what does re-entry look like?

ImagesI think the first time I discussed re-entry with a group of women it was when I was living in the suburbs and I was staying home with the kids.  All of us had jobs prior to having our kids and we each had decided for various reasons to stay home with the kids for a few years.  We all felt extremely lucky that we could make that choice. For some of us, it wasn't easy financially ( that was me ) while others it didn't change their financial world. 

Recently I have been thinking about that time period.  I got a letter from my niece at camp and my heart soared.  I remember when our kids were in sleep away camp and I wrote  to them literally every single day so they would get something at mail time.  I am taking out some time at the beach and when the kids were younger I parked it out here with them.  I see all the mothers out, solo, with their kids during the week having dinner and eating ice cream.  I totally remember those days.  I loved those days but there was always a piece of me that did something and kept thinking about how am I going to en-enter the working world.  I craved it.

What I craved was the conversation, the human interaction, the intellectual stimulation, the execution on projects, etc.  I definitely worked hard on filling those needs while I was home but it just isn't the same thing. 

Fast forward, I have re-entered and am loving it.  So, why do I ask the question what does re-entry look like.  I ask it because the conversation I have been having for many years with women who discuss "getting back" have a hard time getting there.  I have talked to many women who want to create businesses around helping women re-enter the work space.  What would those businesses look like?  Should they be connecting with large companies such as General Mills, American Express, Chevrolet to create momternships?  Short jobs that they can bring women back into the workforce.  Should there be community of women who are interested in that for companies of all kinds to tap into (even start-ups)?  What makes sense?

I do believe the time is ripe for something like this.  We live in a world where we can work from anywhere.  There are plenty of opportunities out there and there are plenty of brilliant women who have something to offer our economy.  Yet I continue to wonder what does re-entry really look like.  I am not so sure that someone who had spent the last ten years at home raising a family has any interest in re-entering at the same speed, level or capacity.  I believe most want to re-enter but not after having the flexibility and life that have had for the past ten years.  It is almost as if these women have been entrepreneurs for ten  years and now they are being asked if they want to go back to a structured environment.  I can't see that being a positive outcome for the majority of people. 

I am interested in hearing from everyone what they think.  What should this business look like?  Would your company be interested in tapping into this under used educated community?  Looking forward to hearing everyones thoughts. 

Comments (Archived):

  1. Jill Stern

    It is difficult for a mom to get back into the work force. Very tricky. I wish the process could be easier. A business focused on such would be tremendous!!!! I’d love to hear more.

    1. Gotham Gal

      what should the business model look like? what do you think women are looking for to make this happen?

  2. jillstern

    I like your idea of a momternship. I think it would yield very high placement rates.

  3. falicon

    I did this from the dad side of the table…took about 5 years off when we had our first child (the second one was about three years later so I only stayed home with him for about two years total)…and throughout it I had many of the same worries, thoughts, and desires for the workplace.Of course it was a little easier for me, as a developer, to keep up with the industry as a stay at home dad (I could still hack on little personal projects when the kids were napping or after my wife would get home from the corporate job)…and I took the time to also write a tech. book (so I guess some could argue that I didn’t entirely leave the work force — but I certainly wasn’t getting paid for anything at the time and taking care of the kids throughout the day was what I viewed as my primary responsibility).Still, I loved the time with the kids in the early days but I also longed for the workforce…almost every day I would think about trying to go back, but I also didn’t want to give up the time with the kids…the struggle lasted about five years…once my oldest was ready for pre-k, I decided that was a good enough reason to at least start to pick up some freelance work (and as luck would have it, because I had remained a little active in keeping my skill set up, freelance work came quickly and also quickly developed into various job offers).In hindsight, I actually jumped back in a little too quickly (I feel guilty not giving my youngest as much dedicated home time as I did my oldest)…and I too quickly and blindly jumped back into the corporate world with a full time gig (freelance would have been a better fit for me longer)…you are right in that once I had tasted the freedom of my own schedule (even though it was really my kids schedule) I was no longer fit for the corporate schedule (I lasted about a year and half at that re-entry gig before I decided to leave and just do my own things again – focusing almost entirely on startups since with the occasional freelance gig to make up the financial hit startups cause)…So yes, I think this is a SUPER important thing to be thinking about and helping people to figure out…I don’t know the answers, but I do feel like there’s more chance of success around the freelance, part-time, or startup route than just pure, full-speed-ahead, re-entry…so that’s the route I personally would encourage everyone to think more about and focus on…

    1. Gotham Gal

      i used the line often “i do a lot but nothing that i get paid for”.having the ability to develop is huge because your skills are so needed. so you really could re-enter at any capacity.you experienced something that most dads don’t get to experience yet many moms do…staying at home. i love that you did that. gives you huge cred in my book and your re-entry is a great story.

      1. falicon

        Thanks. We made the decision for me to be the one to stay home partially because we thought as a developer I would have an easier time with re-entry…and my wife was on an advancement path that would just be completely lost with time away. Every day though she would (and still does) question if she should be staying home…and every day I would question if I should be ‘working’… Good experiences and memories all around though 🙂

        1. Gotham Gal

          no doubt the constant push/pull until they hit college.

    2. Erin Newkirk

      Love this! So often, this is only seen as a “mom” problem, but it’s really a parent struggle. Male or female.I think we all have skills that we can hack away on during nap time and after bed time. That’s how I got my business started, but I could have easily taken on consulting work as well. Maybe at a reduced rate, but I think there is always a need for talent.

    3. Tereza

      What a fantastic comment and experience to share. This is definitely not just a women’s issue and I see so many dads suffering with classic FT jobs and not able to engage with their kids as they wish they could. Having skills which enable you to dial in and dial out as suit you is so incredibly valuable for lifelong sustainability. As a student I had no clue that this should be a criterion in picking what I should study. Maybe someone should publish a roundup of careers/skillsets that offer flexibility. We’d put programming at the top of the list. Hmm.

      1. falicon

        Hey thanks!Future flexibility and real expectations of what a given career path will look/be like are things that I think should get more attention/discussion at the school level…work/life balance is another thing that rarely brought up in high-schools or colleges in my opinion…but they are all HUGE factors in your ultimate ‘happiness’ and so I think they should be HUGE variables in early and calculated decisions…BTW – haven’t seen you around in comments I frequent in awhile and have been missing your insight/thoughts (hoping that means things have been going well for you and you were just to busy to engage in the chatter).

        1. Tereza

          Gotta say, it feels great to be missed! ;-)The good news is — I am BACK. Will be much more involved in commenting in the coming months.BTW — I just decided today I’ll facilitate a working group via Fred’s Skillshare on Sustainability — with a family spin. http://bit.ly/MyATAZ If you want to join, please do! That counts for anyone else here!I’ll do an IRL version in Stamford, but maybe a Google Hangout as well.

  4. Jill Stern

    I like your idea of a momternship. I think it would yield very high placement rates.

    1. Erin Newkirk

      Not so sure how seriously this would be taken in-house. Sadly, a new battleground for the mommy wars?

  5. mattb2518

    These guys started out doing this but I think have since broadened a bit. But the name still works… http://www.momcorps.com/hom

    1. Gotham Gal

      thanks matt. i have seen that. i wonder how the business model is working and the feedback from the moms and companies. i am going to reach out to her.

      1. mattb2518

        You should. We used them for a couple people – one doing consulting, one re-entering, and they were great. I had some email exchange with the CEO a few years back, but I can’t remember her name.

        1. Gotham Gal

          allison o’kelley

      2. pixiedust8

        It could be an interesting model, but I applied for about three jobs through them and heard nothing. At all. Finally, on one, I received a “sorry, the job went away” email. Meanwhile, I’ve gotten callbacks on one out of every two jobs I’ve applied for through other forums, so I think they need to step up their customer service.I mainly look at it for part-time jobs, and at least in New York, most of the jobs are full-time (which might work for other people). I also don’t see their model (as it exists) being good for someone who needs help re-entering the workforce.Anyway, I thought it was an exciting concept, but in practice, I’ve felt like my resume goes into a black hole.

  6. Erin Newkirk

    Oh the conversations I’ve had with friends on this very topic…One of the passion projects I dream about starting (someday!) is a match.com meets LinkedIn meets Etsy for stay-at-home parents and entrepreneurs. A match up of skills, project, hours/wk, general location (if important – though I see it more as a work from wherever/meet occasionally type of deal).Provide the community…flexible schedule…engaging work…accountability…meaningful experience…seamless hr/pay. And it has to be inspired.Maybe the next venture 🙂

  7. Guest

    There was a story on CNN yesterday about a mortgage broker who finally found a job, after 4 years of searching, as a cleaning company supervisor.I think the issue of “re entry” is one that effects a greater percentage of our population than any of us realize. Besides women/moms, it also affects the long term unemployed, which is affecting not only the lower skilled but also college educated, highly skilled, and older members of our society.I think the issue of “re entry” is something each and everyone of us needs to think about and be aware of. All of us, by being emphatic, can do our part to support those who are experiencing “re entry” fears.I know your focus is on women’s issues and female entrepreneurs but the reality is we are “a village” in a much broader sense than just childrearing.

    1. Gotham Gal

      agree. with the down turn of the economy there are so many people who have lost their jobs that will never re-enter the same industry because that particular industry is no longer what it was. we need to create ways for people to re-learn and re-enter new industries.

      1. Guest

        Yes we have to provide opportunities for job applicants to “relearn” and “re-enter” but I also believe that as an employer I have to “re-think” and “re-examine.”Does a woman who leaves the workforce to start or raise a family lose “skill sets” or does she gain “skill sets?I think someone who has been unemployed for a while would make one really hardworking loyal employee, yet most companies view the unemployed as untouchable.Exactly, how do we allow people to benefit from “relearning” and thus “re-entering” the work force when we rely on software/websites, job titles, and keywords to tell us who makes the best candidate?If someone does their homework and uses their cover letter to make their pitch of why they should be considered for a particular job and more and more companies are not even wanting a cover letter then we are not going to be able to accomplish much.When so many people are unemployed and so many companies are complaining about not being able to find qualified candidates (and this complaint goes way beyond the tech sector) then you have to ask questions about your recruiting procedures.

  8. Sherry Lombadi

    Great post, GG. Thankyou. I think any good solution needs tobe something outside of the box. Just hooking moms up with corporations with flex-time isn’t enough.I like the idea of momternships. That could be interesting. Maybe it’s a Guru for moms – focusing on virtual part-time opportunities (with both short- and long-term commitments) that can be done from home… tapping into the thousands of marketing managers, publicists,sales executives, writers, book keepers, accountants, etc. that can add so much value from anywhere. So many start-ups and small businesses need to add staff in these areas, but just can’t afford afull-time person. Many experienced women are willing to trade higher pay for the flexibility of working from home on their own terms. It’s a win-win. MomCorps is pretty cool and has some interesting stats about this. But I agree, there’s definitely a bigger opportunity here.You hit on a key point – moms running the household are likeentrepreneurs. The entrepreneur’s business is his/her baby. The mom’s business is her family. In both cases we are working around the clock – but it’s OUR clock. I can’t think of many successful entrepreneurs who are interested in going back to a corporate job afterstarting and running their own business. I think the same is true for many moms re-entering.I was an entrepreneur before having kids and after having kids. I consider myself completely unemployable. I can’t imagine having a ‘typical’ job where I have to worry about not being able to work at home when my kids are sick or having to get permission whenever I want to catch the school play or meet with a teacher.My company happens to be focusing on part of thisniche. (It’s a network of local webguides for parents, where each site is run by a local mom who earns commissions. Sort of like a Yelp-Meets-Avon.) Over the last few months, we have talked to hundreds of women looking for an alternative way to ‘re-enter’the working world. They all want the same thing: freedom time and place –more of a part-time, work-from-home schedule – but something intellectually challenging… not the receptionist job at the school. (Amazing to me how I can know so many former media VPs and accounting partners who are working p/t jobs at a retail store,just so they can be home when their kids are home.) Great career opportunities that truly flexible are too few and far between.There’s a lot of top tier talent sitting on the sidelines of the workforce right now because there are few really great options. This is a huge opportunity for businesses that figure it out and start tapping this source.I’d also love to see more businesses that enable professional women with kids to run their own business, consultancy, or freelance schedule, etc. – and at the same time take care of some ofthe back-end work that holds people back from starting a business. And if it can also provide a peer-to-peer connection, that’s another benefit that’s very important. Then more women would create jobs for themselves and ultimately jobs for others.

  9. William Mougayar

    That’s a very important topic and it deserves a lot of attention. There is a lot of untapped talent out there from that segment of women that are ready to get back into the workplace.Key thing is for an employer to not see their hiatus as a handicap.We were recently referred a job applicant that came from that position, and I considered it hard but the fit wasn’t there for other reasons.Maybe one day, this could become eventually part of the job diversity mix that companies must adhere to?

    1. Gotham Gal

      if each company could put aside some jobs that would tap into the community of people who are looking to use their talents to be involved but not full time, that would be a very interesting model.

      1. William Mougayar

        Exactly. There’s something worth brewing underneath that thought.

  10. ellen

    Having known some young women with children who decided to dip their toes back into the work waters, they come equipped with 4 therapists one for themselves and their 3 children, a marriage counselor for themselves and their husband, 2 nannies, a full time housekeeper, a cook and lots of take out menus. They expound how well it can work but sometimes that is only their professional persona. Their home-life is a mess. As we say you don’t know what is happening behind closed doors. That is not everyone but my point is there can be stress when the children are young. What happens when women aren’t pulling down seven figures to be able to afford all the ancillary help?

    1. Gotham Gal

      totally true. the stress level is very high with and without money.

  11. Jeanne Callahan

    I recommend looking at http://www.tentiltwo.com and perhaps initiating a discussion with one of the founders. Their business taps into women who are available on a part-time basis to work in their area of expertise. I’m guessing their target market is “moms”. They are based in Denver and have franchises elsewhere in the country. Jill Ater is one of the founders.

    1. Gotham Gal

      thanks jeanne. will reach out.

  12. Donna Murdoch

    I agree with the challenge of re-entry and am at the same point as you with my own kids, Joanne. But I also think there is an issue of relevancy that everyone has to deal with. In other words, regardless of gender, there are so many industries and careers that require an update of skills or knowledge. We’re in a knowledge economy. As an adult educator and advocate (and getting my doctorate in it as my kids are entering and are in college) I think that education is the first step. What were you doing before – now dig into some sort of education that updates it to 2012 (a certificate, a new masters degree if you have an undergrad, career training, General Assembly, whatever) and tap into the resources of people that are there. Join the industry association, take some courses, go to some conferences – knowing how to talk the talk is half of the battle. It is so hard for anyone at all to find a position right now, but being sure you’re trying to re-enter the world with a skill that is relevant to here and now is important before starting to network. Being an expert in the industry, whether or not you have actually been in it lately. So school or not, self-directed or school-directed, I do think it’s really important to be sure that once anyone starts reaching out they sound like they are sharp and up to date. Just my own personal experience and opinion….and there are so many great free resources if you want to learn something new (Coursera, Code Academy, etc.) Plus there is a fantastic social component there. You are hearing this from someone who feels that Coursera will soon turn into a verb like Google and I am biased… but we are lucky there is so much out there to get our minds back into the game before we leap 🙂 The pitch, the networking, the cover letter – all look much better if you’ve put some skin into your re-entry game (taken time to catch back up) ahead of time. Again, just my experience. Great post!

    1. Gotham Gal

      Great advice!!