For some women looking to re-enter the workforce, a full-time, stable job with benefits is the only path back.
For others, re-entry needs to involve part-time, home- or project-based work.
It’s no secret that the latter group is often made up of moms who need opportunities that allow them to reignite their careers in the framework of their lives. Forty-two percent of parents, according to Pew research say that the best thing for a young child is to have a mother who works part-time.
What’s more, according to 2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, though women account for less than half of total US payroll employment, they make up two-thirds of people employed part-time. And while many are working part-time because this is the only work they can find, other statistics point to a gender divide. Indeed.com found that women account for 63% of the clicks on part-time jobs on the site.
Of course this begs a question: How do these women find such opportunities?
For answers, we turned to Cheryl Casone, Fox Business reporter and anchor, and author of “The Comeback: How Today’s Mom’s Re-Enter the Workplace Successfully,” who interviewed dozens of women who have returned in some capacity to work, for a look at the strategies and challenges of women seeking part-time work.
First, why did part-time work make sense for the women you talked to?
A common theme I found among the moms interviewed was their realization rather quickly that going back to their chosen career was either a.) much tougher than they planned or b.) not a viable option. One mom was a news producer in her “B.C” life [before children] but knew that going back to the newsroom full time was not what she wanted, and her children were more important.
What are some of the strategies these women used to find these types of opportunities?
So many experts talk about work/life balance, but I wanted to dig deeper into the mechanics of how these women “created” opportunities for themselves because many in fact did. Let’s focus on the mom who knows that going back full-time isn’t possible. Those are the moms that made the most out of their social networks and connections. You may think of networking as sitting at a boring cocktail party in a hotel conference room eating stale cheese, but that’s not the path many of the women took. Instead, they began from home, utilizing naptime to increase their social network, and for some to create one from scratch. By creating their digital footprint via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for instance, they were able to start connecting to the world from home.
In your book you talk about “out of the box” places to network in person, like the pediatricians office, you kids’ school and the local Chamber of Commerce. Why are these places especially strategic?
We often don’t think of the places we go to accomplish the mundane things we do in our everyday lives, as places to connect professionally. But, CEOs and business leaders are “just like us” and they go to Starbucks, pick up their dry cleaning, have to buy groceries. The thinking at places like your pediatrician’s office or the Chamber, is that someone who has a connection or is the connection for your comeback, could be right in front of you.
The key is to identify what type of work you want to do, especially if you are going to work on a freelance basis. You have to have a clear idea of what your “title” is going to be: graphic artist, physical therapist, or accountant, for example. Once you have a title for yourself, you begin the process of speaking out loud at play dates about what you are looking to do, and perusing your social network to find others that are doing what you want to do.
Others, like the News Producer, took the opposite tack: choosing the role based on the network you already have.
She used the strategy above using social media to stay connected while at home, and once her kids had some independence, she was able to start seeking out clients as a PR professional. Luckily, she had kept up with those in her field — myself included — so when she began to reach out to her former colleagues to pitch her corporate clients, it was an easy transition. She was never out of the game, and she changed the game to fit what was best for her and her family.
What sacrifices do these women encounter?
Many women were surprised to learn they were not able to go back to their original title or salary, and several had to take jobs that were lesser than the jobs they left. However, many Moms that took that path — taking a lower position — found that they shined at the office, and were quickly promoted because they had experience their younger colleagues did not.
And on the homefront?
The sacrifice and the lesson my moms had to learn: forgive yourself. You are not going to be at every game, event, party, and you shouldn’t demand that of yourself.
Many argue that part-time/project-based workers are more productive than full-timers. What’s behind this?
The moms I spoke to were all incredible multi-taskers. If you can balance driving, a crying child, a car seat, and a diaper bag, you have that down already. Trust those same skills will translate when you go back to work. A note of caution: I did find many of the moms that chose to go back part–time found that it a misnomer, and they ended up putting in more hours then they planned to do.