Returning to Your Career After Staying Home


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According to the Harvard Business Review, 43 percent of professional women with children step off the career track at some point. Sylvia Ann Hewlett of the Center for Work-Life Policy says two-thirds of those women want to re-enter professional life. The path back into the working world, known as “on-ramping,” can be challenging, but mothers are proving they can overcome these obstacles to find rewarding careers.

Kella Hatcher is one of the founders of Balancing Professionals, a Raleigh-based business that connected professionals with employers in flexible and part-time positions. She defines “on-ramp” as “a path into the work force for someone who has taken time out (usually to be home with children) and is seeking to get back in.”

Mothers choose to go back to work for many reasons — a husband is laid off or injured and unable to work, a divorce forces the stay-at-home mom to consider other income options, or the family needs a second income. But many moms simply need to fulfill themselves in professional pursuits and want to return to a career they left behind.

Consider the options

“Take the time to do some self-analysis,” Hatcher says, “and ask yourself some important questions related to which skills and talents you want to put to use in a job, how you enjoy spending your time, what your priorities are with respect to compensation or scheduling, or really anything that matters to you. If you are lacking confidence, do whatever it takes to build yourself up before putting yourself in front of employers. Finding your focus is time well spent, because a lack of focus or confidence can come off poorly in an interview or lead you to a job you don’t really want.”

In Back on the Career Track: A Guide for Stay-At-Home Moms Who Want to Return to Work, authors Carol Cohen and Vivian Rabin note, “This is no simple decision. Unlike the choice to pursue non-work passions, the decision to return to work has the distinction of not being completely on your own terms. It involves an obligation to others beyond your family and you. The last thing you want to do is take on a professional commitment and not deliver.”

Today, companies are more likely to offer telecommuting, job sharing and flexible schedules to accommodate working mothers and talented professionals. These options make it more appealing to return to work for full-time or part-time job seekers.

So, how do you get started?

Navigate with a network

“The best way to start is to focus on your network and your resume,” says Meredith Ritchie, the vice president of sales at MomCorps in Charlotte. “Creating or updating your resume helps you itemize the strengths that you have to offer a future employer. Also, start strengthening and rebuilding your professional network.” She advises e-mailing former colleagues who respected your work ethic and let them know you are ready to rejoin the work force.

According to Hatcher, “Networking is not about exchanging business cards or small talk; it’s about building relationships and finding out how you can help others as much as how they can help you.”

Corinne Weldon understands the power of networking. After a divorce, she was faced with finding full-time work with a 3-year-old at home. “I continued to keep in touch with my professional network even though I was not working,” she says. A former recruiter, she landed a job through her network and moved to Charlotte.

Ritchie recommends that job seekers “join an online networking service like LinkedIn or Jigsaw and ask all of your friends and former colleagues to join your network. Many corporate recruiters for major companies use these services to find qualified candidates, so be detailed in the creation of your online profile.”

Hone your skills

After reviewing your resume and establishing a network, consider updating your skill set — especially if you were at home for an extended period of time. Women who “off-ramp” stay at home for an average of about two years and two months. Experts suggest it becomes more difficult when the gap widens to 10 years or more.

“Be prepared to proactively discuss how you’ve stayed current on your skill set either through continuing education, certification credits, volunteer work or a home-based/family business venture. Talk to a friend or former colleague currently in your field and find out what the latest developments have been and make a plan to fill in your own gaps,” Ritchie says.

It’s important that you get up to speed on legislation or technology advancements, but the impact of the employment gap depends on the profession.

Nail the interview

So you’ve finally got the interview. Now what? Interviewing is a skill, and most moms are out of practice.

Ritchie offers these points for acing the interview:

* Do not apologize for opting out and do not go into specifics about your reasons for doing so, unless asked directly.

* Do not compare yourself to other caregivers or try to appeal to the personal experience of the interviewer.

* If asked why you have a gap in your resume, make it clear that you did not leave the work force because it was simply “too hard” to juggle career and family. Instead, position yourself as someone who was uncomfortable giving less than 110 percent of yourself at the office, so you off-ramped until the time you could again be 110 percent dedicated.

* Practice answering the hard questions about your career gaps in the mirror or with a friend or spouse. Remove all uncertainty from your voice as you form your response.

* Focus on the positive. Know your strengths and be comfortable with them. End each response to an interview question on a positive note.

* Understand that there is a talent shortage in many fields, and the large majority of the work force is pleased that you are re-entering or on-ramping.

Plot a ‘Mompreneur’ path

If you want to get back to work but need more flexibility, try becoming your own boss. More women are opting out of the traditional corporate world and starting their own small businesses.

In 2006, an estimated 211,980 privately held firms in North Carolina were majority-owned by women. This is up 63 percent since 2001.

Elizabeth Galecke, the founder of Chix in Business, a Raleigh networking group for women business owners, understands the benefits of owning a business.

“First, being able to run a business based on your core values, instead of having to follow what someone else feels is important. And second is flexibility. It will still be long hours and a lot of work, but [as a business owner] you can determine when you want to work and when you want to take time off.”

If you decide to start your own business, Galecke offers this key bit of advice: “Take yourself seriously. If you don’t, others won’t either, and it is hard to change that once you start off the wrong way. Whatever path you choose as you on-ramp, remember to be patient and willing to learn. There will be challenges and setbacks, but also victories. Rely on your family for support, your network for connections and your skills to get the job done.

Eve White is the editor of Charlotte Parent, a sister publication of Carolina Parent.

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June 2019

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Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
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Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
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Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
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Cost: Free

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Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
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White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
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Cost: See website for fees

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Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
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White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
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The Regulator Bookshop
720 Ninth St.
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Cost: $5

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
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Cost: Free

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Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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Cost: Free

Where:
IngenuiTea Kombucha Coffee & Tea
514 E Williams St
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Sponsor: IngenuiTea Brews
Telephone: 919-438-3684
Contact Name: Mark Poole
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Vacation Bible School includes dinner. Register at wpumc.com/vbs

Cost: Free

Where:
White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Contact Name: Michele Vansteen
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Cost: Free

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East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Court
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
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Cost: $9/resident, $11/nonresident

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801 High House Rd.
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Cost: Free

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Downtown Park
319 S. Academy St.
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Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: Free

Where:
The Regulator Bookshop
720 Ninth St.
Durham, NC  27705
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Cost: $5

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Marti Kane
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Parent and child ages 2-5 water plants in the native wildflower gardens. Register online. Choose course #124907.

Cost: Free

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

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Join Optimist Aquatic Center as thousands of kids and adults around the world unite for the world's largest swimming lesson. The World's Largest Swimming Lesson will celebrate its 10th...

Cost: Free

Where:
Optimist Aquatic Center
5902 Whittier Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Court
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Vacation Bible School includes dinner. Register at wpumc.com/vbs

Cost: Free

Where:
White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: White Plains UMC
Telephone: 919-467-9394
Contact Name: Michele Vansteen
Website »

More information

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Every year on June 21, we enjoy the most hours of sunlight during the whole year. Discover the science and cultural celebrations behind this special summer day. Make a pretty sun catcher to hang in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Enjoy stories with Amy Godfrey.

Cost: Free

Where:
The Regulator Bookshop
720 Ninth St.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

What do Historic Yates Mill County Park and the woodland faeries have in common? They both love nature! Take a short walk near the millpond to search for evidence of faeries (sightings are not...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Court
Knightdale, NC  27545
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More information

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Cost: Free

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Pine State Coffee
1614 Automotive Way
Raleigh, NC  27604
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White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Telephone: 919-467-9394
Contact Name: Michele Vansteen
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Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Show Less...

Every year on June 21, we enjoy the most hours of sunlight during the whole year. Discover the science and cultural celebrations behind this special summer day. Make a pretty sun catcher to hang in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
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View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
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More information

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Cost: $12/person. Free for ages 2 and younger.

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: Free

Where:
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View map »


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More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: Free

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Duke Homestead State Historic Site
2828 Duke Homestead Rd.
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Cost: Free

Where:
The Scrap Exchange
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Cost: See website for fees

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Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


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Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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Cost: Free

Where:
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Sponsor: March of Dimes/Duke Family Medicine
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Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

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Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
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View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
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More information

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Cost: $12 advance tickets, $15 at the door. Free for ages 12 and younger

Where:
Vollmer Farm
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Sponsor: Vollmer Farm
Telephone: 919-496-3076
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Cost: Free

Where:
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The 2018-19 Education Guide offers 678 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools, academic resources and an Exceptional Child special section.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. In our 2019-20 issue, explore 1,028 resources for family fun.