A lot of people think it’s made up of a million perfect decisions and luck. But in reality, 90% of success is a combination of failures, picking yourself back up, persistence and HARD WORK.
– Sara Blakely, Founder of Spanx
I was a stay at home mom for 13 years and loved every minute. I am very thankful that I was able to have this time with my children and never felt that it interrupted my career. This time in my life gave me so much in return. I went back to work when my son started middle school and my daughter was in the fifth grade. It seemed like the perfect time knowing they would not be home the majority of the day. My then husband had been laid off around that time and even though he was back to work, the idea that it could happen again weighed heavily. Did I return with the same job title and salary as I had 13 years prior? No. Not even close. Did I have the perfect career wardrobe ready to hit the streets? No. Not even close. Resume? No. LinkedIn profile? What?
I was in my mid-40’s and had a “who is going to hire a middle aged woman in her 40’s” attitude. My mindset was focused on every obstacle in my way. So I did the only thing that made sense to me. I bought a lottery ticket. When that didn’t pan out I decided on plan B. Find my old resume and bring it back to life. Just finding my old resume felt like a huge step and I realized I needed to add and change very little. Taking that one baby step forward felt so productive and empowering. The lesson – just dive in. Start somewhere. Baby steps still move us forward.
If you are a woman 40+ needing or wanting to go back to work but feeling like I did – not so confident with no idea how to start – the best thing you can do is simply change your mindset. College tuition costs were in my near future. I ended up getting divorced making a substantial income crucial. Plus, people live longer, healthier lives that demand increased retirement and savings. The most important reason – the self-fulfillment and identity after spending many years taking care of others. I changed my attitude thinking about all of the benefits in store for ME.
The good news for us “older” women is that according to the Department of Labor, the population of working women over 55 has increased 4.2 percent to 17 million over the last year. This is compared to a 1.8 percent increase in employment for all women and a 3.3 percent gain for men over 55.
While I am sure you agree this is great news, maybe you are thinking what about that career gap? What about it? I proudly exclaimed that I made the decision to stay home with my kids. It was a plan that worked. In an interview, share how much you accomplished and how ready, excited and motivated you are to return to work. I added church volunteering, National Charity League, Girl Scout Leader, PTA roles and school volunteering on my resume. All of it was received well in interviews. It helped prove my point that older women returning to work are more mature, react well to challenges, make excellent mentors and know how to professionally communicate with people at all age levels.
I started back working for a local magazine selling advertising. I found the job online and applied. It was not my dream job but it was a reentry into the workforce. I was able to be home to meet the bus and it allowed for flexibility with the kids. It ended after the magazine was sold. I bounced around a bit, survived a lay-off and another very unhappy situation. Closed doors lead to new opportunities and now I have a job that I love. I’m career focused and enjoy being in the office around smart people who are inspiring. I started this blog thanks to the confidence I’ve achieved and what I have learned.
I have heard people tell me that I make it look so easy – being older, divorced, raising teens, and working a full-time job. I’m so lucky everything fell into place they say! I smile and say thank you! The truth? I made many mistakes, interviewed and was turned down countless times, and have had many hard days. Changing my attitude, persistence, and HARD WORK paid off. If I can do it, you can, too!
Here are a few suggestions that worked for me:
Resume and LinkedIn Profile: Write a strong one and focus on your skills, attributes and accomplishments. Include your strengths and what makes you successful. As I mentioned, I added church volunteering, Girl Scout Leader, National Charity League, PTA roles and school volunteering on my resume. I had people mention they loved that as it shows I have a strong moral character and work ethic.
Network: Tell your friends! Talk to people. Let everyone know your plans and you’ll find that you learn something from almost everyone you talk to. LinkedIn is a must and an excellent way to find people in an area of interest. Once you connect you will eventually want to send them a direct message. Send a brief to the point message. The worst thing that will happen is that you won’t hear back. If you do hear back, ask for a few minutes on the phone or face to face to learn more about their career path, their take on the industry, and if they can help connect you to others.
Interviews: Don’t talk yourself out of going on one because it’s not the job you want. It’s interview experience! And who knows…maybe it’s different than what you thought and maybe you’ll change your mind. Regardless, go on as many interviews as you can. Understand your strengths and weaknesses and how you like to work. Do you like to collaborate with a team or work better alone? What was a challenge you overcame in a past job? What was one of your biggest success stories? Are you a strategic thinker? Knowing who you are and how you work will clarify a lot and help with interview questions.
Wardrobe and makeup: Feel good about yourself on an interview. If you know you look put together and are excited about your outfit, your confidence will soar. You don’t have to break the bank. I bought a few dresses that were professional and comfortable. I didn’t want to mess with skirts, pants, waistbands or matching blouses, belts, etc…when getting ready for an interview. One great dress and a pair of stylish, professional shoes was all I needed. Once I started working, I shopped sales at J. Crew, Banana Republic, Anthropologie and Nordstroms for clothes that I could wear to work and dress down for any occasion. I found dresses and other clothing on sale for less than $50 that were made well – don’t buy cheap clothing! Buy clothes that will last and save money. I still enjoy a bargain but I love to budget for a really great piece from Tory Burch, Ted Baker and I so love Stuart Weitzman and L.K. Bennett shoes. Get a job, save some money and reward your hard work from time to time!
My best advice? Don’t doubt yourself! Be fearless – and if you are scared, do it anyway. You will feel on top of the world after getting that first job offer! Good luck! I’d love to hear comments with suggestions and stories to inspire.
The reward at the end of the day? Being greeted by my biggest fan!