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  • Our Career Blogger’s Best Tips For Transitioning Back Into The Workplace

    Career consultant Barri Waltcher on how at-home parents can transition back into a satisfying career, whether in their previous field or a new one.

    By Barri Waltcher
    New York City mom of two Barri Waltcher is a career consultant and, as a New York Family blogger, our best resource for helping at-home parents who hope to transition back into a satisfying career, whether in their previous field or a new one. A former lawyer herself, she co-founded Mind Your Own Business Moms alongside bestselling author Pamela Weinberg of NYC parenting guide City Baby. Here’s a taste of the great advice she’s been offering our readers on our website. For more of her workplace and job hunt wisdom—from resume tips to volunteering as a way to beef up your skills—visit Waltcher’s posts on the Parenting in Progress blog.

    A PLAYLIST FOR PERSPECTIVE

    The school year is a great time for stay-at-home parents to start considering going back to work. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Here’s my essential playlist to help navigate the process:

    Don’t Stop Believing by Journey
    Potential employers are looking for confidence and enthusiasm. Focus on the positive: list your successes and strengths; write a paragraph about two professional accomplishments you’re proud of. Seventy-five percent of those who want to return to work after a parenting break succeed!

    I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For by U2
    You may not want to resume your prior occupation. An experienced career counselor can help, or you can use reference books (such as Do What You Are by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger) or online tools (such as helpguide.org/life/finding_career.htm) to help identify the right career path. Make a list of the enjoyable attributes of your prior job and see if they lead you anywhere.

    Start Me Up by The Rolling Stones
    Develop a specific plan for your career reentry and make it realistic. Break it down into achievable segments: What major steps have to be taken (decision-making, resume, childcare, networking), and in what time frame will they reasonably be accomplished? Put these goals in your calendar the way you would any other appointment. Then stick to it.

    What’s New, Pussycat? by Tom Jones
    If you’ve been out of the workforce for several years or if you’re pursuing a new career, you may need to update or acquire new knowledge and skills. Fortunately, New York City has many continuing education programs, trade associations often offer workshops, and strategic volunteering is a great way to gain skills and experience.

    Express Yourself by Madonna
    If resources permit, work with an experienced resume consultant. If that’s not possible, consult resume books and look at sample resumes in your field on LinkedIn. Downplay your parenting gap by using a skills-based resume that focuses on transferable skills rather than chronological employment history. Prepare an “elevator speech,” which is a two-minute pitch describing your career goals that incorporates your strengths, accomplishments, and aspirations. Practice it many times.

    You’ve Got a Friend by James Taylor
    Networking is the single most effective job search strategy. Personal contact and strategic use of LinkedIn is a powerful combo. Study LinkedIn, complete your profile, amass as many “connections” as you can, follow companies, and use that knowledge to reach out for “informational interviews.” The key is to ask for information, not a job. But when there’s a job prospect, cultivate a contact to help guide your resume to the right person.

    No Apologies by Eminem
    Most contacts’ prospective employers are more interested in what you’ve done professionally than personally (and labor laws inhibit them from discussing family circumstances). Only address your parenting break if asked to and do so matter-of-factly: “I was fortunate to be able to focus on my children’s early years, and now I’m looking forward to resuming my career.”

    4 WAYS TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR INTERNSHIPS

    I often recommend internships for career changers and adults looking for productive experiences during their parenting years—especially as kids have gone back to school and require a tad less attention during the day. They’re a good way to test out a field and build your resume, and often they can lead to a job.

    1. Dress and behave for the job you want.
    Your goal as an intern is for the professional employees to view you as someone who fits in and who they would want to work with. Observe and follow the office culture. Always remain age-appropriate, but be mindful of the ways in which your office attire may date you. Similarly, if most of the professional staff takes a short lunch break, you should not take hour-long lunches.

    2. Learn about yourself.
    Internships are opportunities to learn about yourself and your preferred work environment for the future. Do you work better alone or in a group? Are you self-directed or do you benefit from structure? Do you like predictability or spontaneity?

    3. Network and establish professional relationships.
    Over 70 percent of all jobs are obtained through personal connections, so take the time to get to know the other employees. Invite colleagues out to lunch and ask questions about their career trajectories, what they like about their jobs, and what advice they would have for you.

    4. Transmit your goals.
    Let people know what you are looking for. If you’re a part-time intern or volunteer, they may not realize you’d be willing to work full-time. Or they may think you have different career ambitions. If you’re interested in a permanent position, make sure the people you are working with know that.

     

    A WORK-LIFE BALANCE APPROACH THAT’S EASY AS PIE
    One of the biggest frustrations I hear is that it’s difficult to achieve the right work-life balance. If you struggle with your work-life balance, and you want to explore whether it’s possible to recalibrate your life, a helpful way to gain perspective is to visualize your life as a pie.

    Think about the way you actually spend your time during an average one-week period. List all the major activities in your life: family, commuting, work, sleep, meals, exercise, TV, chores. Calculate how much time you devote to them in seven days (168 hours)—so if you sleep 6 hours a night, that adds up to 42 hours per week. Now draw a large pie (a circle) and divide it into slices that represent these activities.

    Spend some time thinking about the results. Are they what you predicted? Do they reflect your priorities? Are you satisfied with the way you spend your time? Any surprises? Anything you’d like to change?

    Draw a second pie and divide it to reflect how you want to spend your time. This is a chance for you to add or expand categories that are important to you and remove or shrink ones that aren’t.

    If you conclude that work or family occupies too much or too little of your time, you can either embrace the imbalance or recalibrate your time. Many of the women I work with shift their perspective rather than their schedules after they analyze the way they spend their time. They evolve from feeling out of whack to accepting that their situation is due to an important value or priority that they cannot or are not willing to change. Someone struggling with career demands might reframe their perspective from “my career is keeping me from seeing my children” to “I want to spend as much time as possible with my children, but right now it’s important for me to make money so that I can save for their education.”

    The shift may seem subtle, but it can change the way you experience both parenting and your career. Of course, other clients decide to reallocate their time and shape their career plans differently after they study their schedules—it all depends on your priorities.

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