Managing motherhood and your career

Struggling with managing motherhood and career satisfaction? You are not alone. For some clients they wrestle to find the right mix of economics and enjoying their work, for others, it may be a transition back from maternity or you may be in a position where you are going back to the employment market after a long absence. I am going to share some of the best kept secrets to these important questions.

This week’s Podcast is a conversation with myself and Karen Hamilton, the founder of TheBestKeptSecret.ca. Karen was a professional returning to the workforce and wondering what was the best way to get on the right track. Quick story – Karen came to one of our free teleworkshops about a year ago. This became a catalyst for her to launch this website focused on Woman 40+. Take some time to check out her site – you won’t be disappointed.

The shoe is on the other foot this week as Karen was the one asking the questions. Enclosed is the article that she wrote about our conversation.

Somewhere post-university/pre-perimenopause, many women opt for a detour from the career super highway to staying home with their kids. At first it seems great – long walks pushing the stroller, coffee with other moms and an ever expanding wardrobe of sneakers and jeans.

Of course, there are the trying moments. How many times can one woman sing "The wheels on the Bus" without losing her mind? The embarrassing habits we acquire – like the inability to refrain from pointing out fire engines and choo choo trains to just about everyone and the times these women don’t know how to respond when they’re asked, "What do you do?" But they carry on because staying home with their children is the right choice for them.

But there comes a time in every stay-at-home mom’s life when she’s ready to go back to work. Whether it’s an empty nest, financial obligations or just being ready for a new challenge, these women are ready to work outside of the home again.

How do you begin when you’re ready to go back to work? We turned to CareerJoy’s Alan Kearns for guidance. A frequent contributor to CBC Radio, Canada AM, The Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail, he truly is Canada’s career coach. Alan assured us that this situation is very common. "It’s almost like Career 2.0."

Where do you start?

What does Alan suggest midlife women do when we’re ready to re-enter the workforce?

Step one is to not discount the work we’ve done as a mother. Think about how it’s relevant and don’t forget about all the skills you’ve been using.

Step two is about having confidence. Despite the fact that we’re always encouraged to have confidence, Alan acknowledges it isn’t easy. He offered up a great quote from Chris Phillips of the Ottawa Senators, "You can’t just go to the grocery store and pick up a cart load of confidence."

Step three is to have a transition plan. Think about what you want to do and where you want to work while you’re still at home. Then ask yourself how you can start to prepare now for that transition. Alan suggests thinking of it like you’re on a runway. "Depending on your goal, you may need a longer or shorter runway."

Network? What network?

We hear over and over again that most jobs aren’t advertised – that they come via the grapevine and that we need to work our contact list. But what if all our contacts and networks have dried up? How does one start from scratch?

"Most people don’t get their jobs through first level contacts. It’s from the peripheral contacts – friends of friends," Alan reminds us.

He also suggests you be intentional about growing your network. Volunteering, contributing and reaching out purposefully and strategically to people who are already doing the kinds of work you’re interested in doing. If that seems a little intimidating, remember that people are nice. If you’re genuine and polite, people will help when you ask for help.

And what about the "black hole" on your resume? "Accept the reality that there is going to be a gap," Alan states matter-of-factly.

He also offers up some practical tips:

  1. Make your resume a transferable or functional skills resume rather than a chronological resume.
  2. Incorporate volunteer work.
  3. Packaging really does matter. Don’t be afraid to have an expert help with this.
  4. Resumes don’t work – it’s you working the resume. What are you going to do to market it and get it in front of people?

Where passion and talent collides

We hear a lot of women in this position say they just don’t know what they want to do. They don’t want to go back to the line of work they were in before their workforce break but they’re equally unsure about what they want to do going forward.

Alan says the trick is to think about the things you’re both passionate about and talented in. Studies show that executives who have both these things are six times more successful than those who have just one or the other.

To help people determine where their passions lie, Alan often asks the "Chapters Question". "If I were to follow you around Chapters, what section(s) would you hang out in?"

Then there are talents – the practical side of the equation. You’ve got to figure out how you can make a living at this.

Final thoughts

We asked Alan what he would say if he could impart just one piece of advice to the midlife women who are reading this. "It’s never too late and it’s never too soon."

I hope you enjoyed this weeks column – I know it’s not the regular style. I am going to give away 3 signed copies of my book Get the Right Job Right Now! Send me an email alan@careerjoy.com or post on my blog, your thoughts about managing motherhood and your career. Looking to get things on track with your career? Join our free teleworkshop or book a confidential meeting with me.

Balancing life along the road with you


This week’s 10 Minute WORKout
This week talk to as many people as possible. Let them know that you are getting back into the workforce. Network, network, network.