Stay-at-home mothers who have never been employed or who have not been on a payroll in a long time will find that the climate of the working world has changed significantly over the past ten years. Women have made great strides, from middle management on through to corporate boardrooms. It is important for all women to be cognizant of these changes – to better use them advantageously – before embarking on reentry into today’s workforce.
Employers are more open-minded than ever toward hiring women in general. Labor shortages in some industries have contributed to this attitudinal change. Also, employers cannot ignore that the majority of associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees are now earned by women.
In general, women are joining the workforce in record numbers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the labor participation rate of women over the age of 25 has doubled within the past 25 years. As more and more companies adopt childcare options, flexible work schedules, and telecommuting programs, that percentage will increase.
Women are also making steady gains in Fortune 500 companies, both in rank and salary. The ascension of general counsel Angela F. Braly, who takes the reins as chief executive officer of Fortune 50 health benefits provider WellPoint Inc. on June 1st, may be indicative of a growing trend. A new report shows that the percentage of outgoing CEOs replaced by women increased 11 percent in 2006, and so far the upward trend appears to be continuing in 2007.
Given these changes, women entering the workforce for the first time, or reentering after years of child rearing, need to adjust with the changing economic times and adopt the attitude of a jobseeker who has been with the same company for the past 20 or 30 years.
Prospecting for Practical Experience
Women searching for a position who lack work-for-pay experience and/or a college degree should take heart. Employers today look at all practical experience. An applicant who has served as PTA president, for example, is going to have managerial and organizational skills that apply to today’s business environment. Any volunteer work in civic agencies or private charities is considered practical experience by hiring executives.
Take time to sort out the practical experience you have before embarking on the journey to secure a position. One way is to take a personal inventory of experiences gathered away from the working world. Write out in detail a history of what you did during your time spent out of the workforce. Do not be surprised if this ‘history’ or self-appraisal encompasses 100 pages – the important thing is that you have something to draw upon when the time comes to write a resume or participate in an interview. Because you may not have thought about the positives you possess from an employer’s perspective, thinking about and writing a personal history is an ideal way to become better acquainted with the transferrable skills you have to offer.
When you complete your written self-appraisal, you will have a snapshot of your gifts, talents and accomplishments, which will help develop a clear picture of the type of job you want (but it’s best to remain as open as possible). Identify your functional skills and begin thinking about the many different ways you could apply your talents to a variety of industries. Then it is time to write a resume that highlights your accomplishments, which will also serve as a guide for interviews.
Interviews may be less than 30 minutes and resumes are looked at briefly, if at all. You need to know exactly who you are and what you can do to persuade an employer that you are the person to hire. You only have a few minutes to make a favorable impression. When you know this information inside and out, you will be much more composed.
Your resume and self-appraisal history should be used as a supplement to what you want to say, not as a script. Although companies want to hire people with the same basic good qualities, each firm has its own agenda, problems, goals, and direction. By using the self-appraisal to prepare a list of accomplishments that you commit to memory, you can more easily relate your talents to an available position and obtain an interview. During the interview, you will be able to make a favorable impression very quickly and secure a job offer or an invitation back for a second interview.
No More 9 to 5
Another important attribute to adopt for today’s workplace is flexibility. The pace of today’s business world has increased dramatically due to a global, 24-hour economy. Most competitive companies have abandoned the standard nine-to-five working day in favor of an open-ended day (including Saturdays and Sundays) brought on by overseas economies that function around the clock. Offer to interview before or after business hours or on a weekend if you feel this would be more convenient for a prospective employer. By the same token, resign yourself to working nontraditional hours should a position be obtained.
Although an ideal job is rare, there are more options in the 21st Century workplace for returning mothers and women in general. By investing time and care in the self-appraisal process and educating yourself about a business-world atmosphere that is in constant flux, the chances of finding a job that suits you far outweigh the risk of accepting an inappropriate job that quickly turns sour.