September 26, 2016
Whether it’s four hours a week or full time, it pays to keep working (even when your kids are small!) after you’ve left the workforce. Always keep your foot in the door, because you never know when you’ll need it to open. Only 40 percent of women who want to return to full-time work after off-ramping actually do.
When our daughter Ruby was three and we had just moved to Los Angeles, I took her to a soccer class. I was surrounded by vibrant moms, including a former attorney, a former magazine editor, and a former marketing executive. They had taken between five and seven years off to raise their kids, and expressed a desire to get back into the workforce.
Unfortunately, they felt powerless to do so. The marketing executive complained that her contacts had run cold. The magazine editor lamented that when she last worked, the Internet wasn’t around; she saw herself as a dinosaur. The attorney explained that she hadn’t kept up with her specific field, which had changed considerably.
If you have already left the workforce completely, here are five ways to up your game as you get back in:
Get out of preschool. When introducing yourself, always use your first and last name, no matter the setting. There are too many Jennifers out there for you to be memorable. You were “Jenny” in preschool. Now you’re “Jenny Miller.”
Tell your story. When asked what you do at a dinner party or at the playground, always give your history. “I spent 10 years in marketing and now I am home for a couple of years with the kids” is a far better answer than “Oh, I’m at home with the kids.” The first answer begins a conversation; the second one ends it.
Keep in smart touch. When keeping in touch with old colleagues after you’ve left the workforce, don’t just share baby photos through Instagram. Instead, send an industry-related article with a note saying, “This made me think of you.”
Don’t be a dinosaur. I am always amazed by the number of women who brag about not knowing what Twitter is or being off Facebook. Foregoing social media is the fastest way to become irrelevant. It ages you on the inside, just as sunbathing does on the outside.
Make yourself the easy hire. When you have a gap in your résumé, your interviewer has a hard time trying to pitch you internally. Make her job easier by telling her how passionate you are about the field, and how hard you work.
Your career is long, and you hopefully will be physically capable of working until at least age 80. Though the career slice of your pie will contract and expand over the years, you never want to let it disappear completely. Don’t make short-term decisions like staying home for two years when your child is an infant, especially if that means giving up your long-term career path. It pays both figuratively and literally to consider your future dreams and to realize that this slice will require constant changes to its recipe. Check in often with yourself to see if your current recipe is as delicious as it could be.
Excerpted with permission of the author from her upcoming book The Pie Life: A Guilt-Free Recipe for Success and Satisfaction, to be released on September 27, 2016.