The Comeback: How Moms Can Reenter the Workplace

Fox Business Network reporter and anchor Cheryl Casone is out with a new book, “The Comeback: How Today’s Moms Reenter the Workplace Successfully.” Moms of all kinds are a coveted demographic. As important decision-makers for their families on everything from education and grocery shopping to appropriate television and online material and most things consumer-related, companies and manufacturers, pollsters and even political campaigns seek their opinions and approval.

Working moms have a unique role as many straddle the majority of traditional mother roles at home, while maintaining job responsibilities at work. Continued changes in the economy dictate that more and more moms will need to work. Some moms return immediately after some sort of maternity leave, others take a few years off, and some return after many years home with children.

Opportunity Lives asked Casone about her advice for how moms can reenter the workforce after spending time with their children.

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Image: Cheryl Casone

Although Casone is not a mother, her countless career and job hunt segments for Fox Business News revealed that no one was talking to women, especially women who left their jobs to stay home with their families.

Casone set out to interview hundreds of women who were willing to share both their success and mistakes, and the result is a one-stop shop for moms at every stage of the process. Many of the mothers interviewed left high-powered gigs at large firms or corporations — lawyers, news anchors, producers, and doctors.

But Casone doesn’t stop there. She interviewed women from all walks of life: physical therapists, a personal shopper, and a real estate manager.

“I talked to a woman who worked for a company that would pay her to shop,” Casone said. “She went to Target, Walmart, and other stores to evaluate customer service. It was a good way for this mom to transition back to work.”

Casone writes about an unfortunate reality in her book. Mothers who never intended to return to work full time again, but find themselves thrust into the workforce with outdated skills after a divorce, a spouse’s untimely death or other unforeseen situations. With no resumé, no current contacts and no transferable skills, these women do not know where to begin.

“Countless women face situations like this every day, with little or no guidance,” Casone said. “They’re told to ‘lean in’ and lobby for more sympathetic workplaces, but none of that solves the immediate practical problem: I need a job. Now.”

Continued changes in the economy dictate that more and more moms will need to work

Casone’s research echoes the need that led Jennifer Gefsky and her partner, Niccole Kroll, to found Après. Launched just last week, Après is a digital recruiting platform designed to help women re-enter the workforce. After taking their own career breaks, Gefsky and Kroll were frustrated by the lack of opportunities for women who wanted to return to work and recognized that companies were looking for cost-effective tools to help them attract and retain female talent.

When Gefsky spoke with Opportunity Lives, she estimated there are more than 3 million women with college or advanced degrees trying to re-enter the workforce.

“This virtually untapped pool of candidates is an invaluable source of talent for corporate America—they bring a strong skillset, a proven work record, reliability and life experience. So why is it so difficult for them to get a job? We created Après to change this,” she said.

Gefsky concurs with Casone’s findings that mothers are very organized, are critical thinkers and have project management experience — all useful skills in the workplace. “Because these women have been out of the workforce, there is a confidence gap that stems from the fact that corporate America is not saying, ‘You have value and we want you back,’” Gefsky said.

Casone’s book and Après help moms clarify their marketable skills and perhaps attract potential employers. The Après site hosts a curated job market with full- and part-time jobs, consulting projects, maternity fill-in positions and pro-bono opportunities across a wide range of industries, and features the job search tools and coaching that women need to navigate returning to work.

Gefsky emphasizes that the reasons women return to work vary because “every women’s journey is unique.” But most needs are driven by money.

“Let’s do away with the perception that women want to work and are bored in the afternoons,” Gefsky said. “Most of these women have to work.”

There are more than 3 million women with college or advanced degrees trying to re-enter the workforce

Both Gefsky and Casone offer tips for how moms can sharpen their skills and get their resumés in front of prospective employers. Casone recommends that moms get online and participate in social networks. “Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn — this is how you connect to people, learn about them, and do research,” Casone said.

Gefsky encourages moms utilizing their own personal networks and to “look around the soccer field and see who you know.” She adds that mothers should not run from the gap on their resumés.

“Fill the gap with volunteer work, serving on a board, raising money for your kids’ school or a local charity,” Gefsky advised.

As these women take on responsibilities at work, they remain concerned with the daily pressures of children and home. Opportunity Lives spoke with Mindy Finn, founder and president of Empowered Women, a national nonprofit organization, about the critical issues facing working mothers.

Finn says what she hears most from working moms is the desire for more time with their spouse, if they have one, and for self-care. “They can manage the work and the kids part, barely, but what usually suffers is their health and their relationship with others. And like most American families, they feel financial stress,” Finn said.

Policymakers seeking out the opinions and support of working moms might want to consider how to best address some of their needs. Generally, women live longer than their spouses and in recent years, have been working longer than their male counterparts. Additionally, Finn suggests that legislators take a closer look at issues hitting working moms harder.

“More women graduate college and earn graduate degrees than men, and these same women are more likely to ‘lean out’ or take time out of the workforce to care for children, making them particularly vulnerable to crushing student loan debt,” Finn said.

With Casone’s advice and the increasing interest and need for working moms’ talents, many moms will be able to make a successful comeback back to work. Their successful transition is their employer’s gain, to say nothing of a positive step toward their personal and career development, as well as a benefit to their family.

Cherylyn LeBon is a contributor for Opportunity Lives. You can follow her on Twitter @HarleyLeBon.