I’ve been there – moving from corporate life to the life of a stay at home parent. Spending my days reveling in every second of my kids’ lives, decorating my home floor to ceiling for holidays, over-volunteering my time. And then my life’s path took a very sharp turn. I found myself reentering the working world years before I had planned to do so.
My experience as a photographer taught me the power of networking; my entire client base was based off of referrals. In fact, I can thank the power of networking for every job I have ever had throughout my career.
So I brushed off the dust on my resume. Got to work on my LinkedIn profile. Set up job alerts on Indeed and FlexJobs. Joined key Facebook groups. And then I started talking. I told anyone who would listen that I was on the job search. It didn’t matter if they were friends, family or the local coffee barista; they all were keenly aware of my search and keeping their ears and eyes open for me.
So my advice, after being in your shoes and successfully finding my way back into the corporate world – talk, network, reach out. It is so easy these days given all the means we have to communicate with each other. In fact, I stumbled upon my current position, my dream job, by networking through an old friend. And through the power of social media, I was able to find out that the hiring manager’s husband and I went to the same university. Not only did knowing that make the first interview easier on both of us, but it made me a bit more memorable in her eyes.
Now, after my 10 year hiatus, I have resurrected my career at Dell and my life’s path is much brighter. I have a rewarding job and a flexible working environment that helps me balance work with my home life.
The added bonus? My network continues to grow. I have met a number of women like me, who took time away from their careers for one selfless reason or another. And, like me, they found a place at Dell and a perspective to share. These inspirational women were more than willing to share their wise words with others who find themselves facing the uncertainty of reentering an ever-progressing workforce.
Vice President in Dell Legal, Mary Hamaker, took 2 years off during her son’s early years.
Be confident and don’t let anyone tell you that you’re somehow “damaged goods” because you’ve taken a break (that happened to me). Maintain, and if possible, extend your network while on leave, even if only via social media. Let people know when you’re planning to return, what you’re looking for and ask them to keep you in mind. Have a few in-person meetings with people in your network who may be well-connected in an industry where you want to land.
Stacey Moore (below), IT Product Owner: Customer Master Data Management, left her career to support her husband’s, which moved them from Texas to Copenhagen, Denmark for 3.5 years.
I was anxious that I was not going to be able to find the right balance upon returning back to work full time. Don’t be worried though, you can and will find a good balance. Dell, from the very top level, supports work/life balance and a flexible work schedule. In my team, this is further supported at a management level. As long as you work hard and focus at work to keep up with your job responsibilities, you can do your job around the things that are most important to you at home. It does require a lot of organization and discipline, but it is very possible and fulfilling.
Dell Human Resources Business Partner, Kristen Tuohey, took 5 somewhat loud years off from her career to stay at home with her two young sons.
Don’t let your self-doubt take over. Don’t look at your time away as a time when you’re “losing skills”. You are learning/gaining new skills that are completely transferable. And if you’ve ever spent your days caring for two rambunctious kids, you should know that you’re really ready for anything the workforce has to throw at you.
Rebecca Bales, Dell Sales Strategy and Planning, left her career at Dell to tend to her ailing father for 3 years.
Do not under value the time you have spent away. Look to create a list of the experiences you had during your time away and leverage those when determining your special set of skills. This effort will help you in positioning your capabilities for your new role or when interviewing. Do not apologize for this time. Be proud of your accomplishments, the impact this has had on your family and leverage your inner strength. It is tough to make the decision to leave the safety and security of what we know. I encourage you to venture into the unknown with a passionate approach to whatever life brings.
Laura Schmuelgen, Regional Product Manager Support & Deployment Product Group, took 8 years from her full time career to be a stay-at-home mom.
Somewhere along the way – I learned how to take a step back and see the big picture. I’ve come to the conclusion that the right choice is very individual and the worst critics of your choices are often because they are grappling with their own conflicting decisions. I felt criticized when I worked – when I stayed home – and when I chose to return to work. It’s given me a perspective about life in general, empathy and respect for different choices others make. It did take time for me to build back the confidence that I was as good – if not better than when I left the workforce.
The key takeaways from these women that have walked in your shoes – don’t discount your network as a source for opportunities, and believe in your skills and what you have to offer. All our life’s paths take different turns, some expected, some unexpected. Taking the first step on your new path is the only way to see where it leads.