Back to Work Strategies for Stay-at-Home Parents, with Stephanie Smith

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Find Your Dream Job, Episode 177:

Back to Work Strategies for Stay at Home Parents, with Stephanie Smith

Airdate: February 6, 2019

Mac Prichard:

Hi! Mac from Mac’s List here.

Today’s episode is brought to you by Jobscan, the online tool that optimizes your resume and boosts your chances of landing an interview.

Jobscan also offers a 10 percent discount to our listeners. To learn more, visit jobscan.co/dreamjob

Now let’s start the show!

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps professionals find fulfilling careers.

I believe that lifelong learning is the key to a successful career. And to get a better job, you need to learn the job hunting skills that will help you find the role of your dreams.

That’s why we’re here today. Every week on Find Your Dream Job, I interview a different career expert. We discuss the tools and tactics you need to find the work you want.

This week, I’m talking to Stephanie Smith about back to work strategies for stay-at-home parents.

Stephanie Smith knows a lot about job hunting and parents. She leads a software company that creates custom resumes and cover letters. She also runs a meetup for moms who want to go back to the workplace.

Stephanie says that if you’re a parent returning to work, you need to start by investing in your career documents. That means writing a resume that explains your time at home and that also emphasizes your accomplishments during this period.

A LinkedIn account, Stephanie adds, can be a very useful tool for a stay-at-home parent. Its publishing features, for example, can help you to stay connected with industry leaders.

Parents also need to network, Stephanie says. And they should recognize the value of the volunteer work done during a break. That kind of experience can be invaluable in any job search.

Want to learn more? Listen in now at the Mac’s List studio as I interview Stephanie Smith about back to work strategies for stay-at-home parents.

Stephanie Smith is the co-founder and chief operating officer of Livelipath. It’s a software company that customizes your resume and cover letter for any job application.

Prior to Livelipath, Stephanie created the concierge career services firm, Career Muse. And she ran recruiting programs for Amazon and other Fortune 500 clients.

She joins us today from Seattle, in Washington.

Stephanie, thanks for being on the show.

Stephanie Smith:

Thanks, Mac. Thanks for having me.

Mac Prichard:

Well, it’s a pleasure. Our topic today as you know, Stephanie, is back to work strategies for stay-at-home parents.

Let’s start with the challenges that stay-at-home parents face when they’re ready to return to work full-time. What are some of those challenges that stay-at-home parents need to be aware of?

Stephanie Smith:

Often times, there is a lot of emotion around this transition back to work, and that can be from their own family, it can be from their own internal feelings of, maybe feeling overwhelmed, or anxious about this big life change. And so, there’s a lot of different factors that are going on for stay-at-home parents.

They’ve got situations beyond just being a stay-at-home parent. Maybe they’re a single parent at home, so there’s a lot of things going on in the head of a stay-at-home parent that they want to be considering and thinking about and working through. It starts with having that dialogue with the individuals within their family, and getting that job search, that job hunt mentality going, not just internally but with the people that are closest to them. That really starts to prompt a more open, positive feeling about what’s happening and this life change, back to work.

Mac Prichard:

How do you recommend parents approach those conversations? They should sit down with members of the family, but what kind of topics typically come up in those talks?

Stephanie Smith:

Talks about, how is this going to impact the schedule? Often times, if you’ve got two parents, you’ve got one that might be working a normal schedule, and how are…the school schedule for children is not the same as a work schedule for a business professional, so how do you coordinate schedules like that.

I like to recommend really turning it into a really positive note, too, and talking about how this is going to benefit their children. How mom or dad is going to have that extra income so that they can be doing those activities and things that they want to be doing but are somewhat limited right now because they have a single income.

Really, kind of turning a positive leaf with this and what this new change is going to bring about for the family, I feel, is a great strategy at getting the family on board, getting the kids on board, but really ironing out, how is the schedule going to work between the parents? Or, how is the schedule going to work between the parents and their support system beyond that? And really nailing down how that looks so that they feel comfortable as they’re starting to make that transition. Whether it be into a full-time gig or something that’s a little bit shorter.

Mac Prichard:

Pay attention to emotions and feelings before you even think about sending out that first resume, and the family schedules and the needs of everybody in the family.

Stephanie Smith:

Yep. Exactly. Another thing I like to recommend that they do, and it’s part of that preparing, is really brainstorming what they’ve done in the past, and it’s starting to think through, “Hey, it might have been years ago, but what were the things that I was doing day to day? What were the things that I enjoyed about those things that I was doing?”

As you start to sit down and think about those things, you’re getting your brain back into that “go to work” mentality. I like to recommend questions that will get your viewers, your listeners, into that brainstorming mode.

One of the key ones is back when you were at work, what were some of the biggest differences that you made in those jobs that you had previously? What challenges did you face on that job and what were the things that you did to address those challenges on the job that shows that you’re a problem solver? This just gets your brain thinking through, “How was it to be at work?”

For parents that may not have been a career professional prior to having a family, thinking through the things they’ve been doing at their home and maybe outside of the home. Maybe they volunteered with the PTA, maybe they’ve got volunteer gigs outside of the school committees that they’re a part of. Really thinking through, holistically, what are those things that they have been doing in their work setting or in their current setting as a home keeper.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, so reflect back about your professional accomplishments and past responsibilities and what you’ve been doing outside the home while you’ve been a parent.

I’m curious, Stephanie, what about employers? What concerns will they likely have about an application from a stay-at-home parent? And how might listeners address those concerns?

Stephanie Smith:

That’s a great question, Mac. One of the things, as a former recruiter, that I would see in screening a lot of resumes, is that you, as a stay-at-home parent, may have a gap in your resume. It may be a short one, it might be a longer one, but that’s going to be something that’s going to come up on the employer’s side, and something that they’re going to be looking at.

What I recommend for parents that are transitioning back into work, is really thinking through how they want to articulate that during the interview process, as well as on their resume. Back to my recruiting days, seeing a resume that didn’t have any dates on it, we call them “functional resumes”, those always set up a red flag in my mind about what that person might have been doing, what are they trying to hide? Unfortunately, they don’t have the ability to tell that story to me directly, so how do they articulate that on paper? What I recommend doing is just being mindful of that gap.

Chronological resumes and combination resumes are the best types of resumes to put together and as you’re going through, and maybe you’ve got that gap that you’re not sure how to fill in, be honest about that gap. That you were a stay-at-home parent, but back to those brainstorming questions that we were talking about earlier, what are some things that you can add in?

Because as a parent you are developing skills. You’re managing budgets, you’re managing the billing process, you’re managing schedules across a number of different youngsters.

There’s a lot of things that you can be adding to build in that experience, not just on your resume, but what are you going to be talking about with employers when you are going into those interviews or those informational sessions? How are you communicating the things that you’ve been doing over the last 6 months, 12 months, few years, etc?

Mac Prichard:

Okay, well, let’s talk about that, because I know from our earlier conversation, you’re a big believer in getting, once you’ve had those conversations and you’re ready to start a search, getting those basic career documents in order.

I’m curious, when you were a recruiter, in particular, and you saw resumes from stay-at-home parents who described those gaps, what they did while they were raising a family, can you share with us some especially persuasive examples or common elements that they might have had that listeners can use to apply to their own resumes?

Stephanie Smith:

One example that would come to mind would be if you were involved in, say, a charity. If you were involved in any of the fundraising efforts, you could talk about what your specific contributions were for that fundraising initiative, how much you were able to raise. Maybe it wasn’t just you on your own, it was people collectively, but you could say you contributed to $100,000 that went to a specific program, a specific cause that you are aligned with. Maybe that was 10% more or 20% more than what they were able to do the previous year before you came in.

Things like that are very good resume builders and they’re very good interview examples that point to, not just what you were doing, but also specific numbers and data points that recruiters really like to see on your resume.

That is just one example of how you could craft a story about something that you were doing on a volunteer side.

Mac Prichard:

What would you say, Stephanie, to listeners who might think, “Oh, ours was a small baseball league,” or soccer league or PTA. “We only raised $10,000, $25,000.”

Does the amount matter or is it the experience that counts?

Stephanie Smith:

I think it’s based on what your situation is. There are so many nuances. If it’s something that’s very small that you don’t think is worthwhile to include on your resume because you’ve got some bigger things, you can always revert back to, that you raised a significant amount, or you can look at that percentage amount growth between the year prior and the year that you were involved, or maybe it was over a multi-year span, and talk about it in percentages versus dollar amounts.

Mac Prichard:

Let’s talk about another important career document, other than a resume, and that’s the LinkedIn account. How do you recommend stay-at-home parents who are ready to go back to work use LinkedIn?

Stephanie Smith:

I recommend that they put together their profile concisely; they have a story to it. LinkedIn is a great place. You’ve got a lot more space than you do on your resume to be able to tell your story and to add in the things that you were doing, not just from a work perspective, but the things that you’re doing outside of work. Volunteer work that you’re doing, the affiliations, or associations that you’re involved with.

Really take your LinkedIn profile and use that profile to position yourself. If there are things that you’re interested in, maybe you’re looking at articles and finding some really great ones, you want to use that social network to your advantage. You can share that and post it with the people that are already in your LinkedIn group. If you don’t have those individuals currently in your LinkedIn group, that’s part of that prep process, is to really look at doing an evaluation of where your network is right now and start adding to it.

One of the things that you want to do is have a profile that shows that you’re active as well as a profile that has some content that is going to make you discoverable. LinkedIn is a place where you can use some human voice, too. Some of the standards that we have in the resume world don’t translate to LinkedIn so feel free to use “I” in your summary and use that human voice to really evoke some more personal attributes about yourself.

Mac Prichard:

Okay. I want to pause there, Stephanie. We’re going to take a quick break.

When we come back, I want to draw out a little more about LinkedIn and online branding because I know you’re a big believer in the value of an online brand.

When we come back, Stephanie Smith will share more advice about back to work strategies for stay-at-home parents.

Stephanie Smith:

Thanks so much, Mac.

Mac Prichard:

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Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Stephanie Smith. She’s the co-founder and chief operating officer of Livelipath. It’s a software company that customizes your resume and cover letter for any job application. Stephanie joins us today from Seattle, Washington.

Stephanie, before the break, we were talking about back to work strategies for stay-at-home parents. We were talking about LinkedIn, and I loved your point about the difference in tone and voice between LinkedIn and resume. I know this applies to all job seekers, not just stay-at-home parents.

Tell me why you can be more informal on LinkedIn.

Stephanie Smith:

LinkedIn is a place where people are going to, not just look at your profile and what you’ve done, but also to look at the articles that you’re sharing, to look at the people that you’re connected to, there’s a lot of other variables and factors that happen online that you don’t have available on your resume.

Also, LinkedIn is a much more modern type of job profile, so when looking at resumes, there’s a lot of stigma in some managers’ minds, “This is how it should look.” So when they see a resume that has that human voice to it, it seems out of place. Whereas LinkedIn, that really has been the standard from the get-go. It’s not an exact replica of your resume. People do use a lot of this language that you can’t use on your resume.

It’s one, really just the type of profile that people are used to seeing, and two, it’s teeing it up, just like a Facebook profile, where you’re engaging with people on a very human level, where the resume doesn’t capture that type of experience.

Mac Prichard:

Any other tips about how to maintain a strong online brand? Particularly when you’re a stay-at-home parent and you probably have a crazy schedule.

Stephanie Smith:

Yeah, I would just recommend that they do the prep work upfront. Before you’re starting to add your new contacts, do some of that brainstorming and get your LinkedIn profile looking like something that you’re really confident to send out to your network, to potential employers. Doing that prep work before you start engaging with your connections, they’re going to see that best image of you when you’re connecting with them versus having to tell them to possibly wait to pass along your profile until it’s ready.

I recommend just trying to get all of those documents ready to go so you can go confidently into that search and so that the people in your network that are seeing your profile are going to be really excited to refer you to people that they know or the companies that they’re working for.

Mac Prichard:

Let’s talk about networks. As you know, parents often make really important connections with other moms and dads when they’re raising children, and while those are personal relationships, those ties can be very valuable during a job search, can’t they, Stephanie?

Stephanie Smith:

Yes, absolutely.

Mac Prichard:

In fact, I would add my colleague, Ben Forstag, our managing director here at Mac’s List, he’s the father of 2 children and he does a lot of networking here at the company and he says he’s never seen a network more powerful than the parent’s club he and his wife joined when they had their first child. His wife, in particular, has found it to be invaluable in her own professional work.

Do you hear stories like that in your own work with your meet-up and elsewhere in the community?

Stephanie Smith:

100%. It really is, your network is not just the people that you’re meeting and interacting with, it’s the people that those individuals know, and so you want to look at it from a perspective of, there’s a lot of different degrees of connection within these relationships and it might be your former colleagues, or clients that you worked with, or your bosses, and those people can speak to your prior work or maybe now, there are the people that you’ve been working with at the volunteer events you’ve been doing, or your school committees, or those parent groups.

The parent groups I find to be really key because those individuals are going through that same experience at the same time as you, so you’ve got that connection to them based on that shared experience of going back to work. Maybe they’ve done it before, but they themselves are going through it, or have gone through it, and so they’ve got that relational point and they’re going to be a lot more helpful for you because they know how hard it is.

I’d also like to say, neighbors, people from your church, friends, family, and then going out into different association events, meet-up groups, and expanding that network as well, based on your interests and things that you may be wanting to learn more about.

Mac Prichard:

Well, how do you recommend, Stephanie, that stay-at-home parents make the most of those connections, particularly the ties they have with other parents or parent groups? How do you see people do that effectively?

Stephanie Smith:

What I recommend doing, is trying to take it outside of the parent group as well with the one-on-one connection. Say you’re at a parent group or you’re contacting someone that you have met at a parent group, being able to set up a chat with them and really explain to them what your situation is. That you’re looking to get back to work and being very clear about what it is that you’re looking for.

Maybe it is a short-term gig right now, while you’re getting your feet wet into this whole transition process. Maybe it is getting back to the same thing that you were doing before. Being clear with those individuals about what it is and how they can help you really does help steer them in the right direction, and then asking them during that sit down that you have, maybe it’s a lady’s wine night, or a lunch, or coffee meeting that you set up with them, but have some discussions. Pick their brain on what they’ve been doing before, and you’ll get to know a little bit more about their space. Then learn about the companies they’ve worked for, and ask them if there’s anyone else that they can introduce you to so that you can go beyond just them as part of your network, but start tapping into their network as well.

Mac Prichard:

In addition to the parent’s groups, what advice would you have for listeners who might formerly have been involved in an association in their profession and they’ve let that membership lapse while they focused on raising a family? How do you recommend people get reconnected with groups like that?

Stephanie Smith:

If their membership has lapsed, I’d say email the organization, get that set back up, look at the different events that they have coming up, look on LinkedIn and see who you are connected with in those groups. Perhaps you don’t have funds to sign up for that membership right now; there are still individuals that are going to have this on their LinkedIn profiles, so you can do some reverse searching for people that are involved in those organizations or even companies. And sending a nice casual email, just asking to get something on the schedule.

There’s a number of ways to reconnect with those associations but it’s either getting right back in it or reconnecting with the individuals that you may have met when you were a part of it before.

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned freelance work earlier. What are the benefits for a stay-at-home parent who is getting back into the workplace of doing freelance or part-time work?

Stephanie Smith:

That’s one thing that can really help fill that gap and get parents into that rhythm of getting back into the work life. One thing, if they’re looking to change careers, is it’s a great way for them to be able to get some exposure into some new avenues. Perhaps it’s something that gets them into their own pathway of being an entrepreneur and a business owner, which is something that I’ve seen happen to clients. Another thing that it does is, it gets them recommendations and it helps them expand that network, too, so they’ve got something that fills in their resume and someone that’s going to be able to speak to that as well.

I think it benefits them from a lot of different angles; just getting their feet into the work life, being able to try out some new things, and being able to continue to make those connections that are critical.

Mac Prichard:

Final question, Stephanie. How do you recommend listeners find employers or companies that are going to value the experience that parents bring to the workplace when they come back to the office?

Stephanie Smith:

That’s a great question. There’s a number of different resources and fortunately, it is a topic that has been given a lot more attention lately than it has in the past, parents going back to work. There are opportunities called, “returnships” or even “maternityships” which are essentially internships for parents that are going back into the workforce.

Bigger companies like Deloitte and IBM are starting to put together these programs where they actually bring parents in, have them work at some, maybe full-time capacity, maybe 75%, and then they have the opportunity to get hired on permanently after that. This is a great opportunity for people that are looking to get back into a larger company, to look at those types of programs.

There’s other organizations, like Reboot, or iRelaunch, or locally in Seattle, The Swing Shift, and they are programs that, basically get parents set up from the job search perspective, from their career documents to how to interview effectively and then they help match them with companies that are looking to hire people that are transitioning back from being stay-at-home parents.

Those are some great resources, and then, as parents are looking to evaluate the types of opportunities, there are job boards, too, that they can look at that are tailored specifically to people in that situation. Themomproject.com is a great one. Power to Fly, if they are looking for something that’s a little bit more flexible. Werk.co, flexjobs, and weworkremotely.com, are some great places for them to get started, too.

Another one that I just recently found out about is momstamp.com, and that would be if they’re interested in doing some gig work, or if they’re looking at someone that’s being recommended by another parent or by another mom getting that stamp of approval. It’s kind of a marketplace for recommendations and opportunities for moms to go get their feet wet again in the workforce.

Mac Prichard:

Those are great recommendations, and in fact we’ve had Carol Fishman Cohen, who’s the founder of iRelaunch on the show last year. I’ve looked at her site in addition to our conversation and she’s doing great work, so thank you for that very detailed list.

Stephanie, tell us, what’s next for you?

Stephanie Smith:

What’s next for us is a lot of things. We are launching livelipath.com which is a state of the art resume and cover letter customizer, that helps job seekers do all the tailoring that they need to do, specific to the jobs that they’re going after.

They can sign up for that by texting me, STAY AT HOME, at 206-309-8883.

For the listeners that are signing up, we’ll be giving a 10% off discount for those that text me and if they sign up during the month of February, we’ll give them an extra 10%.

Mac Prichard:

That’s a very generous offer. I know, Stephanie, people can learn more about you and your company by visiting livelipath.com.

Stephanie, thanks for being on the show today.

Stephanie Smith:

My pleasure, Mac. It has been wonderful and good luck to your listeners in this great transition that they’re making. I wish them all the very, very best.

Mac Prichard:

Thank you. Take care.

Stephanie touched on an idea that comes up a lot on this show. That’s the power of networks. In this episode, she was talking about the power of parent groups, mommy and daddy groups, and how when people have a connection like that, particularly such a powerful experience that they share in common, it creates relationships that not only help you personally but can benefit you professionally as well.

For me, we come back to this again and again on the show, how important it is to pay attention to relationships and use them in a professional, respectful way.

I also liked Stephanie’s point about getting your career documents in order. Especially when you’re starting out your search, you want to make sure that your resume, your LinkedIn profile, and your online presence help you put your best foot forward.

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Take advantage of our new, free guide, Don’t Make These 8 Killer Resume Mistakes.

I talk to hiring managers all the time. We have thousands of employers who post jobs on Mac’s List and these employers tell me they see applicants make the same common mistakes again and again and again. Let me show you how to avoid these errors.

Download, Don’t Make These 8 Killer Resume Mistakes today.

Go to macslist.org/resumemistakes.

Thanks for listening to this episode of Find Your Dream Job.

Join us next Wednesday; our guest expert will be Kali Rogers. She’ll explain how to remain positive when you’re unemployed.

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

If you are preparing to return to work after some time as a stay-at-home parent, you may feel unsure about where to begin. How do you explain the gap in your resume while also showing what you’ve accomplished during that time? Careers expert, Stephanie Smith, says a smart job search strategy starts with getting your career documents in order. Stephanie also stresses the importance of using online tools like LinkedIn to help you stay in touch with industry leaders. And you should never underestimate the value of connecting with others through parenting groups or volunteer opportunities. Parenthood is a powerful experience that brings people together and those relationships can help you not only personally, but also professionally.

About Our Guest:

Stephanie Smith is the co-founder and chief operating officer of Livelipath. It’s a software company that customizes your resume and cover letter for any job application. Prior to Livelipath, Stephanie created the concierge career services firm, Career Muse. And she ran multi-million dollar recruiting programs for Amazon and other Fortune 500 clients.

Resources in This Episode:

  • Stephanie’s new company, Livelipath, provides customized resumes and cover letters to help you get back to work with documents tailored to the job you want.
  • If you have been out of the workforce for a significant period of time, there are several resources available to help you. Companies like Power to Fly, The Mom Project, and iRelaunch serve parents who are returning to the workforce.
  • Jobscan is an online tool that optimizes keywords and customizes your resume for greater chances of landing an interview. Visit www.jobscan.co/dreamjob for a 10% discount.