Working from home allows you to be there when kids wake, come home from school and go to bed. But those same benefits also take you away from networking opportunities that working out of an office provides.
But, being a work-at-home mom doesn't mean that you're limited in your success or the connections you make. In this issue of Working Mom 3.0, writer Stephanie Taylor Christensen offers ways to be active in your industry when you're a work-at-home mom.
Regardless of what you do for a living, it's a small world. Seek out the top websites or thought leaders in your industry and carve out a set amount of time each week devoted to reading the industry-related scoop on new happenings and developments and forming an opinion worth sharing. If you're at a loss for how to jump in, type common keywords related to industry news and topics into Google and Bing and see what sites come up in the first three pages. Scour each and leave relevant and thoughtful comments on published posts. Bookmark the ones you'd like to form a relationship with, and keep reading and commenting on their posts. Once you've identified those contacts, cross-reference the leads on LinkedIn to start building even more connections that will expand your network and exposure to industry insights.
Once you pinpoint thought leaders you admire, engage them via social media and show your support by sharing their activity with your followers. If you have a website or blog, offer to act as an expert source or guest blog author for industry leaders' sites — to get your name out there and potentially better your own website rank and industry affiliations. Leverage such opportunities by being "strategically selfless." If you submit guest posts, make it your best work. If you act as an expert source, go above and beyond in preparing your material and helping the final post to go viral.The time you spend building these long-term relationships is just as valuable as client dinners and meetings that you attended when you worked outside of the home.
Determined as you may be to stay abreast of your industry, you will have "blind spots" and skills you lack. It has nothing to do with being less valuable or informed than your peers who work outside of the home; it simply comes with the territory of spending your days working in a proverbial mommy vacuum. Instead of shying away from the facets of your industry or business that leave you unsure, identify them head on, and seek out mentors (whether it's a one-on-one relationship or trade organization) that can guide you toward learning. Likewise, offer your expertise to someone who may need it. You never know what connections will form.
Your old work attire may be buried far in the back of your closet but staying physically in the game, even once a year, is just as important for your own self-perception as it is for business building. Identify one major trade show or conference that most of the players in your industry attend and get there. (Remember, travel expenses you incur in the process are a qualified expense for tax purposes.) Attending at least a one-day insider event that includes pivotal people will help you to put faces to names, shake hands, make connections that online conversations can't and provides you with the sense of inclusiveness and energy you need to remember that you are just as powerful working from home in your mommy clothes as your power suit peers.
The modern woman is redefining what it means to have a successful career. Rather than feeling torn between climbing the corporate ladder and having a happy family life, many women are choosing to merge the two and transition careers from a traditional role to a more flexible one. Working Mom 3.0 is reinventing the definition of "working mom," as office hours are held at home and revolve around nap times.
This column begins by chronicling the experiences of Stephanie Taylor Christensen, a former marketing professional turned self-employed stay-at-home mom, writer and yoga instructor, as she strives to redefine "having it all" on her own time and terms.
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