Re-entering the Workforce After Being a Stay-At-Home Parent

Ruchi Tandon says successful re-entry pivots on preparation and planning
Ruchi Tandon, University Collaborations Manager, Corning Inc.
Ruchi Tandon, University Collaborations Manager, Corning Inc.

There’s a lot to plan for when deciding to re-enter the workforce after being a stay-at-home parent. The level of preparation depends on the time between the previous job and the entry back into the job market. Plans would also look different if you are staying in the same field of specialization versus making a significant career change. In either case, it is important to understand the job requirements and the family commitments for achieving sustainable work-life balance. Here are some things to consider.

  • Assess what matters the most—preparation and planning is crucial: Preparation to enter the workforce should begin several months in advance. Evaluate where the needs are most crucial—both on the family and job front. It is likely that family commitments for the first few months may need to be prioritized. If that is the case, consider pacing into the new job—negotiate a part-time role at the beginning. With the growing popularity of hybrid roles, negotiating a flexible schedule may be possible. This will allow you to ease into the new role and place you for success both personally and professionally. As you prepare for a new role, take stock of your past achievements and skills. This helps build confidence and helps assess whether any new skills need to be acquired. It may be helpful to work with a career consultant or coach to utilize their knowledge and connections and learn about “hidden” opportunities.

  • Refresh or grow your professional network—reach out to your connections: It is possible that during a break from work, staying connected with professional colleagues took a back seat. As a parent, finding time to invest in professional connections may be difficult and may feel unimportant. But do what you can and continue to foster strong connections with colleagues. Establish and grow your network via professional sites such as LinkedIn. Advertise that you are open to working and looking for opportunities. Colleagues from previous jobs could be a great resource if you are considering going back to the previous organization. 

  • Be kind to yourself and focus on what you can control: Adopt a positive attitude when looking for a job and be aware that getting hired after a gap may take some time. It will of course depend on the job market and the area of specialization on how swiftly the opportunity materializes, but rejection does not mean you are not valued. Focus on your strengths and what you can control such as continuing to update skills that are attractive to hiring managers. Take frequent breaks from the job-search process as it can be all-consuming—and draining—and use this time to assess if any changes need to be made to your job-search strategy. 

  • Build a strong support system and don’t be afraid to reach out for help: Invest your time in building a solid support system of family, friends, and colleagues. Do not hesitate to ask for help from immediate family and friends as you plan for and enter the workforce. We all need support from our loved ones from time to time. They can provide strength and help you stabilize if you are feeling overwhelmed.

This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.

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