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working parent, returning to work after raising kids

Image by franky242, via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Below is a re-post of my monthly blog post for Webster University’s George Herbert Walker School of Business & Technology.

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After three boys and 15 years outside the job market, Susan decided to go back to work. Like a lot of women in this situation, it took time for her confidence to grow. Her courage and persistence served her well as she pursued a fulfilling position. The process she followed will work for you or anyone wondering what’s next. Knowing what you can do and where you’d like to do it makes the rest of the path clear.

Internal Work

Susan first faced her internal confusion and fears. Delving into her past, she identified accomplishments and the skills she demonstrated before and after starting her family. She continued despite her inner “voices” of doubt and doom which whispered (and sometimes screamed) “Give up! No one will hire you! Who are you kidding?”

She remembered her creative efforts from her short career in marketing, her success in juggling countless tasks to maintain order in a house with children, the joy she felt from teaching and nurturing her sons, and activities she had been drawn toward: Cub Scout den mother, active member of the school P.T.O., and a volunteer reading instructor.

She reached clarity about her skills as a leader, organizer and teacher.

What’s Important? Next, she asked herself what really mattered to her. She felt troubled by the pollution which seemed to close in on them. Her family faced it every day–and couldn’t escape it even on long camping trips. She got in touch with her passion for protecting the environment for her children and future generations. Having that decided, she felt good, but Susan was still terrified because she hadn’t a clue about what to do with this decision.

Givers Gain

Recognizing the importance of contributing first, she volunteered with an environmental agency. Although the routine tasks the office manager initially gave her weren’t usually very stimulating, Susan put her best foot forward. She was always interested, personable, dependable and did impeccable work. So several weeks later, when the group badly needed help organizing their annual convention, Susan stepped up and impressed everyone with her leadership in recruiting, organizing and directing volunteers.

Upgrading Skills/Knowledge

While helping with correspondence and updating the agency’s database, she upgraded her computer skills. She also educated herself on environmental policy, reading voraciously about current issues and talking to agency staff and others about their activities and what other environmental organizations were doing.

Networking

The word has become almost trite. Everyone knows you’ve got to do it, yet few do it well. Instead of just passing out resumes and telling everyone she was available for openings, Susan got to know people. She took advantage of opportunities to meet people who came into the office, went to hear environmental speakers and attended events and fundraisers of environmental organizations. She took full advantage of the convention to make new contacts and make sure those she’d met remembered her. As she became a familiar face and became more confident, she let people know about her goals, and got advice on how to achieve them.

Planning for the Future

One contact alerted Susan to a grant-funded position on environmental education. The hiring decision-maker was a woman Susan had met–and impressed–at the convention. Soon, Susan had a position she loved: traveling to area schools teaching and organizing environmental projects. Still, she knows that her position will only last two to three years, and has a plan to advance herself, ultimately to become director of her organization or another one like it.