areas for improvement. Are you comfortable with word processing and spreadsheets? Do you know how to use email and manage files effectively? Do you know what kind of tech is widespread in your industry? 

Fortunately, numerous free or low-cost online resources are available to enhance your digital literacy. Websites like Coursera, Khan Academy, or YouTube offer tutorials on basic computer skills and more advanced software applications. Remember, investing time in improving your digital proficiency is not just about meeting the minimum job requirements; it's about enhancing your employability and positioning yourself for career advancement in an increasingly digital workplace.

Participating in Online Workshops and Webinars

Online workshops and webinars are invaluable resources for staying current with industry trends and gaining new skills. Start by identifying events that align with your career interests or gaps in your knowledge. Many professional organizations, industry leaders, and educational institutions host regular online events that can be easily found through a quick internet search or professional networking sites like LinkedIn.

Once you’ve registered for a webinar or workshop, aim to be an active participant. Engaging in these events isn't just about listening, but networking and contributing to discussions. This might mean asking insightful questions, participating in breakout sessions, following up with speakers, or connecting with attendees on LinkedIn post-event.

Finally, leverage the knowledge and connections gained from these sessions to boost your brand and resume. Whether it’s a new software skill, an industry insight, or a professional contact, each element adds value to your job search arsenal. Remember, each webinar and workshop is not just a learning opportunity; it's a chance to showcase your commitment to continuous professional development – a trait highly valued in today’s dynamic job market.

Practice Skills with a Side Hustle or in a Volunteer Capacity

If transitioning from staying at home to full-time work is intimidating, you can “soft launch” your return to the workforce by trying out a side hustle or volunteer role.  If you have a hobby or a craft you enjoy, consider how you might transform it into a small business venture, like opening an Etsy shop. This demonstrates entrepreneurial spirit and allows you to practice and showcase marketing, sales, and operations management skills.

Volunteering is another avenue to explore. Local businesses, schools, churches, and community organizations often need assistance. Whether helping with their marketing efforts, organizing events, or managing their operations, these opportunities allow you to apply and develop professional skills in a real-world setting. They also offer the added benefit of expanding your professional network and gaining references, which are invaluable when re-entering the job market. Plus, this experience showcases you as a proactive self-starter, a desirable trait to potential employers.

Gig Economy work

The gig economy offers a flexible and often immediate path for moms returning to work. Platforms like Uber, Instacart, and Upwork provide opportunities to ramp up into the workforce at your own pace. These roles range from driving and delivery services to freelance projects aligned with your professional skills. Many gig economy jobs have minimal prerequisites, making them accessible entry points into the job market.

Working in the gig economy also allows you to build up a contemporary work history, which can be particularly beneficial if you have a multiyear employment gap. It's a chance to demonstrate your adaptability, time management skills, and commitment to re-entering the workforce. You can also use it as a practice run for managing a work-life balance when you get a full-time job and prepare your children for life with a working mom.

Resume Tips for Moms Re-Entering the Workforce

So you’re staring at your old resume, wondering how to fill in the blanks since your last job and whether or not to include “can calm a tantrum in ten seconds flat” under Special Skills. Luckily, revamping your resume can be easier than you think. 

How to Include Your Parenting Experience on a Resume

So, how do you explain an employment gap due to stay-at-home parenting? 

You may be tempted to list your homemaking and parenting experience in the work section, but we want to caution you away from that. While the skills you gained as a mother are hugely valuable, your resume focuses on the work you were paid to do. 

Yes, your child would happily give you an “exceeds expectations” for your ability to multitask by folding clothes, singing songs, and having a tea party simultaneously - but your interviewers can’t call her to confirm that. The one exception to this would be if you are entering a field in which your parenting experience would be directly applicable, such as childcare or pediatric care. 

We recommend including a line above your work experience explaining that you are looking for work again after an “x"-year-long employment gap. Yep, it can be that simple - most hiring managers only look at a resume for seven to ten seconds, so they’ll fly past that line and look at the most important information instead. Keep your resume as simple as possible - the cover letter and interview will be your chance to expand on the skills you’ve gained by parenting. 

Your “special skills” section is likely the one that will change the most at this point. Consider the skills you use every day to keep your household running: appointment setting, balancing a checkbook, tracking chores, delegating responsibilities, and more. For each skill you add, think about how it can apply to your industry; being able to demonstrate these with your interviewer will help strengthen your candidacy. 

How to Write a Compelling Cover Letter as a Stay-at-Home Mom

If the resume's goal is to get as much vital information across in as few words as possible, the mission of the cover letter is to explain why the resume matters. There are a few different ways to format a cover letter, so we’ll focus on what the content should be. Your cover letter should explain three things: who you are, what made you apply to the role, and why you are suitable for the job. 

In the “who you are” paragraph, explain what work you did before staying home, how long you’ve been a full-time mom, and what made you look for work again. Of course, the level of detail you include is up to you; you don’t have to disclose the highly personal reasons you’re looking for work again but emphasize that you are excited to be on the job hunt. 

Next, tell them why you’re applying for that role. The goal isn’t to flatter them but to explain why you’re considering that position specifically. For example, you can say that you were drawn to the customer service aspect of a front desk job or that the repetitive nature of administrative work appeals to you. You want to show that you are interested in the work and have read the job description all the way through. This section is where you’ll prove that you’re not just sending the same cover letter to every job you apply to but tailoring it for each position. 

Finally, you’ll talk about why you’re right for the job. In this section, draw parallels between your skills and those needed for the job. You can point to past roles and mention things you’ve learned as a full-time mom. This last part will tie the first two sections together and convince the hiring manager to schedule you for an interview. 

Of course, writing isn’t everyone’s strong suit. If you’re struggling with a cover letter, seeking help is okay! The website Ask A Manager has excellent advice for writing cover letters, and you can also find templates on websites like Resume Genius and My Perfect Resume. You can even ask ChatGPT for some help getting started (and get experience engaging with new AI tools at the same time!). Since it’s been a long time since you last looked for a job, it’s wise to seek help wherever possible. 

Updating Your Social Media and LinkedIn Profiles

Your online presence is as crucial as your resume in today's connected world. Start with LinkedIn: upload a professional photo and craft a compelling summary that reflects your career aspirations and highlights your key skills. Make sure to use the “Open to Work” tag so prospective employers can see at a glance that you’re job hunting. Detail your professional experiences, focusing on achievements and learnings, not just job titles.

Networking on LinkedIn is equally important. Join groups relevant to your industry, follow companies you’re interested in, and actively engage with their content. This keeps you updated on industry news and puts your profile in front of potential employers. Put some time into developing a personal brand so potential employers can quickly identify you. 

Don’t forget about your other social media platforms. Review your privacy settings and ensure that your public persona reflects the professionalism you want to convey. A consistent, professional image across all platforms enhances your credibility and can be a deciding factor in your job search. This does not mean you shouldn’t include photos of your kids or discuss being a mom online! But look through your public profiles with the eye of a hiring manager and go private when necessary. 

Interview Advice for Moms Re-Entering the Workforce

If interviewing makes you sweaty and nervous, you’re not alone: 93% of job hunters have had interview anxiety at some point. But by practicing your answers and preparing talking points about your experiences as a full-time mom, you’ll be fully prepared to wow the interviewers. 

How to Explain a Gap in Your Resume

So, how do you talk about your time as a full-time mom during an interview? You may feel that you must justify your decision to stay home with your kids and over-explain your motivations to the interviewers. But the truth is, your interviewers are less interested in why you were out of the workforce than in why you’re returning. 

Prepare a concise yet positive way to talk about your time as a full-time parent. Focus on how you’ve grown during this time and how your lessons learned as a mother can apply to the workforce. Scripting this bit before the interview and practicing it in the mirror can help battle any nerves you feel about the employment gap. 

Use this answer to also transition into talking about your career goals - for example; you could say that your time as a mother has improved your time management skills, and you’re excited to hone those skills in a professional setting. Take some time to determine what excites you about the roles you apply to, and personalize this answer for each interview. 

How Your Parenting Experience Translates Into Work

Some common interview questions include describing your past work experiences - but if you’ve been out of the workforce for several years, you may not have any recent or relevant stories to tell. However, describing the skills you use to manage your home can make you stand out as a candidate. 

For example, planning and budgeting for a family vacation shows project management skills - talk about times you’ve had to coordinate plans with multiple parties and how you communicate effectively and manage the budget. Or you can play to your ability to stay cool-headed under pressure, joking that if you can keep your head while handling a toddler tantrum, you can definitely handle clients. 

Networking and Building Professional Connections

Building a professional network can begin before you even apply for a job. Networking is vital in the modern job market. One survey done by LinkedIn revealed that 70% of participants got their current jobs thanks to networking. 

Leveraging Your Existing Network

Start by evaluating your existing network, which includes former colleagues, peers, friends, and even family members. They can offer insights into industry trends, introduce you to other professionals, or alert you to job opportunities. Re-establishing connections can be as simple as sending a friendly email or LinkedIn message to catch up and express your intent to return to the workforce. People familiar with your past work will likely be happy to pass your resume along. 

When attending industry events, whether online or in person, approach them with the mindset of making new professional connections. Have your elevator pitch ready – a brief introduction that includes your background and career aspirations. Be genuine in your interactions and show interest in others’ work. Remember, networking is a two-way street; consider how to assist your new connection. 

Utilizing Online Platforms for Networking

Online platforms have revolutionized networking, providing more global opportunities to connect with professionals. Engage in online forums, LinkedIn groups, and professional communities related to your industry. These platforms are great for learning and staying updated on industry news and showcasing your knowledge and expertise.

Participate in virtual networking events and webinars, which are increasingly common. They can be less intimidating than in-person events and more convenient for moms balancing family and career aspirations. When you attend these events, participate proactively in discussions and follow up with new connections afterward.

Another effective way to increase your visibility in your field is by creating valuable content or contributions. Share your insights, comment on relevant posts, or write articles about your experiences and expertise. Your LinkedIn post about finding a job as a former stay-at-home mom will resonate with others and give you much-needed online visibility. This positions you as a knowledgeable professional in your field and can attract the attention of potential employers or collaborators. Remember, your online presence can be a powerful tool in your job search arsenal, so use it wisely and authentically.

Balancing Work and Family Life

So everything has gone right, and you’ve got the job! Congratulations. The transition from stay-at-home parent to working mom can be tricky, but balance is absolutely possible. 

Time Management Strategies for Working Moms

Effective time management is vital to juggling the demands of work and family. Start by mastering the art of prioritization. Recognize which tasks are urgent and which can be deferred or delegated. Efficient task management often involves saying no to less critical activities to focus on what truly matters. This means you may end up relaxing your standards a little; you may decide it’s fine to let a sink full of dishes sit for a couple of hours to get some extra playtime with your kids after a long day at work, or that laundry doesn’t have to be folded immediately if it means you get to go to bed a little earlier. You get to decide what your priorities are and where your energy goes. 

Utilize tools and apps designed to streamline organization and scheduling. Calendar apps, task managers like Trello or Asana, and family organizing apps can synchronize your professional and personal responsibilities in one place. These tools help visualize your schedule, making it easier to manage time effectively.

Setting boundaries is crucial. This might mean having specific work hours, even when working from home, to ensure you can switch off and focus on family time. Communicate these boundaries clearly to your colleagues and family, and hold firm on them for your own sake.

Finally, remember to set realistic goals for yourself. It's about finding a rhythm that works for you and your family, not striving for an unattainable ideal of perfection in every aspect of life. You don’t have to be Super Mom: you just have to be your kid’s mom. 

Finding Flexible Work Arrangements

Many employers recognize the value of flexible work arrangements in today's work environment. When discussing potential roles, be transparent about your need for flexibility, whether it involves flexible hours to accommodate daycare drop-off, remote work options, or part-time work. Frame this conversation around how such arrangements will not only benefit you but also how they can contribute to your productivity and loyalty to the company.

Research companies that are known for their family-friendly policies and culture. Look for organizations that historically value work-life balance and have established policies supporting this. Company review websites like Glassdoor or Indeed can provide valuable insights into company cultures.

Lastly, never underestimate the importance of self-care and stress management. Being a working mother comes with a whole new set of challenges, so taking time for yourself is crucial. This could be through regular exercise, hobbies, or simply quiet time to recharge. Remember, taking care of yourself is not just good for you but also benefits your family and professional life.

Benefits You Should Look for as a Working Parent

As a working parent, certain benefits can significantly enhance your ability to balance work and family responsibilities. When evaluating job opportunities or negotiating your employment package, consider the following key benefits:

  • Flexible Hours and Remote Work Options: Look for roles that offer flexible working hours or the option to work from home. This flexibility can be invaluable for balancing parenting duties, such as school runs or attending children’s events, with work commitments. Some companies may also offer compressed workweeks or part-time arrangements more suitable for your family's needs.
  • Parental Leave Policies: Understand the company’s policy on parental leave. Comprehensive parental leave policies are a strong indicator of a family-friendly employer. This includes not only the duration of the leave but also whether it's paid and if it applies to both parents.
  • Childcare Support: Some companies offer childcare support, from onsite childcare facilities to partnerships with local childcare providers or subsidies to help offset childcare costs. This benefit can be a game-changer for working parents, reducing stress and logistical challenges.
  • Family Health Insurance: Evaluate the health insurance options provided by the employer. Family health insurance plans that offer comprehensive coverage for your entire family are essential. Pay attention to what is included in the coverage, such as pediatric care, maternity services, and any unique healthcare needs your family may have.
  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs): Many employers offer EAPs, resources designed to help employees deal with personal issues that might adversely impact their work performance, health, and well-being. These programs often include services like counseling, parenting advice, and personal development resources. They can be an invaluable support system for navigating the complexities of balancing work and family life.

Considering these benefits, remember that the best employment package supports your career aspirations and your family's well-being. A supportive work environment can significantly impact your experience as a working parent.

Resources and Communities Dedicated to Moms Re-Entering the Workforce

  • Dreambound: A platform offering short career and technical training programs in healthcare, technology, business, and trades. Provides various class options, including online and evening classes, with flexible payment plans and financial aid for those who qualify. It is ideal for gaining certifications and enhancing skills in new fields. Visit Dreambound for more information.
  • American Job Centers: Government-run centers providing job search assistance, training resources, and employment-related questions. They offer a Worker Re-employment page guiding job-seeking journeys, which is particularly valuable for those reentering the workforce. Visit American Job Centers.
  • ReacHIRE: Provides women with professional training, coaching, and paid projects to ease the transition back into the workforce. Visit ReacHIRE.
  • The Second Shift: Matches women with temporary or project-based opportunities, focusing on marketing and finance. Visit The Second Shift.
  • Simplr: Connects remote workers with customer service opportunities, offering AI-driven training. Visit Simplr.
  • Working Moms Against Guilt (WMAG): An online community offering support and resources, including a list of mom-friendly organizations. Visit WMAG.
  • Fairygodboss: A social network with job listings, webinars, and a database of employer benefits. Visit Fairygodboss.
  • Hire My Mom: A platform for moms seeking flexible, part-time, or remote work opportunities. Visit Hire My Mom.
  • iRelaunch: Offers resume advice, career coaching, and an annual conference for reentering professionals. Visit iRelaunch.
  • The Mom Project: Connects women with freelance and full-time job opportunities, focusing on work-life balance. Visit The Mom Project.
  • Mom Relaunch: Provides training, mentoring, and advising for moms returning to the workforce, focusing on diversity and tech talent. Visit Mom Relaunch.
  • Women Back to Work: Focuses on workforce re-entry for technical talent, offering returnship programs, contingent staffing, and direct hire opportunities. Visit Women Back to Work
  • Virtual Vocations: A resource for moms focusing on remote work opportunities, offering job search strategies, resume, and interview tips. Visit Virtual Vocations.
  • Après: A platform for women returning to work after a break, featuring a job board with flexible and full-time opportunities. Membership includes access to career coaching and articles—more at Après.
  • iRelaunch: Specializes in career reentry programs and resources, offering conferences and a comprehensive listing of return-to-work programs. For more information, visit iRelaunch.
  • Leave the Law Behind: For lawyers seeking a career change, this program offers coaching and guidance for transitioning to new fields. Details are available at Leave the Law Behind.

Frequently Asked Questions for Moms Re-Entering the Workforce

How can I explain the gap in my resume due to parenting?

Address the gap positively, focusing on skills developed during the break, such as time management and organization. Highlight any volunteer or part-time work you may have done, such as helping out your church or doing a side hustle. 

What are the best ways to update my skills for re-entering the workforce?

Consider online courses, workshops, or certifications relevant to your field, and stay updated with industry trends.

How do I balance job search efforts with family responsibilities?

Set a schedule for job search activities, utilize online resources for flexibility, and seek family support when needed.

Are there specific industries or roles more suited for moms returning to work?

Look for industries with flexible work policies, part-time roles, or companies that support work-life balance. You can also look at healthcare, technology, or trades, where there is so much of a worker shortage that getting certified can be enough to get you your first job.

How can I use networking to find job opportunities?

Reconnect with former colleagues, join professional groups and utilize platforms like LinkedIn to expand your network. Let friends know you are looking for a new opportunity.

What should I focus on in my cover letter as a returning mom?

Highlight your enthusiasm to return to work, the value you bring, and how your experiences as a mom have enhanced your skills.

Are remote or flexible jobs suitable for moms?

Many companies now offer remote or flexible roles; job boards like Virtual Vocations specialize in these opportunities.

How important is it to be technologically savvy in today’s job market?

Critical; basic digital literacy is a must, and proficiency in industry-specific software can be a significant advantage.

Should I consider part-time work or freelancing initially?

Depending on your situation, starting with part-time or freelance work can be an excellent way to transition back into the workforce.

How can I manage stress and maintain a healthy work-life balance?

Prioritize tasks, set boundaries, and don't hesitate to ask for help or utilize resources designed for working parents.

Written by
Athena Kan
Athena is Co-founder and CEO of Dreambound.
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