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!
We had about 30 minutes before our flight started boarding. I had used up all my entertainment ammunition on the flight over, so the kids and I meandered down to a Hudson or the like. As I skimmed through the shelves to find an educational product that could hold my son and daughter’s attention for more than ten minutes (a tall order), I passed over an article of Yoga Journal. I had just cycled through twenty minutes of sorrowful tears and solemn, blank stares. The plane would take me back to San Diego away from the parents, comfort, childhood friends, soothing thick accents and grounded roots. I wasn’t ready to leave this time and as I walked through the airport fully exposed in all my emotional distress, when I read the headline of YJ “The Healing Issue,” I thoughtlessly picked it up, dropped it on the counter, landing on an airplane sticker book and light up propeller toy, heard the beep, slid my card and trudged to the gate.
Hours later I peeled open the pages while Eleanor sleepily drooled on my chest and found an article on transformation. With each line the words drifted toward my experience as a struggling mom questioning my decision between stay-at-home-mom and working mom. Transforming into a mother then deciding which version you will be is one of the most soul-revealing transformations one may experience. Sally Kempton, the author of the article Quantum Leap, examines transformative journeys and identifies 7 stages. I want to expand and tailor these stages toward the transition of returning to work. I will not identify the specifics of what type of work, meaning full-time, part-time, etc.; my focus is the transformation which occurs when a woman decides to stretch herself toward a career while holding onto her family.
The Wake-Up Call
Maybe you find yourself needing more space to explore and serve outside of the home. Maybe money is tight. Maybe you’d be a better mom. Maybe your just curious. Whatever the reason, you’ll get a little seed thought and it will grow. You’ll begin to research your option, initiate conversations, visualize the changes. All this is your wake-up call for a transformation in your version of motherhood. Kempton shares evolutionary biologist’s Elisabet Sahtouris’ findings: “…stress is what creates evolution in nature: Plants grow through pruning. Human beings grow the same way.” The stress of your wake-up call, though life disrupting, will propel you toward an uncharted version of yourself; fulfillment is grown through taking risk.
What is my next step? Who do I aspire to be? What do I want my days to look like? How can I give to myself and my family? I’m scared. I’m not ready. It’s too hard.
Transforming your version of motherhood breeds an overwhelming load of uncertainty. You’re not only making decisions for yourself but ones that will impact your children and how they will grow. It’s daunting. Acknowledging this stage is vital in the transformation as a stepping stone to the other more rewarding steps toward fulfillment. I have stopped countless times at this stage. The baggage of uncertainty, guilt and shame precluded my ability to see beauty that might lie ahead. I wish I had known it’d only be temporary.
Asking for Help
Should I add work back into my life? It is a loaded question. Sifting through the uncertainty and scenarios is just too much for one mind (not to mention you’ve still got to pack lunches, clean the house, coordinate play dates, change diapers, etc.). Reaching outside of your head and hashing out all your thoughts and feelings surrounding this decision is mandatory in finding your optimal solution.
This is exactly why I want to support mamas and soon-to-be-mamas in these conversations. You need a sounding board and an objective perspective. Things can get heavy, it’s nice to share the load.
Grace, Insight and Awakening
Deciding and moving forward to see your better version of motherhood is exhilarating. Greeting yourself in the mirror after washing your hands with baby food on your button up to say, “You CAN do it all.” Feels so damn good. Live in this stage. Remember this stage. Absorb the whirlwind of joy and business. You jumped! And landed in an ocean of fulfillment and satisfaction.
Now that you have landed in the ocean of fulfillment and satisfaction let’s swim around for a while. Adjust your schedule, develop special mom and baby times, explore your new balance, grow and learn, steps outside of yourself and see your expansion, see the shift as a mother and worker.
The Fall from Grace
Transformative change ain’t always pretty. It’s usually hard. Dinner is hard. Balance is hard. Guilt is hard. You’ll find big waves in your ocean of fulfillment and satisfaction. You’ll have to find what works through experiencing what doesn’t work. Work will bleed into your home and vice-versa, sometimes it’ll be for the best and other times for the worse. Learn and grow from the hardships, don’t beat yourself up or jump ship; see each hurdle as just one little hurdle rather than the whole race a mess. Just tread, mama until you can return to your strong stroke.
How can you be every version of yourself that you aspire to live? Kempton highlights contradictions in this stage; the transformation has pulled you from energetic to aspirational to motivated to accomplished to struggle to humble…now integrate. It’s powerful to look back at your transformational journey and use your experiences to grow wise and confident in your decision to build your version of motherhood.
How can transformation from stay-at-home-mom to working mom stretch you? It’s scary, but you might develop into a version of yourself that is more beautiful than you ever imagined. We are so fortunate to be mothers in a time where we have authority over our transformation. Whether you want to work a little or a lot or somewhere in between we have those options. Ask questions and plant the seed to what might be.
Sara Young stood in my backyard while our kids jumped on the trampoline pretending to be mythical creatures and told me the story of her business Young Apparel Co. I couldn't help but hold my mouth agape. She reminisced that she had studied Chinese History, earned a degree, intended to teach but had the babes and wanted to be with them, saw some moms creating and selling t-shirts on social media, thought it looked fun, decided she need to learn design, asked an acquaintance to teach her the basics, learned-learned-learned, bought the stuff, and CREATED. She is still making and growing and giving and sharing and it's incredibly inspiring.
Young Apparel Co. is sold online and in several stores around San Diego. Sara has created multiple lines of unique, earth and life-appreciating apparel for babies, kids and adults. Her home is overflowing with energy and boxes of supplies. She spent some of her late-night work time to answer a few questions about how she started, how she balances motherhood and entrepreneurship, and her next steps. Let's Dive In!
1. What were the upfront costs, equipment and knowledge you had to acquire prior to starting Young Apparel Co.?
Starting an apparel company was totally out of left field for me. I have two degrees in history, certificates and credentials for teaching, and when I started this company, I knew absolutely nothing about graphic design, screen printing, or how to run a business. I definitely thought that I might be crazy for going in such a radically different direction than what I had trained for; but I really wanted to learn, and if this venture meant that I would get to stay home with my babies, create my own schedule, and have something creative to call my own, I was ready to take on the challenge.
I started where most of us would start: Google and YouTube. I researched the best and most user friendly graphic design programs. I researched how to screen print, and watched about million tutorial videos. I obtained all of my business licenses and certificates, drafted a business plan, and signed up for a small business bank account. I researched wholesale clothing companies, and signed up for wholesale accounts with five distributors. I then started ordering samples to see what I liked and didn’t like. I wanted my tees to be high quality—soft, durable, and washer/dryer friendly. I bought a screen printing machine off of Craigslist, and after my kids went to bed, I would stay up late and practice screen printing. But there was more. I needed to figure out packaging, shipping, and promotional supplies. All of this was very foreign to me, but I chipped away at my to-do list a little bit each day, or when I had time. Overall it just felt really good to be learning something new again.
After I felt more confident in my craft, had found some tees that I liked, and had a couple of basic designs, it was time to make my “big” debut and see if they would sell! Since I also had no idea how to create a website or really market myself outside of social media, I decided that Etsy was a good way to start. I signed up for a sellers account and spent about a week uploading products, creating product descriptions, designing the look of my site, and making sure I had all of my ducks in a row. I wanted it to be perfect, even though I knew there was no such thing. I started Instagram and Facebook business accounts, and then I launched! All in all, I spent about $4,000 on getting my business baby off the ground.
2. What was the first accomplishment/feedback/milestone that made you think it could be a successful business venture for you and your family?
Prior to starting my business, I had spent a lot of time looking at other small shops on Instagram and Etsy, and had already predetermined what equaled success. Of course, this was not exactly helpful or healthy, but we all do it as a form of measurement. I knew that most small businesses were very lucky if they were to break even after their first year, and that most wound up in the red. This should not be discouraging, because as I read over and over again, successful entrepreneurs were successful because they hung in there over that first big hump, and again over the next little hump, and the next big hump, and so on. Perseverance and determination are key to surviving that first year. I took that advice to heart and got through my first year with a profit of $200! That may not sound like a big success, but to me it was huge. It meant that if I kept at it, kept learning, kept growing, and continued to challenge myself, I might have a chance at a real successful business.
3. What’s one thing you try to do every day to keep work/life balance?
Work/life balance is something that I think most people struggle with. The funny thing is, starting this business was my way of creating more balance in my personal life as a wife and mother. After having two children, I was feeling like I had gained the world, but lost part of myself. I gave all of myself to my family, and left very little room for any personal growth and development; and it took me a few years to realize how much I missed doing things for myself and how much I needed it to feel normal, balanced, and happy. Starting this business allowed me to feel whole again. However, now that my business baby has taken off, and requires more attention than the occasional late night Netflix and Print session, work/life balance has become more important. Number one, I always have physically written to-do lists which I write in order of priority. I write the list at night before bed and I leave it on my desk to revisit in the morning—which is both a physical and mental trick so that I don’t take my work to bed with me. I look at my list again in the morning and decide what needs to be done first, and where I can fit those things in my day. Some days are more busy than others, and this is where the guilt factor often comes in. I will always stop working in order to help with homework or make a healthy meal for my family. Even though our family is not particularly keen on schedules and routines (we travel a lot and keep things pretty relaxed and go with the flow), we love reading bedtime stories together, and I like to keep that as consistent as possible. I also have a personal rule to do at least one meaningful activity with my family a day. It doesn’t have to be big—it could be reading books, playing a game, or going to the park before dinner. However, if my kids are simply bored, I try to take five minutes to guide them in new direction, explain how much time mommy needs to complete her task, and keep working. It’s a big perk of working at home. I try not to feel guilty about working because I think it is good for them to see me in action so-to-speak. I think it is important for them to see what it takes to be successful; and that includes my failures, trials, learning curves and triumphs alike.
4. What’s been a hardship you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?
This might sound silly, but one of the biggest hardships surrounding this business has been social media. Social media is great in so many ways, but it can also be a draining, life-sucking beast. In the beginning, I found myself constantly comparing myself, my skills, my company, and my success to other companies like mine, mainly on instagram. I think we’ve all been there. I would look at another graphic tee company and scrutinize every detail about them, trying to figure out why they had more followers, more engagement, or more sales. Were my photos not as good? Did people not like my captions? Did people not like my designs? What was better about their company? It was hard. I did a lot of research on social media algorithms, and listened to a lot entrepreneurial podcasts. I worried about it entirely too much. Then one day I decided that all of this was way too stressful, and I just needed to follow my heart. I stopped comparing and started collaborating with other business owners. I stopped worrying and started finding inspiration. I worked hard, focused on my product, how I wanted to present myself as a small shop, and things got better. My sales went up, my followers became more engaged, and I became a lot more happy and actually excited about networking and marketing. I learned how to make it work in my favor, and it has no doubt been an integral part of my success.
5. What’s your next goal for your business? How are setting yourself up to reach it?
When I first started my business, I thought I wanted to work all of the local farmers and mom made markets. However, being a mom to two kids and wife to a busy husband who often travels for work, I just couldn’t fit that kind of commitment into my schedule. Instead, I began inquiring about putting my designs into existing shops. Over the past year I have acquired three shop spaces in local stores, and it has been a total game changer. Since they are more permanent fixtures, I don’t have to worry about set-up and take-down every week. I stock the shops, decorate my spaces, and the store employees do the rest. These shop spaces have also given my shop a lot more exposure, and opened so many more doors. In the next year, I plan on expanding into more local stores. I also want to find more ways to give back to my community and the world with my company. We have done tees for charity in the past, but I am working on a sort of kindness campaign. It makes me happy just thinking about it.
6. Who/what have you used for guidance as you have grown in the clothing business?
Over the last 3 years, I have met so many wonderfully talented people in the small business world, and so many of them have become mentors along the way. The small business/entrepreneur world can be competitive of course, but mostly I have found everyone to be honestly generous and kind. The first Brand Rep search I ever did, I was so nervous. So I reached out to some other shops and asked for advice, and they were all more than willing to help. We bounce ideas off each other. We cross promote by doing collaborations or giveaways, and we give each other shout-outs on social media. It is such a wonderful community of hard working individuals, and everyone is so supportive. If you need help or guidance, don’t be afraid to ask a fellow entrepreneur.
Thank you so much, Sara. I know you have inspired other mamas out there to swim into uncharted waters to find their exciting professional journey, just as you have done. You can find Sara and her apparel here: www.youngapparelcompany.com. Check it out :)
Expert Insights by: Kolby Goodman, The Job Huntr
When I earned my certification as a professional résumé writer, I immediately hopped on Yelp to scope out how other resume writers marketed their services. My first stop was Kolby Shibata-Goodman, at The Job Huntr. Not only was he the #1 Resume Writer in San Diego, but he also seemed incredibly friendly and had an overwhelming catalog of positive reviews. We later connected on LinkedIn and I sent him a message asking if he’d answer a few questions for a blog to support moms returning to work; I didn’t expect to hear anything back, BUT-to my delight, he agreed.
I really wanted to get his insight on formatting resumes for moms returning to work. I have written a couple of articles about building content to re-enter the workforce but if it’s not formatted correctly it could be detrimental to your marketability. Kolby’s first suggestion is to use a functional resume. Kolby shared, “The key is to make sure you are really connecting the dots between your previous experience and what your next employer is looking for. When I work with mothers returning to work, the goal is to make their experience so valuable in the eyes of the manager, they don't care if you did the work last year or last decade.”
When you are looking for the skills you possess and how they align with the position you seek, review the job post and evaluate the experience you have which connects with the skills they want. As you collect these experiences and categorize them to clearly share your relevant strengths with the hiring manager, please rethink these experiences so you can clearly communicate them in an interview. You may be recalling skills that you acquired several years ago, so it’s important to think about how they connect with the position for your resume and the subsequent stages of the hiring process.
Along the lines of experiences, I asked Kolby about adding work experience with volunteer groups such as PTA and other community organizations. He enthusiastically responded, “Yes! This kind of classroom, school, and community volunteering is great to showcase continuing or acquiring new skills and experience. If you are able to get a leadership position in these orgs or on large projects, that is extremely valuable as well.”
I love this! Many return-to-work moms I work with don’t see the value in their work with community organizations such as their children’s school, church, mom groups, etc. I’m so happy to have Kolby reinforce the importance of these experiences. There are many leadership opportunities that lie within these organizations, I recommend using your future goals to motivate you to take on a leadership role to stretch your skills and practice leading in the way you plan to in your career.
You may also take on a role within a community organization that aligns with the role you aspire to jump into at a later date. For example, I worked with a woman who wanted to work in the marketing industry. She was earning her degree online but had very little experience in marketing. In fact, she worked at an independently run grocery store and volunteered to start a social media page to market some of their products, sales and store events. My client knew she needed more marketing experience than that, so she joined an organization to support refugees and requested to lead marketing efforts for the growing organization. This experience as a Marketing Coordinator redirected her resume and set her up for an exciting position she landed shortly after. Community organizations are a great way to gain useful experience you can leverage in your career trajectory.
Finally, I asked Kolby to share tips with aspiring mamas to successfully land exciting positions. What can you do before and after creating and sending your well-formatted resume? Kolby said, “You have to be more proactive and outgoing than simply submitting your resume and praying you get a callback. Give yourself an unfair advantage by having a friend or family member personally refer you to the job; once you've submitted your application, make a person reach out to someone in HR at that company to formally introduce yourself; get involved at a local chapter of your professional association, being seen as a leader in your industry can get you some great attention!”
Yep, mama you’re going to have to get out there and talk about how great you are. Call a friend and tell them you want this incredible job that is just right for you. As a stay-at-home-mom, you have built up a network of fellow moms, husbands, classroom parents, Gymboree parents, neighbors, church members, old co-workers, and high school/college friends. USE YOUR NETWORK! Taking a risk and reaching out can make or break your chance of getting the perfect position for you. Share your interest in returning to the workforce with your network and you’ll be surprised at the encouraging support you’ll receive. Your an incredible mom, your network and loved ones know you can share your strengths outside of the home too and make this world a little bit better in your own unique way.
I’m so thankful for Kolby’s valuable insight. Please visit him at http://thejobhuntr.com/. I hope this article has helped you to feel more supported as you get all of your ducks in a row for work re-entry, whether you plan to start tomorrow or in a few years. Good luck!
I would take Oliver to the infant nursery room, cringe at the fluorescent lights and the smell of baby poop mixed with cleaning chemicals, walk down to the bathroom, close the door and burst into tears. Every day. For months.
Going back to work was the most challenging and depressing time of my life. I wasn’t happy at my job; I wasn’t happy to leave him; I wasn’t happy that over half of my pay was going to childcare; I wasn’t happy with the arguments my husbands and I were having; I wasn’t happy. When I went back to work I was problem-focus, I couldn’t shake myself out of the guilt and sadness.
Jump five years later and my son is in Kindergarten and a co-worker, Rebecca, is going through the same scenario. I watched her, talked to her, and supported her. I asked her about ways to make the transition back to work easier. Here’s what she said:
The first thing Rebecca said was she regretted not asking for accommodations when she returned to work. It’s hard to return and feel like you are walking on thin ice, but more and more employers are learning that the key to keeping a returning mom is by supporting her during the transition. I recommend hashing out a game plan with your boss prior to leaving or connecting with them while on maternity leave, you may loop in HR with these conversations for additional guidance.
2.The Mid-week Return
This idea is incredible. First day back to work baggage plus a case of the Mondays, ugh sounds like a recipe for a lunchtime cocktail. Rebecca asked to return on a Wednesday; she had a modified schedule for the first week, so she really eased back into the full-time work routine. During the first week or so, you might also ask to do some work at home allowing you to have more time at home in the beginning.
3.Anything but 8-5
For her first baby, Rebecca asked for a 7:30-4:30 schedule two days a week, for the second she asked for that every day. A thirty-minute shift in schedule may mean forty-five minutes less in traffic or a chance to nurse your baby at the nursery before driving home. Ovia Health, a group dedicated to support and research for women, found that 77% of surveyed women want and need more flexibility. With such a large portion of women needing more flexibility employers are becoming more open to alternative schedules. With that, there is no set in stone modified schedule. Talk to your family and decide several options to propose to your employer. Don’t forget to discuss you will complete your work, assuring him/her that your schedule modification will be beneficial to you, your employer and team.
4.Is temporary part-time an option for you?
Rebecca states, “I wish I asked for a part-time schedule my first month or 6 weeks upon my return. I felt like I got hit by a bus.” Full-time is 40 hours or work plus hours of driving to and from and pick-up. That is a lot. Researching the possibility of temporary or extended part-time maybe a good option to explore. I advise you to look into this option prior to leaving to understand all aspects so you can take your maternity leave to ponder and debrief with your new family.
One thing Rebecca didn’t bring up in our chat was her request for no travel for the first 6 months postpartum. This request was granted and our team supported her by reorganizing the schedule and taking on additional trips while she requested to stay put. Our team was very happy to step up to aid her transition and enable her to be with her family more.
Nursing your baby is a thread that keeps you connected to your baby while your away. Unfortunately, due to an abundance of in-person meetings, deadlines and unideal breastfeeding quarters, nursing decreases.
According to Johnston and Esposito (2007), employed women who return to work after giving birth must cope with the “ecosystem” of the work environment, which includes attitudes of coworkers, length of maternity leave, length of working shifts, and hourly wages or salary. In their study, the researchers found that women who were employed had a 9% lower rate of breastfeeding at 6 months postpartum than women who were unemployed. Johnston and Esposito also found that supportive work environments increase breastfeeding duration. Before returning to work, the employed women in their study felt it was necessary to meet with their managers to discuss breastfeeding.
Here are some ways you can make breastfeeding more attainable after returning to work:
I have been hearing a lot about jealousy on Instagram. Comparing ourselves to those we follow. Why can’t I have that living room, why can’t I stomach celery water every morning, why can’t I find those shoes in my size. Lately, I have been jealous on LinkedIn. Why can’t I have that career past, why haven’t 900 people endorsed me, what’s up with my profile picture.
LinkedIn is an incredible platform to network, learn of potential employment and build your industry knowledge. I love it. I am a huge LinkedIn cheerleader and drink all the “How to get the most out of LinkedIn” Koolaid, then I pass it on to my clients…. take a big SIP.
A few times now I have gone digging into some of my connections, stewing over their experience sections and endorsements. I keep comparing myself to connection who have been in their careers for decades and display their growth within the industry and clearly display their success and years of experience. Needless to say, I am a bit insecure. What I keep coming back to is my sordid career. I have been in so many professions I’m a jack of all trades and an expert at none. I know this about myself and have come to terms with it, but it’s hard to face while I stare at some professionals that have been in the same field since they graduated college. Until now I couldn’t make up my mind on my career and I had support from my parents and husband, so was never forced to decide. This is such a blessing but hard to digest when there are many folks in my field who may apply for the same position that have been molded in this profession for decades. I was feeling incredible fragile while scrolling through so many professionals who are veterans in their field.
I start to think about the old Rascal Flatts song, “God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you.” It’s the same with our careers. My past careers have included: administrative assistant, counseling paraprofessional, yoga teacher, preschool teacher, ESL teacher, waitress, career services specialist, resume writer and career consultant. I have drawn from all these experiences to be a stronger career consultant. For example, in my role as a career services specialist, I was able to use my experience as a counselor to be liaison with the access and wellness team supporting students with needs; I used my time as an ESL teacher to build engaging presentations, identify multicultural issues, and proof read content; I used my time as a yoga teacher to lead classes for my team during our lunch break; I used my years as a preschool teacher to support the education department as a liaison; I used my waitressing skills to uphold quality customer service with students who reached out to our department; my administrative skills supported all of the backend work required for the position. I was an extremely strong candidate because I was able to pull so many strengths from my eclectic career history.
Do you have an eclectic career history? Good.
Employers are beginning to value the strengths of outsiders. Just because you haven’t been in a particular role before, doesn’t mean you don’t have the transferable skills to be an incredible candidate. Now more than ever, employers are looking for candidates that can strengthen their team through an outside perspective. Your past allows you to view a project from a unique perspective. In your resume and interview it is vital to share how your perspective can positively impact their team.
So- Embrace where you have been and use those experiences and skills to lighten up your future.