By Romi Lassally
Four years ago, I decided it was time to get back to work. Money -- and a general malaise seeping into my career girl soul -- compelled me to jump from the mommy track to the career track. I assumed intention was half the battle and work would be awaiting me. Ahhh. The best laid plans.
The reality was this: I was 42 years old and I’d been on hiatus for the last ten years to raise my kids. How would I convert years of baby wrangling, PTA and carpool into meaningful work? I was paralyzed by “I’m not qualified for anything” self doubt.
I was not alone. Throngs of women were entering this new transitional life stage of “on-ramping” (or what I’m coining “momramping.”) When I’d left the executive ranks in the film business, I hadn’t anticipated a return. I’d packed up my boxes and headed home as if it was the final frontier. And then, there I was -- ten years older and supposedly wiser, yet woefully unprepared for the minefield of challenges that awaited me. It was awful.
After six months of soul searching, awkward interviews, an unpaid internship, favor-asking, networking and, ultimately, complete reinvention, I found my way not only to a job, but to a new career I love as author and founder of www.truuconfessions.com, a network of sites for women.
Today, it’s much more the rule than the exception for moms to return to the workforce. And there's an ever-growing list of practical resources for re-entry. But there’s also a lot NOT written about women doing the on-ramping dance -- the dirty little secrets and scrappy solutions about how we get through this anxiety addled, yet oddly exhilarating time.
So I'm sharing some of the invaluable advice and insight I found along the way:
1) Self doubt is the rule, not the exception. Resist that ugly, destructive inner voice saying -- “Are you kidding? You’re old. No one will hire you.” Once I accepted that my age was a plus, prospective employers believed it too. Even going into a very young business, being a grown-up is an advantage, not a handicap.
2) You may feel as if you've failed before you started if you look at the list of things you SHOULD HAVE done when you left the workforce. But you haven't... (More on this to come....)
3) Know thyself -- or more likely, get to know thyself again. REALLY think about what you want to do, what you're good at, and what's realistic. You don't want to go from 0-60 (hours a week, that is). See if you can start slow. Don't panic if the first job doesn't work out. (Mine didn't.) Get back on the horse.
4) You won't want to ask for help. But you have to. Unless you have a long list of job leads, you have to reach out to friends, family and anyone within a 25 mile radius. I got over this hurdle, set up as many informational interviews as I could find, and discovered that most people were very accommodating. Frankly, they were flattered to be asked to talk about themselves.
5) There is no room for “Mother” on your resume. Some may disagree -- believing you can anoint yourself a “Chief Household Officer” in that gaping hole between your last paying gig and the present. I would forgo this doctoring. Instead, take advantage of the new, generalist resume format. Instead of that old chronological scroll, you get the chance to list your skills, not your last job.
6) If there isn’t a job, try to create one. This was the internship route I took. For many, this is more of a luxury option. But if you can afford it, it’s invaluable to see the inner workings of a new business, and it’s hard for people to turn down free labor.
7) This time -- if you do stop working, heed the advice you didn’t know to heed before -- keep one foot in the door and stay connected and up on your business. Unless you win the lottery, there’s a good chance you’re going to be working again. This time you’ll be well armed.
8) Pass it on. Help another mother make her way through the on-ramping maze.
Romi Lassally is the founder of www.Truuconfessions.com and author of True Mom Confessions: Real Moms Get Real. Follow her on Twitter.