I’m late 40’s, two kids and have been a stay at home mum for ten years. I’m struggling to prove my value in interviews. How do I get around that?
You cannot get around it - those are the facts. That has been your life for the past ten years. But don’t run for the hills, the news is not all bad. In fact, so many partners of redundant employees have decided to return to the workforce over the last 12 months that you are in a very similar situation to many. That means employers are being presented with people such as yourself - regularly. If you think I am thinking, ‘that’s a good thing’ you would be correct.
So rather than considering it a hurdle, consider it a given and devise your interview strategy accordingly - fully on the front foot, rather than having to explain or make excuses.
Let me explain how this is a good thing. It forces hirers to:
1. Recognise that their potential employees are coming from this pool of experience
2. Consider the benefits/experienced offered by this this pool of candidates
3. Be open to the unique value of this new fresh revitalised workforce
Think about it, if half of your candidate’s are/were stay at home mums, do you just discard them out of hand - I think not.
Employers might just be missing the best person for the job. So if Hirers have been forced, cajoled or willingly faced with the ‘stay at home mum’ candidate pool - then you, the job seeker, need to be ready to make it easy for them to see your value.
That brings us to the second part of your question:
How do you prove that you are valuable?
Glad you asked. Because I have a few ideas around this based on the hiring criteria priorities of our employers.
Soft skills (hate that - they are not soft) they are essential. I call them ‘People or Human Skills’. Business culture has had a huge shift and in a positive way. People Skills or competencies are now recognised as around 50% of hireability criteria. Your attitudes, aptitudes and ‘how’ you work and communicate is just as important as your qualifications and experience. From a mums perspective, as you mould the future generations, you are using, learning and adjusting your ‘how’ and your attitude constantly.
I asked Tanja, mum of two teens, for her ideas on where to pull your ‘people skills’ evidence from, or - what to consider taking on, if you are feeling a little ‘light-on’. She says:
“You may want to consider doing a few years on your kids’ school P&C Board or if that's too big a commitment (I hear you), perhaps put your hand up to run fundraisers to pay for new IT or sports equipment for students. Any of these projects are great evidence of your ability and people skills. You might be thinking that it's just ‘part of being a mum’ - well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not. Anyone who has ever attended a P&C meeting knows that to get anything done at school you need to have incredible communication & negotiation skills. Plus, you are actually dealing with large budgets and lots of layers of approvals. The rub is… if you are capable of successfully running a P&C meeting or major school fundraiser, you can be CEO of any company or even a brilliant politician! So these types of experiences or projects are perfect to use at your interview.
Tech and digital savvy. You have to be up with it because you are monitoring, blocking, adding security, tracking and sifting tech every day. It’s a part of modern day life. In order to keep control and keep your children safe, you have to be tech savvy and on it - 24/7!
Youth market needs. You are the biggest influencer in your child’s life. That means you know what they are in to and not in to. You know their fashion, music, lifestyle trends, their aspirations and their language. You are hands-on in the mix dealing with and moulding those who are - the future of work! If that is not an asset, I do not know what is.
Trustworthiness & Commitment
Returning to the workforce is no small thing, and one thing I know about mums who secure an opportunity to return to work, is that they are often incredibly happy and grateful for the chance to reboot their career. Several of my mum friends and family members were pretty much screeching the car tyres as they left their partners at home to deal with the kids, mess, pets, school lunches, sport taxi duties, washing and cleaning. They are excited, sure they might feel they also have a point to prove but overall, I’d say they are incredibly motivated and reinvigorated.
Employees who you can count on, are the best employees. But mums are much more than that, they are problem solvers, often skilled multi-taskers, efficient, resourceful, trustworthy team players with mature egos to boot. If the culture is right, a mum is the sort of person who might just stick around longer than most - these days, that’s a big thing when the stats tell us that most people will bounce between 17 different jobs. From the employers’ perspective – what’s not to love?
Mums returning to the workforce have the ability to be highly competitive on the jobs stage. Here are my next steps for any stay at mum about to relaunch in the jobs market:
In proving your value is to define your ‘people skills’ clearly. As communication / interview coaches, that’s one of our core abilities - bringing those decisions out in you and we love it when that light bulb moment sparks - as it always does. Write a ‘how I work’ statement or ‘how I lead’ statement and outline at least 5 ‘people skills’ that you bring and then back each one up with a simple evidence based example.
Make a list of all the software you use. Add it to your resume. If there are gaps in what you know employers want, teach yourself. Google ‘video tutorials’ and learn learn learn. Get your teenagers to jump if you get stuck, after all it’s their natural hunting ground. This year alone Tanja and myself have learnt 5 different software applications that we had not used previously including: Thinkific, Create by Vidello, iMovie, Wix websites and Flowpaper. If we can, you can. Tanja is a mum of teens and I am well…. Let’s say a step-grand-mum.
Update your professional social channels and start reconnecting. If you are not into social media, consider it. It’s part of our contemporary communication styles so if you are fighting it, remember, you are in control of what you share and what people see - it is far less intimidating when you remember that.
At the very least you need a LinkedIn account and once you have set that up, start connecting with people you know, businesses you are interested in and leaders and influencers that are relevant to your job aspirations. Half of employers will Google you, so have something professional for them to find.
That’s it from me, Mums - we love ya!
Next post I will answer this question from a recent client: “I’m going for my first job interview and my mum said I should just wear a nice skirt and top. Is she right? I cannot afford to go out and get something really on-trend.”
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