Ready for Work Again, Momma? Here’s How to Get the Job You Really Want.

airplane-women-work

If you’ve been off the career track for a few years while staying home to raise a family, finding the path back into the work world can be overwhelming. Whether it’s part-time or full-time work you’re seeking, it’s hard to know where to start and how to secure fulfilling job that will set you back on your chosen career path.

The first thing many women do is hop onto job boards (such as SimplyHired.com, Indeed.com, or CareerBuilder.com) and begin searching for jobs in their local area. This can work, but rather than wait for jobs to be posted on those boards, there are some more proactive things you can do to beat the rest of the competition to the punch and find a job that is perfectly suited to you.

First, update your resume. Even if you’ve been a stay at home parent for years, you should have your resume in “ready to go” condition. You haven’t just been sitting at home up to your eyebrows in diapers and crayons all this time. You’ve been managing a household and even volunteering for causes you care about (church groups, school PTO, etc.). Be proud of those activities and find ways to showcase them on your resume.

If you don’t have a profile on LinkedIn, create one. These days, LinkedIn is essential. It’s like having an online resume, but you can choose what you display publicly (to people you haven’t accepted as “connections”) and what you keep private. If you can, contact your former colleagues and ask them to write recommendations on your LinkedIn profile. (In return, you can offer to write recommendations on their LinkedIn profiles, but only if you were honestly impressed with their skills!)

Check your Facebook privacy settings. This is important. These days, one of the first things potential employers do is search for applicants on Facebook. If you’re one of those people who doesn’t have a care in the world about who sees your political rants and drunken summer barbeque party pictures on Facebook, you need to care right now. This matters a lot to most prospective employers. Remember, even if you change your general privacy settings now, the stuff you posted in the past that was public remains public unless you go back to each post and change it. So do that, pronto!

Make a list of employers in your area for whom you’d like to work. Don’t rule any of them out because you think they wouldn’t be interested in a mom who’s paused her career path for a few years. Roll up your sleeves and do your internet research. Then, find contact information for the key people in hiring roles at each company. You can call them up and ask for the name and email address of the head of Human Resources, or you can often find that information on their corporate websites.

Write a personalized cover letter to key hiring individuals. Tell them specifically why you’re interested in working for them. Be sure to add some key detail from your research that will prove to them that you’ve done your homework to learn about their mission or business goals. Tell them, why you think your skills or background could benefit them in some way. Don’t forget to close your letter with your contact information, and tell them that you plan to follow up within a couple of weeks with a phone call. Then, in a couple of weeks, follow up with a phone call! Even if they have no current openings that match your skills, this will likely make a positive and memorable impression on the individual you’ve contacted, and it increases the likelihood that they’ll save your information, remember you and contact you about a future opening.

Consider part time work. Some employers may have a hard time finding someone who only wants to work part time. Most recent college graduates will rule out a part time position immediately. That could work to your advantage. The position could very well grow into a full time position.

Network with as many people as possible. Let people know you’re interested in finding work. Tell your friends, tell your neighbors, and tell your book group. If you know of people who do the kind of work you’re interested in, reach out to them and offer to take them to coffee or lunch. Ask them about their employers and how they found their jobs. That person might be likely to recommend you for a position if it opens up at their workplace or if they move on to a different job and need to hire someone to fill theirs.

Consider registering with a temporary staffing firm. Employers often mitigate the danger of hiring the wrong person by “test driving” an employee for a period of time through a temporary agency before hiring them directly.

Don’t grab the first job that comes your way if it’s not what you want. If you’ve been offered a position, give serious consideration to how it will position you for potential job growth. Will it be a meaningful addition to your resume in terms of skill development, or possibly a stepping stone along the career path you want? Don’t take a job just to have a job. You’ll regret it if the right job comes along a few months down the line, and you don’t want to be viewed as a “job hopper.” A reputation like that can catch up to you and burn your chances with prospective employers.

Finally, don’t sell yourself short, girlfriend. Just because you’ve taken a detour from your career path to do the worthwhile work of spending time with your family doesn’t mean your skills are irrelevant and useless. Although there are many, many fresh and newly graduated college applicants vying for jobs, many employers are seeking someone with experience, maturity and a proven track record. Keep your chin up, and your attitude positive. If you follow these suggestions, you will find yourself back in the work groove sooner than you think.

_________________________

Welcome to Sarah Calatayud, a guest blogger from Connecticut’s Farmington Valley! Sarah has two children, ages 14 and 11, one lovely husband, and a cute rescued pooch. She is the founder and owner of SMC Webworks, LLC, a business that creates brochure websites and provides digital consulting services to small businesses anywhere. Look forward to more from Sarah in upcoming posts on Smiling in the Winter.

Advertisements

Tell Me if My Teen Does Any of These Things

36-funniest-and-hilarious-parenting-memes-10
Credit: http://www.ldssmiles.com

These days of parenting are different, aren’t they? We’re on a hair-raising new frontier of childraising that grows more technologically complicated and confounding with every new iteration of “i” device, social media platform, and social sharing app our kids use. I can’t count the number of times I’ve witnessed things that other people’s children have done and thought to myself, “If I were that parent, I’d absolutely want to know about that.”

Yet, we’re also more concerned than ever before about poking our parenting noses into someone else’s family business and overstepping boundaries. Wouldn’t it be great if we all knew more about where we stand on this topic? I’ll make it easy for you. Here’s my social “contract” with you if you have any opportunity to interact with my child or witness his behavior.:

Please tell me if you witness my child being disrespectful or rude to an adult, or making a bad impression on adults in a public place. Even if he doesn’t think anyone is watching, and he’s with a group of kids who are all engaging in disrespectful behavior. I’ve seen teens behave badly in public places like malls, movie theaters, and restaurants by being obnoxiously loud, using profanity, and leaving without cleaning up their disastrous messes. If that were my kid, I’d want to know about it.

Please tell me if my kid behaves like a privileged guest exempt from your household family responsibilities. Please treat him like he’s one of your own kids and ask him to help with the chores your kids are asked to do. Setting and clearing plates from the table, cleaning up when they’ve made a mess, even shoveling snow from the driveway. It helps all of our kids to participate in activities that serve the good of any household, and it builds character to have them pitch in.

If my kid uses any kind of language or attitude that is unacceptable in your presence, please call him on it and let him know that you don’t allow it in your home. I’ve had kids swear in the back of my car, or watch inappropriate YouTube videos as if I’m not even there, and I firmly but kindly tell them it’s not allowed in my car. Yes, my own kids were momentarily mortified, but that’s OK. I’m drawing an important “respect” line for them, and for their friends, and they’ll both learn from it.

If you learn that my kid has bullied anyone, anywhere, in any way, shape or form, please tell me. Even if it’s a subtlety such as deliberately excluding someone from a conversation on social media or tagging everyone in a photo on Instagram, except for that person. This is the new bullying modality. I want to know about it if my kid engages in this behavior.

Please tell me your concerns about my kid’s social media activity. The kid “grapevine” is important. I have seen Instagram pictures on the feeds of my son’s friends that I’m sure those parents know nothing about. If my daughter was putting pictures like that on her Instagram feed (followed by 2,765 “friends”), I would be concerned. I follow my kids on their social media accounts, and I tolerate teen silliness and some questionable language here and there (they’re talking with each other, not with adults), but when I see a 13 or 14 year old 8th grade girl posting suggestive photos of herself and gratuitous cleavage shots, I’m concerned. If I were her parent, I would want to know about it. Please tell me if you’ve seen this kind of behavior from my child.

The-Social-Life-of-the-App-Addicted-Teens-infographic
Credit: http://www.digitalinformationworld.com

If you learn from your kid that mine has been experimenting with alcohol or drugs, or other risky behaviors such as shoplifting or vandalism, please tell me. That one doesn’t really require further explanation.

If your child and mine are close enough that my child has confided anything to your child that might indicate danger to himself or anyone else, such as thoughts or acts of self-harm (e.g., cutting, eating disorders), feelings of depression or worthlessness, or plans to harm someone else, please break that confidence and tell me about it. I respect my child’s right to privacy, but those topics trump everything. If your child has concerns that my child is in a depressed and possibly dangerous state of mind, please tell me.

I have what I consider to be a good and loving relationship with my kids. But how many times have we heard a parent who has suffered a devastating child behavior disaster (opiate addiction, drunk driving accident,…) say, “I don’t know how this happened” or, “I had no idea this was even going on”?

Some parents deal with the emergence of worrisome behavior issues by turning the other way and hoping (desperately) that everything will work itself out. I’m not that parent. Parenting is persistent work, and sometimes that work is the last thing you want to do. This is the difficult, downright “icky,” uncomfortable stuff. To do right by your kid, you must face it head on. To do right by our kids, we all must face it head on.


 

This post was featured on BlogHer.com. For more of this kind of goodness, follow my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SmilingInTheWinter !

5 Easy Ways to Teach Your Kids How to Help With Housework

LittleWindowWasherIf you find yourself grumbling as often as I do about being the only one who cleans the house (or even cares!), then teach your kids how to help.

I’m a bit of a cleaning perfectionist and my problem used to be that I was too critical of the way the cleaning was done. I had to ditch that attitude. Although their cleaning work isn’t perfect, it’s certainly cleaner than when they started. Most importantly, it’s meaningful, confidence-building learning for them. Baby steps. Their cleaning technique will improve with time.

Even if your kids are as young as six or seven, they can begin helping with the housework. But don’t ever assume they’re going to understand what you mean when you say, “Please clean your bathroom.” You have to show them what that means, step by step:

1. Bathrooms: I bought some disinfecting wipes and put them in each bathroom. I showed my kids how to pull one out and wipe down the flush handle, toilet rim and seat, and (because I have two boys – three, if you count their father) inspect for evidence of “misses” around the floor near the toilet base. Next, they can use a second wipe to clean the sink bowl, faucet handles, and countertop. I told them to wash their hands afterwards to get the disinfectant off (sometimes they actually do this, sometimes not).

2. Dusting: I purchased Swiffer dusting cloths. These can clean so many areas of the house. I showed my kids how to dust the surfaces in each room. For the photo frames and decorative objects on my furniture, I showed them how to remove those things first before dusting, and then replace each dusted item back on top. These are also perfect for wood staircase dusting (I have an super-shedder dog whose fur is always collecting on our wood stairs!). Or, use a small handheld vacuum cleaner to remove dust, dirt and pet fur from the stairs (we love this Black and Decker Lithium HandVac).

3. Laundry: Laundry is easier for kids if they don’t have to measure and pour detergent and softener. It’s more expensive, but buy some of those laundry detergent pods – show your kids how to toss one in, fill the machine with laundry, and press the right buttons to get the washer going. (If needed, tape those instructions to the wall near the machine.) They can easily move clean clothes from washer to dryer, and throw in a dryer sheet. Don’t obsess about the size of the loads; smaller is more manageable. Remember the point is teaching them how, not maximizing the load (that will come later!).

4. Windows and Glass: Give them a bottle of glass cleaner and a microfiber cleaning cloth. They can clean windows, glasstops and mirrors wherever you have them. Don’t obsess over every smudge on the glass, but you can point out some missed spots to help them approach a “good job” rating.

5. Dishwasher Emptying: Kids can help with emptying the dishwasher, even if they can’t reach all the places you keep everything. They can stack plates on a countertop for you to put away for them. Try to keep things like tupperware and kid-cups and kid-ware in a lower drawer or cabinet so they can put these away easily themselves. They can certainly do the silverware. (I have to admit I don’t have my kids LOAD the dishwasher because I’m too picky about the way its loaded. Hey, we all have our limitations. I’m working on it.)

The most important thing is to give them LOTS of praise when they help with housework. Don’t nitpick on the little imperfections. Tell them how much it helps you to have less housework to do, and that it really makes you proud to see them contributing their efforts to the upkeep of the household. (You can even tell them that you love them more than usual when they help you clean.) Praise and gratitude are the best ways to positively reinforce their behavior.

Tying their demonstrated efforts to a small allowance or reward may also work. But be sure to actually hand them their earnings or their reward items on time when you said you would. Remind them they earned the reward by helping with family cleaning chores. Young kids are visual creatures, so if you let those earnings accumulate for weeks at a time the reward just won’t have the same impact, if any at all. If they complain about doing the chores, you can dock the reward by a set amount. If they refuse to do them, they should lose the reward but be encouraged to try again next time.

Another benefit of getting kids involved in household cleaning chores is the sense of pride they’ll get from what they’ve accomplished. They’ll be less likely to smear sticky fingerprints on glass they’ve cleaned themselves or throw hardly worn clothes into their laundry hamper. Boys will even be straighter shooters in the bathroom! They begin to really understand their work and develop respect for it. When that happens, they begin to respect the housework that YOU do as well.

You can implement these tasks one at a time, or all at once, based on your kids’ ages and abilities. Remember not to underestimate what your kids can do! This will be an important point along their path to becoming independent, responsible adults, and the key to less grumbling and greater life balance for you.

You’re welcome!

Living in a Wealthy Town Stinks

AffluenceIsn’t it the American dream to own a home in an affluent town with excellent schools? Well, here I am. Let me tell you, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

I know, I know – “first world problems”, as my kids remind me. But we have great concerns for our family here. We are concerned about the lessons our kids are learning about the meaning of “success”.

We live in an affluent Connecticut town where the median home value is almost $300,000 and many neighborhoods are full of one to two million dollar homes that are five to six thousand square feet in size. The definition of “success” is everywhere you look. People drive Porsches, BMW’s, and a few have convertible Ferraris for summertime fun. Not uncommon to see a Maserati drop off a kid at school. Our schools are ranked in the top three or four in the state. Our own family is extremely comfortable in a four thousand square foot home with a three-car garage and a BMW convertible. I know, sounds like paradise.

Our kids are surrounded by affluence. Family median income is about $145k and almost 40% of households earn more than that. They’re not all white (many Asians), but very few are African-American or Hispanic. Although that bugs us, our bigger concern is that our kids have very few interactions with children who are socioeconomically different from them.

Our kids live in a microcosm that doesn’t reflect the real world. Their classmates wear clothing from Vineyard Vines, Tory Burch flats, and they carry the latest iPhones (many sport Apple watches). Dads are typically VP-level executives who work very long hours and often travel for days or weeks at a time. Stay at home moms fill their days with classes at a gym or barre studio, shopping, lunching and Facebook. The rare working mother employs au pairs, sitters, tutors and housecleaners to raise the kids and manage the cavernous homefront.

The kids are often total disasters because no one’s really paying attention to them. They’re whiny, rude, overindulged, and arrogant. When they’re not playing whatever sport their parents hope they’ll get a scholarship in or in a Kumon class, they spend their time playing video games (boys) or posing for Instagram selfies and jockeying for social status (girls). These kids are disinterested in important community and world events, uninterestING and, sadly, lost. Imagine the “successful” grown-ups they’ll become.

I came from a much different place, as did my husband. We were raised in towns full of middle class families, and our friends’ parents worked as construction workers, plumbers, cashiers, medical assistants and claims processors. We had a few “rich” friends with professional parents (lawyers, doctors) but they were the exception. And those kids were raised to keep a low profile and not draw attention to the fact that they had more than their friends.

Our schools weren’t top-ranked but they were good, and full of diversity, both in terms of skin color and household income. I won’t say there wasn’t a degree of self-segregation – socially, blacks hung out with blacks and whites hung out with whites. But we were friends, we all respected each other, and we learned about each others’ cultures and values. We knew each other personally, so the stereotypes vocalized by prejudiced grandparents didn’t really have a chance to take hold.

My husband and I both had friends who grew up with five or six siblings in three-bedroom, single-bathroom homes that were 1200 square feet in size (some had dogs!). Spending time in their homes, we learned how they and their siblings respected each others’ personal spaces and boundaries. Valuable lessons for everyone in all walks of life.

My husband and I do the best we can to talk a lot with our kids and to expose them to those who are different and less fortunate than we are, but we have to work hard at it and the opportunities are nothing more than brief glimpses into those worlds. We’re worried it’s not enough to counteract the distorted world view engendered by the superficial bubble world we’re living in. Our kids need to really get to know people from differing economic classes in order to appreciate and understand those differing perspectives. And that, in turn, will help our kids appreciate and understand their own places in the world.

We’ve discussed this with friends in town who share our concerns. We all agree, moving out is easier said than done. (Just imagine the gossip, “They’re moving where?” Everyone will assume my husband was demoted or lost his job.) The allure and exterior perfection of affluence is seductive and hard to turn away from. But we’re convinced, for our kids’ sake, it’s time to move our family to a “real” town. We would rather our kids attend lower ranked schools and have a more accurate understanding of (and friendships with) those from other backgrounds and economic classes. It will make them more compassionate adults, which will make them better human beings. That will be the barometer of “success” for our children.

Invisibility (Angel Waitress)

Motherhood sometimes makes you feel like you’ve lost yourself and become invisible to the world you used to know.

We used to enjoy going to lunch together mid-week. Just my little toddler boy and me, while the older brother was at school. He brought his stuffed animal and a make-believe dragon toy and we sat in a booth together in the after-lunch time when there weren’t so many diners.

Our waitress was a young 20-something woman with a bright smile and an attentive, busy nature. She didn’t mind the ketchup mess he was making with his fries (extra tip money for that girl, I thought).

I listened to his three-year old voice tell me his story about his dragon and his stuffed animal, and I watched his delicious face and his long eyelashes and all his amazing silly light.

I had to keep an eye on my watch – the older brother would be dropped off at the bus stop within the hour. But it was like time wasn’t passing anymore. I had learned to be in the moment with my kids, finally. You have to, or you’ll miss the really good stuff.

His favorite part was the ice cream dessert, so of course we stayed for that. And as he got himself all messy in birthday cake ice cream, we talked together about his favorite characters from his favorite PBS show. He even sang a little bit of the song from it for me right there. We both laughed and sang it together one more time.

The light from that boy’s eyes, and the lilt of his laughter. If I could have frozen time right then and there, I would have, and I’d still be there now.

It’s indescribable that sound of your own child’s laughter. Knowing that it’s fleeting makes it all the more precious. You know his laugh won’t sound exactly like that a year from now. He’s changing every single second. You can’t bear to miss ANY of it.

No one knew I was there that day. No one was watching. I was invisible. The world was moving on without me while I sat there with him and soaked up the hour and his laughter.

I’d been feeling so invisible. Not ungrateful, just as if my former identity and my “noticable” life had disappeared, in a weird way. I was just “mom” for now and that was important, rewarding and wonderful. But there were times that it was sad and really hard for me, too. It was a really big part of me I left behind when I became “mom”. It was hard to feel invisible and a little lost.

The waitress handed me the check, and as she placed it in front of me on the table, she looked at him and smiled. She turned to me, looked right in my eyes, and said, “You’re a really great mom.”

It was so surprising and unexpected, my breath caught. I smiled and said, “Aww, thank you. That’s sweet of you.”

She said, “No really, I’ve been watching you with him. You’re a great mom.

I smiled again. I looked at him. She smiled at him again and walked over to another customer.

I was surprised at my tears, really. I had to just wipe ’em away before my boy even noticed.

To be noticed like that. When you’re resigned to feeling invisible.

It was a gift, indeed. A lifelong gift. Every time I remember it, I stand firm in my belief that everything I left behind for this parenthood gig was worth it.

He’s 8 years old tomorrow. My little man. What I would give to go back to that day.


 

For more, follow on Facebook!