I left the workforce to care for my newborns. How do I get back in?
After I gave birth to twins, I tried to go back to work, but since my husband worked on the North Slope and considered his weeks off as OFF, this left me working full days and then handling housework and the twins for my “off” time. Between that, the difficulty of lining up care for when the twins got sick and couldn’t go to day care, and the cost of child care for two, made me decide to become a full-time at-home mother.
Fast forward a few years and I’m more than ready to go back to work. I love my kids but at-home motherhood has me climbing the walls and longing for adult conversation. I’ve had four interviews and no job offers. The interviewers turn icy when I answer their predictable first question about the three-year gap on my resume.
I try to warm things up by answering all their unspoken questions, but nothing I say works. It’s clear they think I’m not “work-oriented” because I left the workforce for three years, that I’ll ask for sick days anytime my kids are sick (I won’t, I have a neighbor who comes into my home with her child) and I’m a basket case because I’ve spent the last year getting divorced. What can I say to show I’m more than ready to return to work so they give me a chance?
When you’re asked questions in a job interview that relate to personal life, the less you say the better you’ll do. You’re apparently sharing too much if your divorce has come up. How about “I had a once-in-a-lifetime personal challenge, and am now very ready to commit to a job and an employer.” If you’re asked what that challenge was, answer briefly, “Twins, for whom I now have reliable in-home care,” and then move past your work hiatus into what you offer an employer.
Show you’re ready to return to work by preparing for your next interview. Research the employer so you can speak specifically to how much you want to work for them. Bring letters of reference — a common mistake applicants make is listing references on a resume or worse, noting “references available” when strong recommendation letters delivered at the interview make a more powerful sale. If you’re up to speed on recent changes in your industry or have maintained crucial certifications, explain that. You can also show you’ve stayed in the work world by taking relevant courses from one of the online sites such as Coursera.com, Lynda.com or Udemy.com.
Finally, Alaska laws ban discrimination based on parenthood or changes in marital status, so if you fix your part of this hiring problem and still don’t get a job, you might visit the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission or the Alaska Commission on Human Rights.
© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ”Beating the Workplace Bully” and ”Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm The Growth Company Inc. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at www.bullywhisperer.com.