Stay-at-Home Moms Need a Career Plan

Consider freelancing, volunteering, or telecommuting while you're out of the office.

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Today's guest post is by Sharon Reed Abboud, author of All Moms Work: Short-Term Career Strategies for Long-Range Success:

Becoming a stay-at-home mom doesn’t necessarily mean bringing your career to a screeching halt. The possibility looms, however, if you don’t maintain your network and keep current with your industry. Stay-at-home moms are advised to keep their career in motion, even if at a slower speed, by devising a short-term career strategy of volunteering, working part-time, telecommuting, consulting, or starting a business. Any of these endeavors will enable a mom to keep her resume up-to-date so that she will be able to successfully transition back to work at a future date.

Network wisely. Stay-at-home moms can keep their career in motion by maintaining their networks. It is advisable to establish an online presence on business and social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. You also need to get out of the house from time to time to network in person. It is advisable to join or keep up with your memberships in industry associations—and go to meetings whenever possible.

Keep Up-to-Date. Whatever your industry, keeping current is essential. Stay-at-home moms should read professional journals, industry press, and blogs. If necessary, you may want to take a class or two. Some moms use their time at home to finish their college education or get an advanced degree. One possibility is to complete an online or on-site certificate program at a college or university. Certificate programs exist in many career fields and can enable a stay-at-home mom to get up-to-date with her industry—or have the qualifications to make a career change to segue into another field.

Build your resume by volunteering. As a stay-at-home mom, you are probably being asked to volunteer at your children’s school, and help with activities such as sports and scouting. To keep your resume fresh, you may want to “volunteer strategically” by taking on volunteer assignments some of the time that are relevant to your career goals. You may, for example, want to volunteer on a fundraising committee for your children’s sports activity if you are a fundraising professional. Volunteer activities are an excellent way to build your resume and expand your network of contacts.

Consider part-time as a possibility. For some primarily stay-at-home moms, working part-time is a way to continue with their career, while still having a significant amount of time at home. Working part-time can enable you to build your resume, maintain your network, and, well—get out of the house. Part-time jobs can be difficult to find, however. It is usually easiest to find a part-time job if you are able to reduce your hours at your current place of employment. But that said, an increasing number of employers nationwide are hiring part-time professionals from the upstart.

Join the telecommuting tidal wave. Telecommuting, also termed “teleworking,” can be an excellent option for some stay-at-home moms. Opportunities for telecommuting are increasing at a rapid pace. WorldatWork, a national not-for-profit human resources organization, estimates that there will be 100 million US teleworkers by 2010. By telecommuting, you can work on a part-time or full-time basis from your home office. The good news is that you will be able to eliminate your commute and manage your own time. The caveat is that you will still most likely need to have childcare. Telecommuting jobs are readily available in some industries and for some types of jobs. The key is that these jobs do not require you to have a lot of face time with other staff. As with part-time professional jobs, many, but not all, telecommuting jobs tend to be given to people who already work at that company.

Consult or freelance. Some stay-at-home moms keep their career in motion by consulting, freelancing, or working as an independent contractor for a company or organization. By consulting, you can continue earning income and building your career. Consulting can be done on a part-time or full-time basis, and, in most cases, from home. As a consultant, you are running your own business, so you must be prepared to market your services to find clients.

Start a Business. Entrepreneurship is the bridge that many stay-at-home moms use to maintain their skills and their resume for eventual re-entry. Many moms grow successful businesses and never go back to the traditional workforce. But, as with consulting, owning a business is not for the risk intolerant. Many stay-at-home moms start small home businesses when their children are very young, and then build their businesses as the children get older and are in school full day.

Blog or teach. Blogging about an industry can enable a mom to keep current with that industry and establish an Internet presence. (Try searching your name on Google. Ideally, you want to have some matches for your name related to your industry and career goals.) Other options include teaching continuing or adult education classes, or becoming a professional speaker.

But I Don’t Have Time! If you are a new stay-at-home mom with an infant, you may not have the time to build your career. But, even though it may not seem like it now, as time goes by, you will have more available time. To keep your credentials fresh, it is important to develop a career strategy for your time at home. The results will pay off when you try to re-enter the workforce. By taking some of these steps, you will likely be able to cruise back into the workforce, without decelerating on your career course.

Previous posts by and about Abboud:

  • The Challenges (and Rewards) of Part-Time Work
  • Creative Ways to Combine Work & Family