Maybe you decided to leave the workforce to raise your children. Or perhaps you took a break to take care of an aging parent. At some point during their careers, many people may need to press pause on their work as they focus on other parts of life. But while deciding to take a break may be a tough decision for some, having to re-enter the workforce after said break can be even tougher.
In a recent webinar hosted by 1 Million for Work Flexibility Partner FlexJobs, “Plot Your Return to Work After a Break,” Rachael Ellison, an executive coach, work-life advocate, and founder of Reworking Parents (a 1 Million for Work Flexibility Supporter) outlines how moms and dads can get back into the job market and find a position that works for them, no matter how long they have been out of work or what their current work-life balance needs might be.
Ellison admits that the thought of getting back into the workforce after a long break can be absolutely paralyzing. From assessing what your skills are, to figuring out what you really want to do, finding a job can seem like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. Through her work with clients, Ellison is ready to provide that proverbial parachute to stressed-out job seekers.
For starters, Ellison encourages job seekers to determine what their biggest obstacle is. It could be anything from how to find the right job, to the belief that your family won’t be able to function without you. It could even be a fear that your skills are out of date, or that you have tried (and failed) to find a job on your own.
To combat whatever fear you may be entertaining, Ellison suggests changing one simple thing: your mindset. For example, instead of seeing parenthood as a negative, try to see how it gives you an added edge as you look for a flexible job. According to Ellison, being a parent encourages you to live in a multi-dimensional space, which can help you both professionally and personally. It helps you tune out the noise of professional life (such as office politics and catty coworkers) and focus on the essentials. In short, being a parent can help you become a better manager and even better at adaptation. As Ellison states: “Parenthood is a skill and can impact your mindset. It’s a tool that teaches us about change management and social intelligence.”
Once you’ve overcome your initial fears about reentering the workforce, you need to know how to network in order to find a job. Ellison believes that for working parents, there’s no better place than the playground. “The playground is the new old boys’ club,” states Ellison. In addition, socialize on social media with all of your contacts as well, from your family and friends, to former colleagues and those with whom you wish to make a connection.
In crafting a connection with people who can potentially help you land your next gig, you have to be able to make sense of how to make yourself a marketable force in the economy. Think about new ideas, interests, and skills and how you can apply them. Ellison notes that that in reinvention, there is no straight line. Your path may look like a zig-zag for a while until you find your own road to successful work-life balance.
Ultimately, Ellison suggests that job seekers focus on the positive rather than the negative. Instead of feeling frustrated for the gaps on their resumes, Ellison says they should focus instead on the total sum of their experiences and how that makes them an ideal job candidate. Parenthood, it seems, is an asset in today’s job market, and one which every working mother and father should take advantage of in order to attain success.
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