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Going Back to Work After Being a Stay-at-Home Mom

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Welcome back to the job market, Mama! As a woman with four daughters, I know what it’s like to be a stay-at-home mom heading back to the workforce… and trying to figure out where you fit now. You’re actually the person I created this entire blog for.

In the current environment, a lot of moms are probably looking for ways to make money from home, especially now with a lot of schools still being virtual and different strains of the coronavirus floating around.

Whether you’re looking to join a reputable company that hires remote staff or you’re on the hunt for a freelance gig you can do from home, you’ll need a strategy for quantifying and validating your skillset to win those opportunities.

That means…

Sorting out what that would look like in real life. Like, what would you do? What would other people consistently pay you to do – enough for you to sustain your family without sacrificing your lifestyle? 

In this post, I want to talk more about the strategies available to you to package yourself as a freelancer or employee. If you’re more interested in the family-focused aspect of going back to work, check out this post.

Tips for Getting a Job After Being a Stay-at-Home Mom

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The stakes are even higher if you’re rising up from the ashes of a divorce where you’ve been a stay-at-home mom for years and now you have to get back out there and provide for your family.

I get it. When my ex-husband and I split in 2008, I had been co-owner of two brick-and-mortar businesses for about two years. Before that, I was a stay-at-home mom for the previous seven years. We had a 12-year-old daughter and a five-year-old daughter when our household split in two, and I had to figure out what the heck I would do to make money (back then, companies weren’t keen on hiring ex-entrepreneurs like they are now.)

Often, it’s the case with married women, moms, and recently divorced women that you have to make a legitimate effort to figure yourself out again – take some time to sort of “remember” what you bring to the table. 

After getting divorced all those years ago, my long-time best friend, the late, great Ron Marshall Jr. was the first one to urge me to create an inventory of my skills to help me plan my future and get on with my life.

It’s not that I was stuck on stupid or that I didn’t have any plans for my future. But doing something as simple as writing down my hard and soft skills helped me to clearly and objectively see what my marketable skills were, which gave me a starting point.

So, as we focus on building a home-based business or finding a job you can work from home, or carving out a side hustle, or providing freelance services, let’s try to figure out just how valuable you are to the market.

We’re going to figure out how to translate “momming” into marketable skills. 

How Do You Figure Out Your Marketable Skills If You’ve Been a Stay-at-Home Mom?

As women (and especially as wives and mothers), it’s sometimes difficult to define our value succinctly. Being a mom and a wife is often a thankless job. And while we don’t necessarily seek praise, if we’re going to work from home, we need to be able to regularly take an inventory of our personal and professional assets and articulate them in a way that’s meaningful to employers and clients.

Your marketable skills are the value you bring to a company or client. If your goal is to go from being a stay-at-home mom to being a work-at-home mom, you have to be able to own up to who you are and chronicle what you’ve done.

Step #1: Write Down What You’ve Already Done

Okay, here’s your first exercise to do to prepare you for going back to work after being a stay-at-home mom. I want you to write down every job you’ve been paid to do, no matter what it was. It’s gonna take some focus to get this done. If it were me (and it was at one point), I would go year by year, instead of job by job.

I know that when I was 17, I was earning minimum wage as a bass player at a summer youth arts program in Detroit that paid kids to work together to put on a big show. What I remember most about that job is being surrounded by world-class musicians like the late, great Donald Walden, Francisco Mora (who taught my little brother to play drums even though my brother was only 10 and not even old enough to participate in the program), Pamela Wise, Kelvin Davis, and Damon Warmack. I auditioned on the bass – self-taught. I got in somehow. #shrug

I remember being 19 and working as a political canvasser, registering people to vote when I lived in Burbank. What I remember about that is eventually becoming the second in charge. This was also a somehow kinda thing. What the heck did I know about political canvassing at 19?

I remember being 21 and working for a music distribution company in Troy, MI, as the assistant to the global VP of HR – the only black person who wasn’t working in the basement (not kidding) – and being excited when acts like Hootie and the Blowfish, Barenaked Ladies, and one of the Iglesias boys came to perform for us. I also read my boss’s copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People and used the techniques in the book to forge peace between me and some of the more racist execs. #facts

This Is About Remembering Your Value!!

So, this exercise is about focus, sis. Going job by job, year by year, and recalling where you worked, which positions you held, and what job duties were.

More than that, it’s about you tapping into how you felt in your job, about your job, about your effectiveness, and about your future.

Start with your very first job and write down the following:

• Your title

• The name of the company at which you worked

• At least 4 duties of your job

The objective here is to get a real assessment of your experience and skillset by looking for the value you delivered in each position you’ve held, not just the ones that you thought were important enough to list on the most recent version of your resume.

Much like your personal life, the decision you made and outcomes you’ve delivered in your professional life tell a story of who you are.

How to list your duties: You may be tempted to cop-out. You may just want to list “cashiering” as a sole job duty then say, “That’s all I did; I can’t think of anything else.” When you’re tempted to do that, break down your job responsibilities.

For instance, cashiering involves customer service, product knowledge, knowledge of national SKU codes, counting the drawer, completing transactions… get my drift?

You can see a sample of what my version of this first exercise looks like by clicking here.

Step #2: Create a List of Quantifiable Achievements

On another sheet of paper, list one accomplishment you achieved while in each of the positions you listed. So for instance, let’s say you cashiered for a year and in all that time, your register came up short by a penny or a quarter or something twice. If you worked full time, five days a week, your accomplishment can be that during your service, you maintained 99% accuracy in reconciling your register at the end of your shift.

Or let’s say you had problems with 7 mean customers and you worked 260 days. 260 days, 7 challenging days… your customer satisfaction rate was something like 97%.  Quantify things whenever you can. But don’t make stuff up. The truth is always better. 

You can see a sample of what my version of exercise #2 looks like by clicking here.

Step #3: Remember and Document Your Other Interests

The last part of this exercise is to write down your education – formal and otherwise. These could be:

  • courses you’ve taken in college
  • trade schools you’ve attended
  • online certificates and degrees you’ve earned
  • hobbies and expertise (like gardening or exercise, or the fiber arts or putting together great outfits)
  • volunteering
  • internships
  • extracurricular activities
  • honors, awards, distinctions
  • anything you’re consistently good at doing

As I once heard Brian Tracy say, “Everything counts.”

Own Your Real-Life Experiences

Let me say this.  I read a lot of business blogs.  Many of them contain great information from women who have never been where some of us have been. I’ve worked beside C-level executives in Fortune 500 companies and I’ve also worked beside functional dope fiends who nod off while working.  Real life is not a sterile package wrapped in ‘corporate blue’ paper.  Real life shows up in a variety of colors.

This is a private exercise so when you do it, write down everything – things you’re proud of and the things you’d change if you could.  You don’t have to feel like your job history doesn’t cut the mustard. Not all experiences should be repeated, but all experiences have value.

You’re Probably Going to Laugh Out Loud at Some Point When You’re Doing This

When I did this exercise a few years ago, I remembered for the first time in years that I had been an elected public official! I once ran for office just to see my name on the ballot and people actually voted me into office.

Go ahead and LOL that one. It is HILARIOUS that people voted for me. (I was in my 20s back then. Please don’t hold that against me.)

Still, even though I did it for the sake of vanity, remembering that people had once elected me to a political office gave me pause.  It was one of those, “Wait… who am I really?” kinda moments. And you’d d better believe that is now an accomplishment that I sport in the Key Accomplishments section on my resume. But I had to do this exercise to even remember that had happened!

It’s going to take some time to get everything done. This isn’t a quick process. If you absolutely positively need to use your resume after your initial effort because you know you’ve missed things, do so. Stay with me. You’re about to see yourself in a whole new light and I promise you the trip is worth the effort.

Step #4: If You Have No Work Experience, Look for the Patterns

The next step is to look for patterns. Patterns are important because even if you don’t have a long work history, patterns will help you figure out what people value in you.

For instance, at the agency where I work, we have two teammates who are always unofficially in charge of our parties and get-togethers. They work well together and come up with really fun ideas like company Jeopardy and other fun, interactive games we can play over Zoom to facilitate team-building and still feel together even though our team is pretty global.

So, do you think it’s any surprise that they’re part of our creative strategy team charged with dreaming up cool ideas for our clients? Course not! Creative ideas are kinda their thing, and they get paid to share them with the world.

For me, I’ve always been a weirdo who does her own thing. I don’t follow trends. I’m always a little bit ahead of the trend by several months (not sure why). I like to find the offbeat stuff and make it my own. I’ve also always been the person who writes everything down. As a teenager, I would attend family reunions with a notebook on my lap. When when I watched awards shows, I would write down the names of the people who were thanked (because I assumed those were the important people) and keep track of names that came up often. In my free time, I wrote. A lot.

So, it makes sense that content marketing (which is big on identifying the trends that’ll be hot in a few months) is my day job, and freelance writer is my side hustle.

What patterns have you identified in yourself? In your behaviors? In the stuff you like? In the stuff you’re good at?

When you look at the list of jobs you’ve held, or your list of things you’re consistently good at doing, or that your church group or friends always put you in charge of, there are probably some pretty clear indicators that those are the qualities, skills, and proficiencies about you that people would pay you to provide.

Write down the skills and talents that people consistently rely on you for.

Step #5: Just for the Sake of Being Awesome, Write Down Your Beliefs, Values, and Missions, Too

What Do You Believe?

Google defines belief as “an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.” 

How important are your beliefs to your purpose? Can you pursue and achieve a dream you do not believe in? Yes, but would you really want to spend your finite, non-renewable time on earth working hard at something in which you do not believe?

So here’s the fork in the road, ladies: What do you believe? And do your beliefs align with your God-given vision for your life?  

Your beliefs are so important to your life, lifestyle, and purpose. What you believe about yourself, your abilities, your outcome and the world around you directly impact how you live your life every single day.

For many of us, we have the distinct privilege of being able to design a life that pretty closely resembles what we believe. If that’s you, don’t take that opportunity for granted. Many of the women in this world don’t have the same freedoms.  

You Need a Mission Statement… But What is a Mission Statement?

The best and clearest explanations I’ve ever read about crafting values and mission statements came from management expert and best-selling author Jack Welch. In his book Winning, Welch says your Mission Statement balances the possible and the impossible. It answers the following question:

“How do I intend to win [in this business]?”

How do you intend to go from stay-at-home mom to work-at-home mom? Or run a marathon by the time you’re 40? Or swap fat for muscle? By mapping out your plan to actually achieve the vision you have for your life, you can create a Mission Statement that is actionable, succinct, and POWERFUL. 

You Also Need to Clarify What Your Values Are

Your Values Statement supports your mission by detailing the behaviors you will use to fulfill your mission. These are your marching orders. And this is true whether you are writing values and missions for your company, your organization, or your life.  

Like goals, your mission and values will evolve over time. They are not one-and-done by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, when you sit down to write them, you will find crafting your mission and values require effort.

Thinking, planning, sorting, brainstorming, personal inventory, writing, and re-writing. But if you’re in this life to win, you will do the work.

Your Beliefs Affect Your Values and Mission

You cannot effectively define your mission and values without also identifying your beliefs. If what you want to see happen (your mission) does not line up with your current behaviors (values), you know you have to change your beliefs (truths).

It’s Time to Write

Let’s start with the mission. How do you intend to accomplish your mission to win in life? One of my missions is to help women become self-sufficient. I guess I could make that snazzier. 

My mission statement would probably be something like… Upskilled Mamas is an online resource committed to one tremendous goal: Providing timely information, practical training, useful resources, and actionable strategies to help one million women achieve self-sufficiency and wholeness.

My first draft of my Values Statement would include the following bullet points. 

  • Purge weekly to share what I’ve learned over the years.
  • Create and publish instruction manuals that help women boost their market value.
  • Always be candid and succinct, like a dude. Minimize back-rubbing and nurturing; focus on strategy and motivating women to take massive action.
  • Attack shame and doubt every chance you get.
  • Promote integrity every chance you get.
  • Be a woman. Never forget the importance of beauty, appearance and earring shopping. This isn’t the military.
  • Make time for and create opportunities to socialize and network to strengthen our community.

Now for the best part, the beliefs:

  • I believe my experiences are valuable.
  • I believe my intelligence is for the benefit of others, not just for collecting random knowledge.
  • I believe I am a gateway for information – input/output.
  • I believe a self-sufficient woman is scriptural.
  • I believe a confident woman chooses better husbands and succeeds as a wife.
  • I believe any woman can stop a cycle of dysfunction and redesign her life with the right instruction and inspiration.
  • I believe women need communities where they can do more than share and dote on each other – they need a place where they can go and work on themselves and better themselves.

Go From Being a Stay-at-Home Mom to a Work-From-Home Mom

It may take you a while to finish these lists, but it’s worth it to get a clear picture of where you are and what you can provide. If your dominant skills aren’t necessarily something you want to do every day, you can look at your soft skills to find identify other opportunities you may want to pursue.

For instance, if you’re organized and good with numbers, you could look into launching a freelance bookkeeping service even if you don’t have previous experience in this area. You can participate in online training programs to get the knowledge you need. And once you know a few things, you can bid on bookkeeping jobs on platforms like Upwork where bookkeeping is among the top-sought skills.

And the cool thing about becoming a certified bookkeeper is that in order to become certified, you have to get experience not the other way around. And trust me, many small businesses will pay you to provide for them a few hours a week.

So, take your time, and use this plan to identify the skills you’re best equipped to successfully market to clients and employers.