9 Lives for Women Blog

45 Tips for Back-to-Work Moms | January 9th, 2013

It’s just not true that women cannot return to the workforce after a long hiatus.  The number of years you’ve been out matters far less than the strategies you employ to return.  In any job market returning professionals can find significant work–especially if you keep these 9 Lives for Women tips in mind!


  1. Take a deep breath.  Realize you’re still the same person who left the workforce all those years ago.  Only a little older and wiser…with many more life experiences.
  2. Stop the negative thinking about how old you are and how long you’ve been out of the work force.  These facts will not thwart your success.
  3. Know that confident returning professionals can find a job in any economic environment.
  4. Get comfortable bragging about your skills and accomplishments—regardless of how long you’ve been out of the workforce.


  1. Don’t let employers read ambivalence in your eyes. Unless you exude the conviction that now is truly the time for you to return to work, no employer will consider you a serious candidate.
  2. Remember work means work: limited vacation time, work in the summer, during the holiday season, on snow days and the days your children are sick.
  3. Think through all the contingencies and support systems you need for sick days, snow days, school vacations, etc.
  4. Realize you can’t create your own perfect schedule: you’ll have to make some concessions at home.
  5. 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.
  6. Do your homework before you start looking for a job. Think through all the professional, logistical, psychological and financial issues.
  7. Search your soul before you search for a job: write down all your job “musts” before you ever write your resume. Note where you can be flexible and where you must stand firm.
  8. Understand that 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.
  9. Figure out exactly what it will cost you to work (extra child care, household help, commutation, etc.), and what you need to earn to make it worth it in both “psychic” (personal fulfillment) and green dollars.
  10. Don’t say it doesn’t matter what you earn. All women have a desired compensation number in their heads, and when an offer is on the table, that’s the number they want (even if they never voiced that fact). Articulate what you want early and revise as needed.
  11. Talk to current professionals in the field you’d now like to pursue to get a general idea of compensation trends.
  12. Go to www.salary.com to get a VERY general idea of what people who hold certain jobs are earning in your area.
  13. If what you think you can earn is far below your desired target, decide if the number is more palatable when you say that your earnings will cover specific things—like family vacations, braces, part or all of a college tuition, etc.
  14. Realize that your compensation will depend on your current qualifications and what employers feel certain jobs are worth—not what you are worth.
  15. Pin your husband down on what he feels is your ideal work scenario in terms of compensation, responsibility and work structure. Resolve differences and reach agreement. Husbands cause more 11th hour job offer refusals than anything else.
  16. Do “personal work” before you return to professional work. Discover, understand, develop and embrace the unique gifts and talents that are central themes in your life and work story.
  17. Get ready to bring a healthy ego back to work. You can work your way back—relatively quickly—to an interesting and lucrative career—but accept that it won’t happen overnight.
  18. Be willing to take a chance, to see where something might lead, to put experience before prestige, to make a little less money than you might have hoped.


  1. Brand yourself as a returning professional: don’t give the impression that you are a soccer Mom looking for a little extra money.
  2. Don’t ever apologize for your time out of the work force.
  3. Be open-minded about jobs you will be qualified for after a long hiatus. If you have not stayed current within your industry (and you have been out longer than two years), it could take two or three jobs to return to the title and compensation you had before.
  4. Talk to friends or networking connections in fields of interest to shape your ideas and possibilities. Finding a job is filling a need—a specific gap—for an employer. “I’ll do anything” is not a positive–it’s the kiss of job search death.
  5. Focus on your skills (budgeting, writing), not the “attributes” every employer expects in every employee.  You don’t set yourself apart in any way by stating you’re a problem solver, a team player or an organizational maven.
  6. Consider networking your #1 job search tool. Personal connections–or a collegial networking connection—can really help an employer look past resume gaps and see the benefits of life—not just work—experience.
  7. Get yourself out of hiding and into the job search spotlight via Linkedin.
  8. Remember that part-time jobs are rarely advertised: a lot of networking uncovers these opportunities that many returning professionals favor.
  9. Look to smaller companies for a warmer welcome after you’ve been out of the workforce for many years.
  10. Embrace your resume mosaic and connect all the dots for employers. You can still be a very attractive candidate even if your resume does not follow a predictable path.
  11. Remember the metrics of your achievements: the facts and figures that prove you were successful in professional and volunteer roles.
  12. Consider working on a project basis to get yourself in an employer’s door.
  13. Stress that you continued to develop your business skills through significant volunteer work.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. Look far beyond obvious networking connections. If you’ve called all your former business colleagues your networking is not over.
  17. Don’t opt for administrative positions (as many returning professionals do) just because it seems like an easy route to cash. Administrative positions are not necessarily easy or 9 to 5.
  18. If you say you want an administrative job, you have to mean it. Employers and recruiters can see through women who apply for admin jobs out of desperation or with the intention of leaving when something better comes along.
  19. Recognize that good computer skills aren’t necessarily the same as top-notch, career administrator computer skills.
  20. Think long-term:  not every admin job turns into a more senior-level role, and you have to be happy in the role whether it eventually does or not.
  21. Consider going back to work in stages—and that can mean not taking on a big part-time or full-time commitment as step one.
  22. Find your new career and life paths through the actual doing, not just thinking. Don’t delay the process–keep jumping in. And know when to jump out. You don’t have to make a lifelong commitment—but you do have to keep moving toward the next reasonable step.
  23. Explore new areas. The work you did before might not fit well with motherhood. Don’t be afraid to try something really different.

Returning professional women should also read the 9 Lives for Women blog post, 80 Tips Job Seekers Too Often Forget. –KAS

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Photo Credit: www.freedigitalphotos.net/Stuart Miles


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