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How to return to work after staying at home to take care of family

Published: Thursday, Sept. 3 2015 4:02 p.m. MDT

Parents who have stayed at home for several years to care for family face an uphill battle when they want to return to work. Following these seven tips can help make a former at-home parent a better prospect for employment. (shutterstock.com) Parents who have stayed at home for several years to care for family face an uphill battle when they want to return to work. Following these seven tips can help make a former at-home parent a better prospect for employment. (shutterstock.com)

If you left the work force for a few years to take care of your family and now you're ready to go back, you might be nervous about how you can impress a prospective employer.

You haven't worked outside the home for a long time. You've got some skills, but the ones that appeal to an employer are buried beneath years of dirty dishes. You've checked the classifieds, but they all ask for experience and references, and you don't have much of either. You aren't sure how employers will feel about the big gap in your résumé. Maybe you aren't even sure you want to work in the same type of job as the one you left.

If a return to work is in your future, here are some strategies to consider:

  • Figure out what you really want to do, what you're good at, and how you can build on the education and experience you already have. If you're not sure what you want to do, your nearest LDS employment center is a good place to start. There are also some great books to help you figure out where your passion lies (I recommend "What Color Is Your Parachute?"). Don't forget to look online. If you Google "career personality test," you'll find more websites than you'll ever have time to visit.
  • Make connections. Tell everyone you know, both in person and through social media, that you're looking for work in a specific field. Adobe currently finds about half of its new hires through LinkedIn. Posting your profile is smart, but to boost your social media power, join groups and follow companies you're interested in working for. An acquaintance may not know of a job opening, but he or she might know someone who does.
  • Volunteer strategically. Find a volunteer position that's related to the position you want. This will increase and update your skills, provide you a bigger network of people in the field, allow you to help others and could eventually translate into a paid position. Volunteering is especially helpful if you're not ready to commit to a job yet — volunteer positions generally require less time than paid ones.
  • Invest in yourself. Going back to school can pay off later on. You might find a program with evening or online classes (check your school's website), and you might even find financial assistance if you look carefully. U.S. citizens and permanent residents may be eligible for Pell grants — there is no age limitation on these grants, and they don't have to be repaid. Many colleges and universities offer a range of scholarships, so check to see which ones you qualify for.
  • Attend seminars, job fairs and other events for your prospective industry. Is there a group in your area for people who are looking for work? Does your alumni association have groups close by or online? Read up on the latest developments, both for your industry and for the specific company you want to work for before you interview.
  • Don't limit yourself. Don't downplay your abilities, your education or your time at home. Even if your decisions have not given you direct job experience, they've helped your personal development. Think carefully about what you've learned from your schooling, paid work, volunteer work, church work and parenting and how those skills could apply to a work setting. Be sure to phrase them in businesslike terms.
  • Get inspired by other people's success stories.
  • Going back to work after staying at home might require some preparation on your part. But if you're willing to take the time and effort, you can plan on finding the job that's right for you.

    Kaylie Astin's website, www.familyfriendlywork.org, is a resource to help people find a way to balance their work and family lives. The site helps employees, students, and business people identify workplace solutions and implement them.

    Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company