9 Lives for Women Blog

10 Tips for Returning Professionals | May 4th, 2012

Many times I’ve been asked to speak to women’s groups about how to return to the workforce.  After focusing on this phenomenon for the last decade, I’ve got a list of 10 fail-proof tips.


  1. BE READY TO TAKE THE PLUNGE…GET FAMILY BUY-IN:  Women itching to return to the work force underestimate the importance of having the support of their families–long before Day 1 on the job.  You can’t be a stay-at-home Mom one day and a working woman the next.  There are lots of logistical details and it takes careful planning.  Make sure your family understands how the household will be different when you’re working.  When an offer is on the table you don’t want your husband saying he likes things the way they are with you at home.
  2. REMEMBER WORK MEANS WORK! When you work you have limited vacation time.  You’re making a commitment to work throughout the year.  That means work in the summer, during the holiday season, on snow days and the days your children are sick.
  3. FACE FACTS:  WHERE CAN/CAN’T YOU COMPROMISE: Motherhood is not your ticket to work entirely on your own terms.  You’ll have to compromise somewhere:  maybe more hours, a longer commute or less money than you consider ideal.  Decide where you need to hold firm and where you can be flexible.
  4. SQUARE YOUR SHOULDERS AND PROJECT CONFIDENCE: The first thing that falls through a gap in a resume is your confidence.  Stop the negative thinking about how old you are and how long you’ve been out of the work force.  Employers hire confident, capable people.  Internalize and draw strength from the professional and volunteer accomplishments on your resume.
  5. STAY AWAY FROM THE INTERNET BLACK HOLE: People will lead you to jobs, not computers.  Thousands of people apply online for jobs, and it’s not the fastest way to get an employer’s attention.  Networking is still the #1 way to find a job.
  6. LOOK FAR BEYOND OBVIOUS NETWORKING CONNECTIONS: If you’ve called all your former business colleagues your networking is not over.  Make lists of everyone who could possibly help you from all areas of your life…your alumni associations, your children’s schools, volunteer colleagues, religious affiliations, book groups…the list is endless.  When you think you’ve exhausted your contacts (sometime in 2015), figure out who your husband knows, who your sister knows, etc. in all the same categories…and keep going.
  7. GET YOUR EGO OUT OF THE WAY: The business world moves very quickly.  Employers generally consider you current if you’ve been out of the work force for two years or less.  If you’ve been out longer, you may have difficulty returning to your previous level.  Put your ego aside and do what you have to do to get back in the game.  With hard work and a positive attitude, you’ll ramp up again very quickly.
  8. BRAND YOURSELF AS A RETURNING PROFESSIONAL: Don’t give the impression that you are a soccer Mom looking for a little extra money.  Don’t walk into interviews apologizing for your time out of the work force.  Make it clear to networking contacts and potential employers that you’re a returning professional who has continued to develop skills through significant volunteer work or occasional project work.  Amen!
  9. DESCRIBE YOUR VOLUNTEER WORK IN BUSINESS TERMS: List only significant volunteer work on your resume, and describe it the same way you would professional paid positions.  You didn’t just chair the Book Fair.  You managed 50 volunteers, 10 committees, a budget of $25,000…and you increased revenues by 20% over the previous year.
  10. EMPHASIZE SKILLS, NOT ATTRIBUTES: Women tend to under-sell themselves.  They talk about soft attributes instead of hard core skills.  Don’t fill your resume with attributes like “hard working” or “team player”.  Everyone in every job is expected to be a hard working team player.  Focus on what sets you apart and your unique skills–like budgeting, negotiating and proposal writing.

These tips were discussion points in my Fall, 2011 Today Show interview.   If you like this blog post, please click “like” below and take one minute–literally–to sign up to be an official 9 Lives subscriber here!


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