Been home raising a family? Don’t be embarrassed about it

Dear Joan:
I have been out of the work force for seven years, raising my children.

Before I quit, I had a good office job in a good company. I was a responsible worker who always did more than was expected.

With my youngest entering school this fall, I have started to turn my thoughts to finding a job. Frankly, it scares me to death.

I don't know where to begin looking and I'm not sure I'd even be considered without recent experience. How do I begin? Are temporary agencies the key? Will my age be a problem? (I'm 36.) Am I unrealistic to want more responsibility than when I left?

You may not believe this, but your lack of confidence will hurt you more than your lack of recent experience.

Because re-entering men and women have been out of the work world for a period of time, they expect employers to choose them only as a last resort. Only too often is this a self-fulfilling prophecy. Frequently, their own lack of self-esteem gets them into trouble.

Comments like, "I haven't really done anything for the past seven years," "I'll take anything you have available," "I've just been a homemaker," are self-effacing and death in an interview.

In addition, people who are frequently rejected in these situations are inclined to take it personally and use it to reinforce these negative beliefs.

Finally, re-entry women expect female employers to shun them or to automatically point them in the direction of the bottom of the ladder because they haven't "paid their dues" by working without interruption.

Although you are at a disadvantage in some respects, and some employers will require more recent on-the-job experience, there are may employers who would welcome someone with your attributes.

The three tricks are:

·        Turn your liabilities into assets.
For example, your age (though not a liability in most cases) can become an asset if you mention that your children are in school and you now want to devote your energy to your job.

·        Emphasize dependability, initiative and maturity of judgment. For instance, "When I was younger I didn't really know what I wanted to do or what my talents are. During my sabbatical, I took a variety of courses and did extensive reading. I now feel I know who I am and what I want."

·        Analyze your non-work experience and translate it to the work place. Draw comparisons between your volunteer work, hobbies, parenting, etc., and the job to which you're applying. For a customer-service job, for example, "I was frequently asked to be a teacher's assistant on field trips to public places because of my ability to maintain control with humor, sensitivity and mediation skills."

Another example: "I've always been organized. In fact, I volunteered as the coordinator for a Christmas bazaar involving 35 crafts people. I organized and directed publicity to the media, floor planning, refreshments and procurement and financial control. The bazaar was so successful, I was asked to coordinate it every year after that."

Don't forget your past jobs. Employers will want to know how well you did. If you have saved old performance appraisals or can remember specific compliments, quote from them in cover letter and interviews.

Brush up on any rusty skills by taking classes or doing volunteer work.

Build a strategy for marketing yourself.

After determining what your skills are and the kind of work you'd like to do, consider where you might find a good opportunity.

Because you're interested in more responsibility than you had before, consider the following.

Smaller companies are a good place to look. They are usually more willing to take "risks" on someone without extensive experience as long as the person is ambitious and dependable.

They usually don't have many layers of management, which means more visibility and opportunity for a hard worker. Job descriptions and degree requirements are often more flexible, allowing easier entry and varied, generalist experience on the job.

Many re-entry employees begin in a smaller organization and job-hop as their skills get more specialized. This is much safer if your progression is logical, if you leave for more responsibility, salary or opportunity.

If you decide you want a large organization, joining a professional organization will be very helpful. Many companies pay their employees' memberships so there will be many potential contacts for you to develop. You will be able to demystify the large companies by asking people what they do, what people in certain positions earn (re-entry individuals often underprice themselves), what qualities and experiences are required.

By listening to members' success stories and frustrations you will learn they have some of the same fears that you do! They can be a source of unadvertised job leads, they can examine your credentials and provide advice and support.

In the meantime, temporary agencies are excellent for honing skills examining working environments and building credentials.

As you develop your strategy, your confidence will grow. Once you have that, the rest will come easy.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
About Joan Lloyd
Joan Lloyd & Associates provide
FREE subscription to receive Joan's article by email

Email Joan to submit your question for consideration for publication, request permission to reprint an article for distribution, or for information about carrying Joan Lloyd's weekly column in your publication, or on your Internet or Intranet site. Visit to search an archive of more than 1700 of Joan's articles.
© Joan Lloyd & Associates, Inc.