Gina Kaysen Fernandes: The skills mothers have honed at home may give them an edge in the hiring process. If you don't think juggling schedules or knowing when your preschooler is lying are assets, think again.
"I think it's a great time to return to the workforce," says Shari Storm, the author of Motherhood Is the New MBA: Using Your Parenting Skills To Be a Better Boss. With more than a decade of experience as a credit union executive, Storm believes she really earned her stripes raising her three kids. "Motherhood is the boot camp of human nature," said Storm. Research shows a woman's brain gets rewired after childbirth, which essentially makes her smarter in some ways. Storm says moms are better at multitasking, handling stress, and managing people. After interviewing 60 women for her book, Storm concludes, "the competencies a mother learns when she raises her children are the same skills she needs to be an effective, successful manager."
As the economy sheds more jobs traditionally held by men, a record number of women are entering the workforce and becoming the breadwinners. But some stay-at-home moms say they feel more pressured than empowered by this trend. "It's not my choice, it's a matter of need. My husband's job is at risk," says Jennifer Jiang, who recently re-entered the working world after nine years on mommy hiatus. It's an emotional subject for Jennifer and other moms who feel conflicted about spending too much time outside the home.
Before the birth of her daughter in 2000, Jennifer held a high-powered management job in international marketing. Jennifer said her boss was shocked when she broke the news that she wasn't coming back after maternity leave. "I had the mindset that if I was going to do something, I was going to do it right," said Jennifer, who had no intention of sending her babies to daycare. "My priorities changed."
At that time, the Jiang family had a stronger financial footing, which gave Jennifer the flexibility to stay home. Now that her youngest child is in first grade, she feels less guilty about working. Jennifer had no plans to return to the pressure-cooker career she left behind. "It made me nauseous looking at job postings for the position I used to have, and trying to figure out how I'm going to do that as a mom," Jennifer said.
The most important step before you take the job-seeking plunge is to revamp your resume. Storm suggests buying a resume writing book or taking a workshop. Then you'll want to get feedback from friends. "It's an exercise in reminding yourself of your skill set," said Storm. Emphasize your ability to prioritize and how well you keep your cool under pressure.
Don't downplay your involvement in organizations like the PTA or PEPS. Your participation in these parent groups can be seen as an asset for companies hoping to make inroads with those networks. It's no secret that mothers control 83% of all household finances, and corporate America is starting to take notice. "That's one of the biggest reasons why so many companies are courting the mom market," said Storm.
After your resume is solid, you'll want to start telling everyone you know that you're looking for work. Begin networking so you can explore a range of career possibilities. Storm recommends asking for an informal interview with a prospective employer. "It can be a half hour over coffee," says Storm, who suggests you ask lots of questions about what they like about their job. "It's so easy to take anything that's offered. The more you understand what makes you happy, the more apt you'll be to get a job you like."
As Jennifer weighed her options, she decided it's more important to find a job that gives her a flexible schedule. "An important title is no longer a priority," says Jennifer, although she admits her husband doesn't necessarily agree. "He thinks I should be doing what I was trained to do. He doesn't understand that after being home for nine years, that can change." Instead of returning to project management, the Colorado mom is working out of her home juggling two part-time sales jobs.
"We're not seeing the typical 9-to-5 jobs anymore," says Storm, who adds, "Moms are piecing together careers with a couple of jobs, which is a good thing." But it's not necessarily lucrative. Part-time work rarely offers benefits, and even when women are employed full-time, they usually get paid less than men. That's one of the reasons why stay-at-home moms are more desirable to employers. "If I'm trying to cut costs, I might go with a mom who stayed home for 10 years because I can pay her less," said Storm.
The biggest challenge to overcome is a lack of self-confidence. Storm says many women suffer from a "defeatist attitude." Working mothers frequently don't give themselves enough credit, and are not assertive when it comes to asking for a raise or a promotion. "Why don't we make as much money? We don't ask for it," explains Storm, who offers several tips on how to ask for a raise or a promotion. The first step is to learn how to negotiate by presenting a good case, with confidence. Threatening to jump ship is not a good tactic. Instead, you want to highlight your successes, emphasize your loyalty to the company, and express how much you love your job and enjoy working for your manager. "You want everyone to walk out of the meeting feeling good," said Storm. Whenever you go into negotiations, make your boss feel like they want to give you that raise or promotion.
If you score that corner office, there's a good chance you'll make a good impression. "Hiring a mom can be a great benefit to an employer," states Storm. Her research concludes that mothers often make better bosses because they are great time managers, keep their emotions in check, and have more empathy for others. And it appears men are taking notice. "More people are starting to respect mothers, particularly men, who are watching their wives do more while raising kids."
|Gina Kaysen Fernandes is an award winning documentary producer and a former TV news producer/writer. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son.|