Empower your Professional Pause: 5 Career Exercises to Boost Marketability and Strengthen Professional Trajectory while Out of Work
With 22 million out of work and nearly 14% of moms considering stepping away from work due to childcare needs, many moms have an unforeseen professional pause reassess their career and professional self prior to their next step. Here are 5 powerful strategies and resources to help continue strengthening your professional awareness and make clearer career decisions while on a work pause.
Ace Your Job Search While Managing Virtual School: A Practical Itinerary for Work Re-entry Success in COVID Times
Your kids are set up with the correct Zoom logins, pencils, headphones, and snacks; feeling confident, you walk over to your workspace, open your computer, and pull up your dusty resume… “MOM!” The juggle to land a good-fit position while managing your kids’ class schedules and homework picture submissions are overwhelming, to say the least. But in mama fashion, we can rise above this and find a way to move toward an exciting next step in your career. Here’s a day-long itinerary to guide your career transition success:
Early Morning Grind
Rise and resume grind. You'll find the advice to wake up before the kids on most mom-success lists, and in your job search-it's critical. Research backs an early rise work session as it aligns with your circadian rhythm’s most focused and productive time of the day. Jon Rumens, creator of FocusMe app recommends, “you should try to perform your most complex tasks, the ones that require the most brainpower and focus, in the morning. That’s the time of day when your brain is working at its best.” Work with your resume is invaluable for job search success and it requires an immense amount of concentration. Full disclosure, after years of attempting to churn late-night resumes, I primarily work on them in the early morning and the results are better for it.
To answer one of the most FAQs posed to all resume writers: YES! You absolutely must customize each resume per position. A recruiter can see a generic resume from a mile away; it is the top gripe I hear from talent acquisition professionals. Take the morning to focus on one job that’s the perfect fit for you. Use Jobscan to ensure appropriate keyword implementation. Add accomplishments to your job descriptions. Create a forward-focused summary that informs the hiring manager exactly why you are the perfect fit for the position. Then take a big sip of coffee!
A Coffee Buzzed Morning Routine and Networking Session
Making progress on a strong resume will launch you in the family morning routine feeling accomplished. This is important because your kids need you to be present and positive as they begin another day pretending to be in school, confined to their desk chair and computer screen. For the mid-morning chunk of the day when you’re an on-call teacher, step away from your resume and start networking.
Networking in the midst of a quarantine? It can happen. Maybe easier with all the at-your-fingertips touchpoints to broaden your connection base paired with a heightened necessity for human connection via screen time. This late-morning chunk of the day reports more optimistic social media interaction than any other time. Here are a few realistic goals you can set for yourself that will make a big impact on your job search.
Spouse Shift Change, Interview Practice
Since COVID, the only consistency in my life has been virtual interview coaching sessions. In a recent chat with a top Talent Executive Recruiter she quips, “we are all learning” in regards to virtual hiring. I remind my clients of this-it’s not easy for interviewers or interviewees. One thing you can control is your confidence, and the more practice you get, the more comfortable you are when you’re thrown to the Brady Bunch face tiles of professionals to impress. I recommend setting up 2-3 phone calls a week (perhaps when your spouse completes their day of work to limit interruption) to keep you in the swing of conversing professionally. This may take the shape of an old co-worker listening to your elevator pitch, a quick informational interview with a mutual friend at a targeted company, or a mock interview with a career coach (such as myself). You need a time that is blocked off for you to practice articulating your value in the workplace. This will be beneficial for your job search and your emotional strength to move toward your next steps.
Late Night Recap
The kids are in bed and there's a 50/50 chance of dishes waiting in the sink. Take the final bookend of your day to reflect and plan. Journaling about your successes or just chatting about the ups and downs with your spouse is beneficial to grow and move forward. Look ahead to your early morning by identifying the position you hope to pursue and loosely brainstorm how your experience and skills fit. Then turn off the job search and do something completely unrelated for yourself.
In a recent episode of the Women @ Work podcast, Daisy Auger-Dominguez, Head of HR at Vice Media, suggests setting intentional times to commit to your job search. Your day may not comply with this suggested itinerary but prioritizing intentional pockets throughout your day to devote to your job search and self-improvement is essential in propelling your career forward.
A past client aspired to migrate away from corporate HR and into a government agency; I supported her to land a job as a career coach using her abundant knowledge in hiring to serve a host of clients funneled by the government agency. Months later she emailed and asked about supporting executive-level clients, knowing I'd spent years tailoring my services to fit that top-tier professional population. Here's the email I sent her:
Encourage Executives to Reach out to Head Hunters
There are many great independent headhunters and firms that are willing to do a lot of the job search work for executives. It broadens the reach of the executive's network and can help them to identify their next steps because headhunters are acutely aware of employment market trends for the executive level.
Tap into their Network
Many executives have an advantage over entry and mid-level professionals because they've likely been in their field for years and know many people in it. For some executives, there is a lesson in humbling themselves to reach out to those in their network; but, in times like these, there are more people than ever willing to lend help, connection, and support.
Business Cards/Virtual Business Cards
Business cards are a timeless, tangible way to stay top-of-mind for professional connections. It's also a valuable exercise for executives to hone in on their professional tagline. For many, they have so many skills that it is hard for them to nail down their expertise in just a short headline or elevator pitch which is essential in their job search. On a business card, they'll need to include their name | phone | email | LinkedIn URL and a succinct tagline encompassing their professional skill set/accomplishments. I like recommending Vista Print for paper business cards and Canva for virtual.
What are your Competitors Lacking?
Executives have to have an in-depth understanding of their competitors; when he/she loses his job, many competitors try to grab an accomplished executive for that reason (I have several clients to prove it). I advise many of my executive clients to connect with competitors and expose ways in which they can fill the gaps they've witnessed. This is an advantageous move to show value to a potential employer.
Executives can Create their next Position
With a well-known reputation, executives can clearly articulate how they've impacted their previous companies as an expert in a specific niche. Many companies may need that service or skill and not know it; by explaining the worth, a position could be created to build in the executive.
Along the lines of niche expertise, building up consulting gigs is a growing venture for many executives leaving their corporate jobs. It's appealing because they can lend their expertise across multiple outlets and cultivate a professional portfolio that suits their interests. There are lots of gig-based websites that make collecting potential leads a cinch.
Image: Albert Bobbera
Photo by Content Pixie on Unsplash
Stop Scrolling and Consider a Temporary Position and its Long-Term Perks
If you’ve been scrolling through the job boards, it’s obvious that temporary job opportunities have risen significantly over the past weeks. A major remote work job board, FlexJobs, recently found that temporary positions have increased by 10% points (Guilford, WSJ, 2020). When I encourage clients to consider temporary positions, they often bock a little. Temporary jobs have a stigma of not being influential in your career trajectory but in our current pandemic-stricken job market, taking a temp job is a definite way to sustain your career in uncertain job terrain.
Temporary is Temporary
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics found that 801,000 employees have been laid off temporarily. This means that a large percentage of employers plan to rehire their previous employees. Taking a temporary gig will make you more accessible to get back to your previous job. The Brookings Institute recently projected an optimistic 40% or more of the furloughed workers to return to their previous positions based on data from the Great Recession and 2008.
Employers Like to Hire Working Candidates
Have you wondered why a recruiter is reaching out to you on LinkedIn when it clearly states on your profile that you’ve got a job? I recently posed this question to a recruiter friend and his response was a quick “because most employers want an employed candidate.” Recruiters are creating a pool of candidates to share with an employer seeking to hire and they, like all the hot guys at the bar, think people are more appealing when they are already taken. Yes, I compare job searching to dating a lot. So the temporary job will help you to be more appealing as you continue your search for the perfect fit.
Outstretch Your Roots
Most folks can't get past a temporary position's timeline to see its long term potential. Temporary jobs, especially those at a company on your target list, help you to get your foot in the door. Sure, the initial work may be tedious or a demotion, but if you get in it’s your choice what you make of it and how you choose to impact the company and its decision-makers. Quoted in a Forbes report, a New York-based staffing firm CEO, James Essay affirmed that nearly 70% of temp workers would be asked to jump into a full-time role. My advice: take the temporary job and ask for more responsibility, notice where the holes lie and extend your expertise, and always say yes to an extra assignment. These additions to your normal workload may impact your hourly rate along with your reputation at the company, so when a full-time position becomes available you know the inside stakeholders and can shoot your resume to their personal email.
Avoid a Resume Gap
As much as I’d like to say there is no such thing as a negative bias around a resume gap, especially as a return-to-work career counselor who has to face it constantly, it is there. I experienced it firsthand in bed with my husband a few months back. Nothing kinky. We were both looking at resumes for the first time in our entire married life and it was a total bonding experience. I was just about to start a rousing conversation about formats when he quipped “Ugh, nope.” I peered over at what looked like a beautifully crafted document and asked: “Why?” His response: “I have no clue what this guy has done for the past two years.” Sure enough, his career story was lacking a huge chunk. The temp role doesn’t have to be a dream job but it can show that you have been working, keeping your skills intact, and potentially acquiring new ones, too.
Because there are various uncertainties in accepting a temporary position, you may consider asking for a higher hourly rate. Most temporary roles don't come with benefits and don't guarantee the duration of the position; with that, you can leverage these deterrent along with your applicable skills and experience in the hiring process. I will add the caveat that most temporary agencies take a cut of a placed employee's hourly rate, some up to 30%. This is important to keep in mind when you are preparing the rate you'd like to present to your potential employer. If you ask for $30/hr you are really asking for $33/hr. Even though we are in a pandemic, you can still negotiate your time and worth for any position, but keep it classy-research the position, geography, and add your years of experience and special skills into the equation.
Ultimately, there is a larger picture at hand. How will this temporary position impact your day-to-day and your overall financial standing? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to discuss how a potential position will play into you current life and overall career goals. Happy to be a sounding board for your next decision!
Connect the Dots: Transferable Skill Bios and Pivot Positions for Hard Hit Industries-Travel, Retail, Construction and Transportation
It's not just your job that's been lost; your entire industry is in danger. Strategically evaluating your transferable soft skills can help you successfully land a new job in a thriving industry. A recent LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends Research piece reported, “92% of respondents say soft skills are more important than technical skill and 89% told us that bad hires typically lack soft skills.” Listed below are some of the hardest hit industries accompanied by a tailored transferable skills bio and potential pivot positions with thousands of opportunities on top job boards which call for the transferable skills you’ve built through your career.
You curate an experience. Customers have millions of options, they come back for the memorable experience; this expertise, within itself, is one of the most marketable skills right now. Value your attention to detail and the web of logistics which goes into travel, hospitality services, and events. Connected with:
· Coordination; your above average communication skills enable you to stage events, schedules, meetings, etc. You can connect all necessary dots to yield flawless execution.
· ERP, Mail, and Facilities Management Software; you can juggle multiple software platforms simultaneously to mitigate customers’ information and travel data. This prepares you to use similar databases in your next position.
Rebekah Martinek-Williams, Director, Human Resources Medical Group and Foundation, City of Hope National Medical Center explains “There are many areas of healthcare that someone with a customer service background would be a prime candidate for. For instance, most healthcare organizations have call centers, patient advocacy, and receptionist type roles. For positions in these areas, a background in customer service would be necessary. Healthcare is an industry that will continue to recruit during this COVID-19 crisis, which means candidates shouldn’t feel like they need to wait to apply.”
Possible Pivot Positions- Healthcare Administrator, Project Coordinator, Customer Experience Representative
Whether you’ve sold lingerie or software, you have had the key experiences to share product knowledge to boost revenue with seriously strong communication skills. Showcase your understanding of sales strategies and theories. Combined with the following key transferable skills:
· Advisement; you have listened, understood company and individual needs, and advised customers and management teams to choose the best product.
· Budget; sales folks have a keen grasp of budget, metrics, and KPI showing comprehensive awareness of financial responsibilities.
Possible Pivot Positions- Telecommunication Sales, Personal Shopper, Sales Development Specialist
Construction and Auto Makers
Cleanliness, safety, and adhering to production guidelines with complex tools are key components in your day-to-day, these prized work practices are praised in many top-hiring industries, including manufacturing at Mondelez International and Lockheed Martin who have combined 250+ manufacturing opportunities, highlighted by Wall Street Journal’s most recent Who’s Hiring and Who’s Firing list. While following the procedural tasks, you may have devised efficient practices that have cut time and boosted productivity. Tout these skills along with:
· Problem Solving and Critical Thinking; in construction/auto-making you have built an ability to focus on the job at hand and assess possible outcomes when presented with a production problem; you’ll jump into your next role equipped to strategize producing team success.
· Training; your construction or manufacturing team relies on your skills, and you have had countless opportunities to teach others. The ability to break down a skill to be shared with another is a highly sought-after experience that can support you to be a stand-out candidate in any industry.
Possible Pivot Positions: Clean Room Technician, Safety and Health Gear Manufacturing Associate, Food and Product Manufacturing
App-savvy work experience coupled with your high customer friendly ratings are sure to be appealing to your future employer. Your experience with query engines to find your clients and their destinations, along with online financial transfers can be translated to cross-industry data platforms. Pair these skills with:
· Customer Service Life cycle; you have captured the customers' needs, exceeded customer expectations and analyzed post-services experience. Your ability to follow through and uniquely support each customer is ideal for many customer-focused positions in a myriad of industries.
· Expert Oral Communication; it’s required that you excel in verbal and written communication as a transportation professional. These skills can be translated to support orders, individual services, and product data. Forbes Coaches Council named Communication as one of the Top 15 soft skills when entering the workforce (2019).
Possible Pivot Positions: Customer Service Representative, Transportation Specialist, Product Delivery
Wall Street Journal, Who's Hiring, Who's Firing
Forbes, Skills You Need When Entering the Workforce
Forbes, New Jobs are Being Created in Response to the Coronavirus
Forbes, Coronavirus Here are the Jobs that will be Added
For some, chaos is motivating, for Angela and her husband it was a wake-up call. “We worked too much and too hard and didn't have the family life we desired and quickly realized we wanted more.” They sat down and decided somethings had to change. Angela had spent years building her professional life in education as an Assistant Principal alongside her husband climbing the ladder toward corporate leadership. "What good is the hard work if you’re not enjoying it?" she remarked. The couple stepped back, weighed the what ifs, sorted out work options and landed on uprooting to Florida (from North Carolina) to pursue her husband’s push toward the top. “This meant giving up my career I had worked so hard for. BUT I got to be with my babies, I wasn't sure for how long, but I knew it was what was best for us at this time.”
Angela joins the over 43% of women leaving the career to find explore work/life balance (Light, 2013). Soon after she settled in Angela felt an itch to get back to work. But, like many of us moms, she felt a strong pull to be at home and having tread the waters of a full-time load wanted something with more of a work/life balance. Angela reflects, “I was craving work and my personal battle with anxiety and depression was getting worse. Being a stay at home mom vs. a career mom is such a personal journey. It is absolutely individualized.” And like life happens, the realtor who sold Angela their new home in Florida turned acquaintance turned friend, and called Angela to ask: “Would you be interested in doing a little work for me?”
I love this! Career counseling ideology, chaos theory , is built upon these scenarios. Stating that for many it’s not necessarily the path you’ve planned for yourself that propels you to career success, rather your connections and saying YES to new opportunities that lead you to explore career possibilities.
Angela responded with a huge YES. The little bit of work assigned to Angela was returned in stellar condition and the realtor asked her to do MORE. Then through the realtor's stewardship, Angela earned her real estate license and began selling on her team; “My journey in real estate changed as I started working for myself along with for her. It all just fell into place and was truly meant to be.” All the while Angela has been able to take and pick up her children from school, attend all after school activities, make dinners, read books, implement the educational activities in her home that have been so important for her.
"It all just fell into place and was truly meant to be."
Interested? So-what does it take to get into Real Estate?
Every state is different in their courses, requirements and licensing necessary to become a real estate agent. Here’s a list of requirements by state.
Here’s Angela’s experience: “I decided to take the cram course- so I took the entire state course requirements in 7 days and took the test the very next week. From here-there are requirements for my first 2 year renewal and then different requirements for each 2 year renewal after that. In addition to state requirements, your brokerage will require certain training. Because I have my boss as a direct mentor- she hired me on her team- I have the extra support and access to a wealth of knowledge at my fingertips whenever needed. Being on her team and learning from her for an entire year before beginning my own transactions was the best decision for me as a total career chance realtor.”
What’s your typical schedule?
"Drop off kids at 8:30 and 9
Work in office or with customers from 9-12
Pick up youngest at 12:15- lunch with him and then put him down for nap
Work from home on computer and phone call to dos from 1-2:45
Get oldest off bus and spend time with her from 2:45-3:30 when little wakes up
Typical family stuff for the rest of the evening
I may need to show property when customers get off work- so neighbors help if it's before husband gets home, and I sometimes need to finish up some work after kids go to bed.
Open houses or home showings on the weekends occasionally.
The VERY best part about this career is the flexibility of the schedule. If there is a school performance- I go. If someone is sick- I stay home with them. It's a blessing in that aspect- but can be a curse- I have lost a few customers because my schedule didn't work for them. I generally cannot work from 12-4. It's a give and take- but in my eyes- it's the absolute best of both worlds."
"It's a give and take-but in my eyes, it's the absolute best of both worlds."
Transition to Real Estate
Mothers embody a host of realtor-ready transferable skills to capitalize upon. Motherhood births a new perspective to really notice your surroundings; mothers research their community in a different way, understanding its people, events, parks, neighborhoods. This is valuable information to be a successful realtor as you are incredibly knowledgeable in market information.
Additionally, becoming a mother helps to solidify a network. Angela states, “…everyone you know is a potential customer or referral- using your networks as a mom is a huge plus. I coached soccer, I am a girl scout troop leader, I am a mom of a competitive gymnast, I am a mom of a child in preschool and in Kindergarten, I am a neighbor, I am a wife of a corporate husband- ALL of these connections are potential customers.” Lastly, motherhood requires more organization, scheduling, documentation and attention to detail all very important as a realtor. Angela builds on this point in stating, “There is so much about school administration that mirrors running a business- budgets, communication, customer service, organization, and so on. These skills - especially my skills learned from online courses- helped me be successful in my boss's needs.”
Before You Jump In
In my research, I found many publications boasting the benefits of choosing real estate as a return-to-work option, authored by mom agents and real estate companies. Berkshire Hathaway even posted a return-to-work mom article encouraging mama readers to consider a career in real estate; part-time, full-time or somewhere in between. Please note, Angela has joined an all-mama realtor team and she receives salary plus a commission for her own work. These two factors are huge in her success in work life balance and overall fulfillment in her new gig. Angela states, “It balances because I choose for it to balance. I could put my youngest in full time day care and I could put my daughter in after care and I could work every evening and every weekend- but I choose not to. I choose to do what my boss needs me to do first, then in my time left I choose to work for me when my schedule allows. We are so fortunate that my husband can support our must haves and I simply support our wants and holidays and vacations. If this is not the case for a family seeking real estate as a financial solution- then the hours can be very different- especially when first starting out alone.”
As with any career venture, do your homework. Angela’s story proves working under an existing team builds a foundation of knowledge, mentorship and potential leads. If you are transferring into the real estate industry it pays to do your research and discover teams that will honor your career goals.
Check out these link to begin your research:
Women’s Council of Realtors
National Association of Realtors
Top 20 Best Real Estate Companies to Work For, As Rated by the Women Who Work There
How to Get Into Real Estate
Already a mama realtor? We’d love to hear your experience in the comments below. Many thanks to Angela for her incredible insights.
Children unveil the best in us.
Children motivate us.
Children redefine how we use our time.
Children cultivate strategic efficiency.
Children manifest flexibility and adaptability.
Children mandate steadfast optimism.
Children inspire constant research initiatives.
Children produce a unique vision to value individual strengths of others.
Children expand our patience.
Children inspire us.
Children solidify our worth.
Children give weight to our worldly value.
Children remove laziness.
Children broaden our senses.
Children require more of us than we knew we had.
Motivated, Marketable, Empowered Mamas
A month before Oliver started Kindergarten, we had moved to a different city, changed school twice, left tons of friends, familiarity and comfort. Days before the move he started voicing his worries and developed a stress eye twitch. We were struggling. I took him into his new school on Meet Your Teacher night, our sweaty hands squeezed tight. We saw Mrs. Nguyen and all our emotional concerns melted away. She had it together, and I knew she would take care of my Ollie. I later found she’d take care of me too.
Through Ollie’s year, Mrs. Nguyen and I had many conversations. One of the most impactful was during a parent-teacher conference, she asked if I planned to work when I had my second; I was pregnant at the time and referenced I had primarily stayed home with Oliver. She discussed her experience as a job share teacher. Her testimony swayed me, making me think of other options to be more present with both of my kiddos while continuing to progress in my career. I interviewed her to get more information on the work option.
First things first: How does the whole job share situation work?
Here is Mrs. Nguyen’s step by step:
1. Apply for a Job Share position through the district, then you’ll be sent a spreadsheet of all teachers including the percentage they want to work highlighting their job share availability.
2. Once you have your list of job share teachers, you will reach out to them and request a meeting.
3. Set up a time to meet the teacher AND see the classroom. Mrs. Nguyen states, “I wanted to be sure it was someone I could work with and the climate of the school would be a good fit for me.” GOOD TIP!
4. If it’s a good teacher/teacher fit, set up a schedule that works for both of you. Mrs. Nguyen recalls that in most cases you arrange between the two of you and send it to HR and Principal for approval.
5. To finalize-the job share requestee must know that benefits only go to one of the teachers and the position is held by the senior teacher; therefore, the added job share teacher could not bump the senior teacher out, she’d have to wait for another opening if she/he wants to go full- time.
Perks of Jobshare
“The Jobshare prepared me to reenter the workforce after being out for 5 years.”
Making the decision to take a break from work boosts baby bonding and increases your knowledge of child development, organization, community, networking, research, multi-tasking and a whole host of other marketable skills. Many mamas don’t realize they are boosting professional skills during their time away, regardless of the amount of time, from the more traditional professional development settings. This yields anxiety when women decide to return to work. Caitlyn Collins finds in her intercontinental, longitudinal research that the U.S. produces the most stressed and guilt-ridden mothers compared to other countries (2019) . For Mrs. Nguyen, teaching in a jobshare schedule gave her the opportunity to partner with a veteran teacher who uplifted her confidence while she prepared for her return to work. She recalls on the first day, “Of course it all came flooding back right on the first day, but having that support really helped give me the confidence to come back to teaching.” Mrs. Nguyen continued to use the support of her co-teacher in presenting new programs that had been introduced during her leave.
“I always felt happy to come to work and refreshed for my days.”
Easing back into work can help you to compartmentalize your work and home life. You may find that on your days at home you are more present with your child, and while at work you are more focused. This may be a point to share with your employer as a reason to support job share in your work-place. In Mrs. Nguyen's case, the time away gave her more time to plan and feel prepared when she returned to work. The partnership enabled her to bring her best self to the classroom each day, which stuck with her through her current career. Thus conjures the question: If we are more patient with ourselves and ease into work after having a baby, will that make us better professionals and parents in the future?
You many have considered job share or another flex-work position but opted out due to assuming that the pay wouldn’t equate to the amount spent on childcare. I’ve done the same. Mrs. Nguyen discussed the pay and benefits are up to discussion between the teachers. She states, “…you can basically decide what you want your salary to be based on days worked, pay varies widely.” As previously mentioned, the teacher’s benefits package is solely provided for the veteran teacher. In some cases this isn’t an issue because mothers and children may opt to fall under their husband’s employee benefits; alternatively, if you are using your job share wages to pay for childcare and insurance you may not contribute to your family’s financial pot in the way you want. This conundrum is definitely a topic to discuss with your family with a break-down analysis of your budget prior to its pursuit.
Mrs. Nguyen also considers her non-paid prep time. “I felt like I was at school every day and spent a lot of time working for free because I wanted to be prepared for my workdays. I only worked two days, so I got 40% of my paycheck whether I came in to plan on my own time or not. Ultimately it made sense for me to go full time.” This is an important point to consider as well. It’s no secret that a teacher’s job does not end once the bell rings. Finding ways to complete grading, prep, planning and parent communication outside of the childcare cost time frame will be a tricky undertaking but can be done; strategizing ways to complete as much as possible during your workday could be your biggest challenge when participating in a job share position.
Ultimately, Mrs. Nguyen says, “I appreciated the time I was able to be home with my youngest without feeling guilty that the professional world was passing me by. It was absolutely one of the best decisions for my family and myself!” Her satisfaction in the opportunity to fulfill her desire to work while achieving the motherhood goals she set forth for herself makes her an incredible cornerstone in our school.
Job share is an option in various industries. Check out these job share-specific job boards:
Thanks so Mrs. Nguyen for sharing her incredible insight! I’d love to hear your experience with a job share position. Post below.
You know how there's always one, two if your lucky, person at work that just drips knowledge. Every time they speak your ears perk up a bit because they have an overflowing bucket of incredibly knowledgeable facts and stories; for me, that's Kathy. She's my counterpart in the career consulting firm, Power Connections Inc., we both work with. Her experience at our company is just the tip of her expansive work history iceberg. Her diverse resume has been collected over many years as a military spouse. (Photo by Kwang Mathurosemontri on Unsplash)
Prior to this blog and working with an outplacement firm, I worked as a career coach at a university. It was in this position that I learned of the hardships many military spouses face in regards to employment. But my respect for military spouses began with my dear friend Raphaella, she lived down the street from us and had a boy my son's age and a babe on the way. I met her when her husband was deployed and hung out with her most days throughout the few years we lived in the neighborhood. I learned so much about the military counterculture through our friendship, and my respect for military spouses grew exponentially.
Prioritize to Find the Right Fit for You and Your Family
I wanted to interview Kathy about her experience as a military spouse and learn from her wisdom to share with potential readers in similar circumstances. I learned that Kathy moved every couple of years, like most military families, and she went about gaining work by being open and adaptable to the available opportunities in the area she landed. Kathy recalls, "I had to be flexible with what to do work-wise to keep our son taken care of, do my Military Spouse obligations to families, and work. I took on different kinds of roles and also used my university teaching background to get part-time teaching jobs. I left a great position for one move from DC area to CA, took on a part-time consulting role in HR for a company for 6 months, then went to work full-time for Price Waterhouse but given travel then switched to a more local job. I learned that I can parlay my talents in many ways and that I should be open to all experiences and not be locked into tunnel vision of what I think my career should be. I also negotiated to work virtually."
See what I mean about the wealth of knowledge and experience. Kathy taught, consulted, worked part-time, full-time, switched due to travel; like her husband and son, she had to grow where she was planted. Part of her growth was refraining or leaving positions which called for travel. Kathy had to make sacrifices in her career to be a home base for her son and elderly family members. This is a huge nugget for military spouses looking for work. I recommend: questioning whether the travel for the position is worth coupling with your husbands. For most positions, the amount of travel is listed in the job post by percentage, feel free to discuss the travel schedule within the initial interview stages so you get a clear picture and make an informed decision to meet your family's needs.
Research to Boost Your Interview Confidence
In working with military spouses I have learned that the interview is a point of anxiety for most. They worry that if they are exposed as a military spouse the ambiguity of their residency may be a red flag for employers. This was echoed in a HireAHero survey which found that 41% of spouses felt that they would not be hired because they might move (Pentagram, 2018). I asked Kathy about how she handled this, she mentioned that many company's give priority to military spouses. She's right. Here's a list of bone-a-fide military spouse supporting employers. Kathy also stated, "Nowadays it's much better, there is still a stigma that a spouse might move, but sometimes you don’t need to disclose that or keep open the possibility that they might stay. I always was very transparent." Ultimately, it's a personal decision to share familial information with an employer but doing a bit of research to learn about the company and their stance is time well spent.
Mama, You Deserve Support-Take It!
I concluded my interview with Kathy by asking what resources military spouses should lean on while exploring their career options. She said, "Each base regardless of branch of service has offices and counselors to provide resources and counseling and help with resumes. The Command they are a part of can help them with that. In the Marine Corps, they can also go to their Family and Community Services Offices. There are Ombudsman and Family Readiness Officers that can help too. MilitaryConneciton.com, Psych Armor Institute, etc. Also, there are mentoring workshops I developed for Spouses through the Tragedy Assistance Program (TAPS) and The Elisabeth Dole Foundation. Also the US Department of Defense."
As a mom, I'm the worst at seeking help, but if your husband has been away for 3 months and you have a colicky baby and a toddler who frequently tantrums over snack choices, you don't have time to research the most current resume trends! As for help, mama.
Take-away from Kathy's Insights:
1. Be open and flexible with your career. You may step away or to the side of your ideal career path for a couple of years, THAT IS OK, more and more employers value a diverse career past because you bring a unique perspective to the table as oppose to those who may have been in the same position for years and exposure has been limited.
2. Visualize the job in your life right now. Ask questions about potential travel, day-to-day schedules, childcare, and work/life balance culture. This research can help you to stay in a role and find a solid work support system to counterbalance your busy family life.
3. Take advantage of military support. Why waste your valuable time reading countless articles about job search, LinkedIn, and interviewing when there are knowledgeable professionals who want to help you. It is so important to have a support system during your career search. I call myself a career cheerleader. There are folks waiting to support you!
I'm so grateful for the incredible military spouses who have come into my life and shown me the grace, integrity, support and steadfast love for their family and country. It is truly incredible. I hope this article supports a reader to share their strengths in a professional setting, as well. I honor you, military mama.
(Photo by Jonathan Tajalle on Unsplash)
4 Powerful, Marketable Multi-Tasking Strategies to Boost your Professional Confidence and Plow through Tedious Housework
Racing down Highway 5 at 5:23 PM after Ollie’s soccer practice I glance over to see a middle-aged- man eating sushi WITH CHOPSTICKS, DIPPING EACH ROLL INTO WASABI, while driving his Ford Explorer. The cars behind me laid on their horns but I couldn’t stop watching this man and his mind-blowing multi-tasking skills. This dangerously hungry driver inspired me to think of ways mamas can alter their productive household routines into marketable multi-tasking sessions.
Many women I have worked with describe their back-to-work experience as a bit “rusty” and a “huge adjustment.” This totally makes sense. For months or years your focus has shifted from spread sheets to ironing sheets and conversations shift from profits to Paw Patrol. But, Mama, if you incorporate marketable actions within your day-to-day to help you avoid straying too far from the professional world, you’re sure to be more in-touch when you want to return.
Here are 4 quick, easy, painless ways to start marketable multi-tasking:
1.News and Dishes
They are staring at you! Spoiling avocado stuck to plastic plates and curdled milk drifting to the top the coffee mugs, you might spell out “Wash Me” like on the back of the dusty old van window. It’s a consistent chore so incorporating a brain building addition is an influential modification that will pay off in an interview, conversation with a potential job connection, or dinner conversation with your husband. Listen to the NEWS! Ok-I’m not going to weigh in on my favorite news channels because, honestly, it’s irrelevant. The primary goal is to be more aware and expand your vocabulary. Follow your interests as these will likely coincide with your professional conversations. For example, having a current understanding of a popular erosion study may make you a more stand-out candidate for an administrative position at an environmental firm. Staying aware will make you feel more confident at home and when returning to work. Send the kiddos in the backyard with daddy and crank up the news reports while you soap up!
Photo by Scott Umstattd on Unsplash
2.Elevator Speech Carpool Karaoke
Grocery store, sports practices, Gymboree, doctor’s office-mamas we drive. I totally support spending your at-the-wheel time jamming out to your choice of strong female artist but PLEASE use this valuable time to talk to yourself about yourself. Driving is a great time to practice your elevator speech or potential interview question responses. When I meet with clients the most common struggle with their job search is answering the “Tell me about yourself” question. If you practice this once a week in the car, you’ll be comfortable sharing it when you are across the table from a hiring manager. Here’s what you need to include:
3.Industry Podcast and Laundry
Ohhhhhh I’ve got Podcast Fever. They are popping up everywhere and it’s the perfect activity to pair with folding up your family’s freshly laundered apparel. I know it’s tempting to dive into another murder documentary series, but I recommend checking out an industry specific podcast which aligns with your career goals. Here are a few examples:
HR Podcast List
Business Podcast List
Educators Podcast List
Healthcare Podcast List
We are all working to find a balance in work and life, adding an informative podcast to your laundry routine is an impactful way to stay marketable and productive.
4.LinkedIn and Nap Time
The baby is sleeping….FINALLY. Ok-you have literally 35 things you need to do but I’m going to add another to your ever-present list. It’s a little LinkedIn and Chill time. Staying present on LinkedIn while you are on maternity leave, regardless of your length of leave, is a good way to stay connected to your professional self with minimal effort. I recommend you hop onto LinkedIn and connect with at least two new people a week and like a few articles. This will literally take ten minutes but can keep you relevant and in touch with potential recruiters, co-workers and peers. It’s also a good way to learn about various opportunities available in the “jobs” section.
Hope this quick list spruces up your day-to-day to do lists and help you to feel more confident when you hop back into the workforce. Feel free to share others below!