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15 Ways Stay-At-Home Parents Can Prepare To Go Back To Work

Originally Published on Forbes

Written By: Expert Panel, Forbes Coaches Council

Every day, around the world and across industries, professionals put their careers on hold to start a family. As the children grow up, many stay-at-home parents look forward to the day they can re-enter the workforce. However, after years away, not only has the business world likely shifted, but their experience and skills may be a bit stale.

How can stay-at-home parents prepare themselves for the best possible re-entry into the workforce? We asked entrepreneurs from Forbes Coaches Council to share their top tips for professionals getting ready to go back to work. Their answers are below.

1. Polish Your Skills

Once you have identified your new career target, identify any necessary skill and knowledge gaps. To address these, take a course via Lynda or Udemy, register for a certificate program and/or join a professional association. Even better, join two: one with people who “do what you do” (for example, SHRM for human resources professionals) and one with members who “need what you do” (for example, industry associations). - Laura M. Labovich, The Career Strategy Group

2. Arm Yourself

Connect with former colleagues and industry members to get a better understanding of the current standards of experience, technology and methodology. Armed with this information, you can make strategic decisions about additional steps you want to take regarding education, crafting your resume/professional brand and potentially taking on a few freelance opportunities to re-engage professionally. - Tonya Echols, Vigere

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3. Do Volunteer Work

Often underappreciated, volunteer work can assist a stay-at-home parent in keeping his or her skills sharp. Highlight any work that you have done and what skills you used, such as organization, leadership, planning, collaboration, project management, finance, etc. Be as active as possible in your professional organizations to keep your network warm and remain relevant in your target career. - Erin Urban, UPPSolutions, LLC

4. Get Social To Be Strategic

Engage fully with all of your social media platforms. Most enterprise software is moving in the direction of mimicking social media models. Research the trends in your employer’s industry and then take courses, watch videos and build your competency in addressing the current challenges facing your employer. Trust in your soft skills, as they are timeless, and your mojo will return quickly. - Carl Gould, 7 Stage Advisors

5. Use LinkedIn For A Good First Impression

Today, people often meet you online before they meet you in person. In the professional world, it is common to learn about someone on LinkedIn before a live conversation or a resume review. Creating or updating a professional LinkedIn page with an up-to-date headshot and summary section that highlights your value proposition will establish a professional impression right away. - Molly Walsh, Standout Consulting

6. Conduct A Listening Tour And Create A Development Plan

When you are trying to re-enter the workforce or pivoting to a new role, I suggest conducting a listening tour. Make a list of 10 to 15 leaders in the role and get on calls with them to understand the nuances of their role in the current market conditions. Start with your previous colleagues or network and ask for referrals, then create a development plan for yourself to build those new skills.  - Leanne Wong, True Talent Advisory

7. Do Your Research

The decision to go back to work is a significant one.  It includes time weighing pros and cons. During this period, a parent should not only think about the impact of going back to work on their children and family members, but engage in research on the industry they are returning to, trends in work environments (such as teleworking) and the ways industry can assist in the process. - David J. Smith, David Smith Career Coaching

8. Learn To Navigate The Internet

In the last decade, technological advancement has drastically changed the way things work in every industry. You need to be able to navigate the world of the internet and the possibilities it offers for revenue generation. The old-school way of doing business has been rendered outdated. You need to master the skill of reaching out to your target audience online, as a first step. The rest will follow. - Anjali Chugh, Cosmique Global Inc.

9. Don’t Sell Yourself Short

This worked for me. I had to convey four years as a stay-at-home mom into words potential employers could relate to. Being the household manager meant experience with budgeting, finances, strategic planning, execution, market research, interpersonal skills, using technology, working with subs and more. Have a friend help with this. It’s hard for most of us to capture all we bring to an employer. - Pamela Scott, Mentor Loft

10. Contract In Your Highest Talent First

When re-entering a workforce that has most likely changed since you took leave, try a contracted position first, especially a short-term one. You’ll have the opportunity to create an impact, get a fresh reference and reacquaint yourself with everything from technological shifts to ways of communicating and collaborating. Take another, and continue until you feel prepared to apply for and win full-time positions. - John Hittler, Evoking Genius

11. Keep Networking

Continue to research and understand who the key players are in your industry. Take the time to set up a few meetings with people who you would want to work with in the future. What will never change in the business world is that it is not what you know, but who you know. Establishing and maintaining warm relationships now could help you greatly in the future job search. - Angela Mulligan, Angela Mulligan Consulting and Coaching

12. Build Up Clarity And Confidence

The common problems my stay-at-home-parent clients face are lack of clarity about their career path and lost confidence. Clarity comes from knowing who you are, who you aspire to be and what the market needs. Taking tests like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or StrengthsFinder, doing deep reflection, conducting research, and talking to people help. Confidence comes from building a strong, unique case about yourself that sells. - Amy Nguyen, Happiness Infinity LLC

13. Focus On Your Strengths And Experiences

Regardless of how long you have been out of work, you have not been inactive. Your experiences shape you, your habit structures and skill set. Whether you have volunteered, helped out at your child’s school, joined a board, run charity events or taken care of an ailing parent, you have something to offer. Identify what skills and achievements transfer to the workplace and highlight them. - Brad Federman, F&H Solutions Group

14. Take Stand-Up Or Improv Classes

The biggest pitfall of coming back to work after a long leave is your decreased confidence. The ability to be assertive in high-stakes situations, such as important meetings, is like a muscle—it can get weaker with lack of practice. During my sabbatical, I took a stand-up course and went to open-mic nights. It was the scariest thing I could think of. When I came back to work, I was more confident than ever. - Caterina Kostoula, The Leaderpath

15. Don’t Apologize

When I re-entered the workforce after taking a year to stay home, it was brutal. I found myself apologizing and fumbling through interviews when I felt judged by employers. I began to stop apologizing and started showing how my time off made me a valuable asset and an eager candidate. I didn’t avoid the question—I charged into it and ended up with a role that was perfect. - Maresa Friedman, Executive Cat Herder

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