Getting Back In There: Part 1
This is part one of a three-part blog series about women returning to work after having children.
I know a lot of women - very skilled, talented, smart women - who have been home with their kid(s) for a number of years and are ready to go back to work.
These women have educations and strong networks. They've also honed an incredible skill-set while managing their households - think: multi-tasking in the extreme; managing budgets; negotiating contracts; ability to move challenging “employees” into lasting behavioral change (the last being the one skill I see most lacking in the managers I work with today).
And the efficient productivity. Oh boy. I remember when I had my first kid. A few weeks in, an experienced dad friend said to me: “aren’t you amazed at how much more productive you are?” And holy buckets was he right. Parents are efficient and productive. Really, really productive. At my prime, I could fold three loads of laundry, pay bills, buy supplies, and clean out a closet in 3.2 mins, all while breastfeeding.
These women are ideal candidates for so many roles.
Few businesses have a clue how to a) find them; b) hire them; and c) use them successfully.*
So, here's my take. A starter guide, if you will.
* BTW, I also know so many women terrified but desperate to take the leap to stay-at-home; they're terrified because they worry their resume will take too big of a hit, and they'll never be able to get back in. Yet, their home life is harder than it should be or their childcare costs are unreal or their extended family members are saints. And that means they often aren’t great employees because they aren’t engaged or are frustrated or [insert not great emotion here]. Not a great place to be, for the business or the employee. Imagine if a woman who wanted to be home for a couple years, to gain THAT experience (which ultimately makes them a better employee), knew it wouldn’t be that hard to get back in when they were ready… just imagine the loyalty and great employees that would run businesses....but I digress. I suppose that will be Part 4.
Part One: Seek And You Shall Find
First, let’s find these amazing candidates. Here’s the simplest (a.k.a. short-enough-for-quick-mention-in-a-blog-iest) way: your existing network.
Whether you’re a small biz or a big one, chances are you know some humans (clients, employees, friends, family) who are in the child-bearing years. Somewhere between ages 25-45. That teeny swath. Put out feelers specifically looking for women seeking to return to work, and my money says you’ll find a few good names pretty quickly. I have a friend who did just that, and was damn near overwhelmed by the quality and quantity of candidates that rolled in his door.
Big, BIG note of caution here: it’s likely your existing networks are robust. Also quite possible that they will net you people who are a lot like you in thought, culture, background, and race (it’s science). So, yes yes yes to networks - and also, yes to approaching said network with a keen eye towards enhancing that pool to include individuals outside your norm, whatever that may be. Not only is it tremendously boring to be surrounded by a bunch of "yous", it’s also bad for business. So stretch.
And if you can’t find a good pool of candidates in your network, or your network’s network - put up a post.
Now - let’s talk for a minute about that good ol’ job posting.
I’m guessing most of you have heard some variation of the stat that women and men respond to job postings differently. Women need to feel they meet 100% (or somewhere close) of the qualifications listed while men only need to feel they meet 60%. That stat drives me crazy - mostly because, in my experience coaching many different women at different points in their careers with vastly different skillsets, it nearly always holds true. And for women who have been home, it seems like it's double the case.
First - ladies, stop it already. Apply. What’s the worst that can happen? They don’t call you? Then what? Nada. You hit them up again or you don’t. You get practice writing a cover letter (and don't be anything but assertive and confident in that letter while you're at it). You get a different gig. Whatever. Their loss. Yes, it takes time. But I also know y'all have figured out how to get 26 hours out of 24.
Second - I spent some time looking into the why-what-how behind this phenomenon, and found a few good articles, this being one of my favorites. The general opinion is that the not-applying has very little to do with women lacking the confidence or ability to DO the job. It has more to do with the fact that women interpret those job postings literally, and don't expect to get an interview if they don't meet all the qualifications (ladies, see paragraph above again please). Therefore, they feel it’s a waste of everybody’s time (theirs and the poster’s) to apply.
So, point: it’s not simply up to women (except those reading this - it IS up to you. You now know. Apply.). It’s also up to you, business owner/human resource professional/hiring manager. Re-write that job posting. Make sure what’s in the “necessary experience/skills” category really is, indeed, necessary. Move the rest to the “preferred.” Include soft skills like “dealing with difficult personalities” and “multi-tasking” (if applicable). And it can’t hurt to add a sentence or two to be even more explicit: “We understand job postings can be unnecessarily rigid. Above all, we want to find great candidates. Apply if you think you’d bring value to the role, even if you don’t check all the boxes.” (You’re welcome to borrow verbatim if you’d like; also, we love writing job posts - send it to us, we'll help).
Ok! Networks ignited, post edited. Women in the door. Now what? Let's figure out how to hire them.
That's Part Two. Because Meghan says my whole post was too long for any human to maintain attention. So, Stay tuned.