April 17, 2009
Stay-at-homes now work to find jobs
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Jeanette Flint has spent the last 18 years at home with her children, trading mechanical engineering for volunteer work at school and in the community. Now, college tuitions and a deep recession loom — and for the first time in nearly two decades, Flint is looking for a job.
"It's time for me to have my career again," said Flint, 48, who lives in Marvin, N.C., 20 miles south of Charlotte. "With the economy, it gives my husband some relief that all the pressure is not on him."
A growing number of stay-at-home parents are re-entering the work force, many feeling they can no longer afford to go without a paying job. Many are opting to work from home, launching online businesses and blogs, while others are looking for traditional work, heading to networking groups and job fairs armed with résumés.
Those employment seekers are facing one of the toughest job markets in years and the same challenges as others coming back after time off, whether it was a leave of absence or retirement: Openings are scarce, and employers are often skeptical of gaps in work history.
Still, many say it's worth the struggle to supplement family income or make up for a spouse's lost salary.
Tips for re-entering
Play up your past skills. Look for ways to show employers you can produce revenue or reduce costs, and think of examples of doing that in the past.
Focus your résumé on your past work experience, but don't be afraid to mention certain skills and accomplishments from your time at home. If you took time off for a special circumstance, such as caring for a sick spouse or child, mention that.
Create a short résumé, no more than a page, to entice employers to interview you. You could beat out more experienced candidates if you connect with the employer.
Rely on networking: Don't just submit résumés online.
Look for jobs that pay enough to cover day-care costs, or look for evening or part-time work.
Keep your job skills fresh. Instead of completely checking out of the work force when you have children, join networking sites online, volunteer and maintain professional contacts.
"Families realize that having two earners is definitely an economic hedge against real poverty," said Mary Hickey, deputy editor of the national magazine Parents.
While employment statistics don't track the number of stay-at-home parents among the job seekers, recruiters and networking groups report more and more of them.
One job hunter described her stay-at-home duties as "transportation supervisor" and "labor negotiator," said Bill Crigger, president of Compass Career Management Solutions, who also leads a networking group.
He advises job seekers trying to re-enter the work force to play up their skills and rely on networking rather than online applications. Others say broadening the search can be key, and that job seekers should keep an open mind.
"Obviously, the timing is not the best," said Jim Ginther, a recruiter with Worldwide Executive Search. "However, there are certain positions they can go after."
At Mom Corps, an Atlanta staffing company for job seekers looking for flexible positions, the volume of candidates is about the same, but the reasons for seeking work has changed, Chief Executive Allison O'Kelly said.
In the past, most were just looking for extra income. According to a recent survey of the 500 most recent Mom Corps applicants, 63 percent of respondents cited the economic crisis as their reason for returning to work.
It's been tough going for Timisha Daniels, 25, who quit her job as a medical assistant when her son was born 10 months ago. At the time, the economy was "kind of OK," and it made more sense to stay home than to pay for day care, she said.
When things took a turn for the worse, Daniels and her husband sold a car and downgraded their cable service, and Daniels started looking for a job. Now, with her husband recently laid off, she's putting in two to five applications a day.
"The biggest thing is hanging in there, and don't give up," she said. "I kind of wish I would have just stayed at my job, but we didn't know how bad it was going to get."
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