Do you want to go back to work with purpose? Do you wish to balance family time with meaningful work?

If you answer yes to either of these questions, it is important to start with why.

Why you want to work will dictate where you look for work. Ask yourself: Are you seeking connection, fulfillment, recognition or income? A great way to analyze the “why” in your objectives is to use the transformation job pyramid.


Diagram from Peak, How To Get Your Mojo from Maslow by Chip Conley

MONEY: At the base of this transformational job pyramid is the level of Job. Think: job equals money. Sometimes we just plain need to work to provide for our family’s needs. If this is where you are, then embrace this phase and know that you are looking for a job.

RECOGNITION: The next level is Career. Think: career equals recognition. Many at home parents reenter the workforce to find more recognition for their daily work than they find at home. A career gives you a sense of belonging to a particular field or industry and an office environment further instills a sense of community.

MEANING: Finally, at the top of the transformational job pyramid is passionate work. Think: purposeful, passionate work equals  meaning. This work is simply the action of your true nature. It is an expression of you and will feel easeful and joyful while doing it.

Children engage in purposeful work all the time with passion and inspiration. When you give a child a meaningful task they often rise to the occasion and are pleased with their result. This pleasure comes from the inside, not external rewards. They are working because they are a part of the family and a larger society. This “meaningful work” mindset is what we need to engage when we think about returning to work or creating new opportunities.

If it is meaning you seek as you return to work, try thinking through these next three steps to create your strategy:

Step 1 – Define Your Terms

The first step in finding work that works for you is to define your terms. Start by carving out some uninterrupted time and get specific and creative with your terms. Imagine a time when you felt empowered and engaged with your work. You can reach as far back as childhood or perhaps a recent project to find a time when you felt a sense of flow and all other things seemed to fall away.

When you are immersed in this sense of flow, ask yourself the following questions:

1. What does you ideal day look like?
2. What is your ideal work environment?
3. Who do you want to work with/for/in service of?
4. Are you more inspired working in a group of people or by yourself?
5. Do you prefer working in a natural setting or a posh office?
6. What kind of time commitment are you interested in?
7. How much flexibility to you need and want?
8. How far are you willing to commute?
9. Do you want to work on projects or a contract basis?
10. Do you want or need to leave work behind when you get home?

Defining your terms before you go back to work will help you to practice creating your future from the inside out. The more specific you are in defining your ideal work situation, the more successful you will be in attaining it. This is not to say that the perfect environment will appear as soon as you define it, but it will give you a roadmap for what you are looking for. For me, my terms and environment, and what truly inspires me is in working for myself while surrounded by other vibrant entrepreneurs and big thinkers.

Step 2 – Activate Your Network

The next step in reentering the workforce is to activate your network. Spread the word about your intentions to go back to work with emphasis on your terms. Don’t be afraid to let people know that you intend to work part-time or from home.

If you are feeling a bit lost, start by identifying with a few role models. Who are the people that you know that work and have a balanced personal and family life? I like to think of these role models in the context of masters and apprentices. Seek out two or three of these masters and undertake an informal apprenticeship. Invite them to lunch or a play date and ask them how they balance everything. Women love to help each other and masters love to teach.

Step 3 – Update Your Skills

Finally, you may need to update your skills or get the training and education you need to be competitive in the marketplace. This initial outlay of time and money may create an invaluable path to reentering a career. This choice demonstrates that you are committed to your field and to yourself. As you put yourself out there through training and networking, you are more likely to attract the kind of job that will fulfill your needs.

Defining your terms, activating your network and updating your skills will give you a strategy for reentering the workforce.

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