You took one look at that sweet little baby face, and you knew going back to work would not be easy. So you took your time. A three-month maternity leave stretched into many more months beyond that. Suddenly, it’s years later and you wonder if you’ve still “got it” — the right stuff for the workplace.
I’m here to tell you it can be done: You can get back to work after having kids. As the founder and CEO of Inkwell, a recruiting agency specializing in placing high-level professional moms, I help women relaunch their careers every day. Coming back to work after a hiatus can be daunting, but don’t let fear stop you. Follow these seven strategies to find your way back to a work life that is as rewarding and fulfilling as you dream it can be.
1. Join a career-reentry program
You can find a return-to-work program for just about any field, from law to technology to education. If your background is finance, check out Morgan Stanley’s Return to Work Program, or if you are in medicine, look to Physician-Reentry.org. Programs like these often come with a bonus — peer support, which can be a great confidence booster for those going back to work after a long break.
2. Try an internship — seriously
Many of these are available through the career-reentry programs mentioned above, but you can also reach out directly to companies to explore the possibilities. Check out CEO Carol Fishman Cohen’s TEDx talk “The 40-Year-Old Intern” to see how she turned her internship at Bain Capital into a high-level opportunity.
3. Volunteer strategically
Goal-oriented volunteering can help you acquire new skills, experience and connections. It’s also a great way to let a prospective employer test-drive your work, and it keeps you top of mind when a paid position opens up.
4. Go to back-to-work boot camp
Try the Assessing Career Options program by iRelaunch, an agency offering resources, conferences and coaching services for professionals returning to work after a break. The company offers online boot camps as well as small coaching groups around the country.
5. Update your skills
Don’t be a dinosaur: Keep up to date through continuing education, graduate-level courses or online classes (such as at Coursera). Do your research on what employers are looking for in your field. Perhaps a particular certification will help you land a great job.
6. Network… and network some more
Attend industry-related events, join groups on social media and tap into your alma mater’s alumni club. Reach out to former employers, and arrange informational interviews with as many people as possible in your targeted field. Many open jobs are never publicly advertised, and you will only hear about them through word-of-mouth.
7. Connect with a recruiting firm
My business, Inkwell, has a special focus on placing highly accomplished women in jobs that let them balance career and family through workplace flexibility. Consider your schedule: Do you need part-time work, project-based or full-time flex? Do you want to work at home two days a week? Explore the possibilities, submit your résumé, and jump right in — the water’s fine.
Manon DeFelice is the founder and CEO of Inkwell, a start-up that matches accomplished professionals with companies that need top talent on a flexible basis. She is a mom of three young children and lives with her family in Old Greenwich, Connecticut.