What type of networking do you recommend to a full-time parent wanting to re-enter the workforce?
We all have some connections but we exhaust them quickly. This means we probably know a few people who can “help” us forward, but then what? Which is why I recommend creating new connections through our own moxie and hard work. Reach out to strangers: people at firms where we want to work and make our case. Be the go-getter. And if we have personal contacts we want to transform into business contacts, then speak in a business voice. For instance, and I apologize for the apparent sexism here: “Betty, did you know I’m planning to return to work in marketing? I’d like to arrange a meeting with your Ted [Betty’s husband]. What’s the best way to contact him?”
You suggest that everyone create a personal inventory—and say it’s easier than it seems. What of the person who feels their list characteristics has nothing that sets them apart?
Everyone has something that either sets them apart or makes them special. Like Geico, give me 15 minutes and I’ll figure it out! Seriously, as I write in Why Hire Jennifer?, it’s not simply the activity or talent that makes you special or desirable by a firm, it’s the attributes particular to that activity—such as competitiveness, teamwork, or passion—that make you special.
You write: “Since there is but one No. 1, aren’t we all underdogs?” What advice do you have for a parent who has been out of her industry for a decade or more focusing on parenting, who feels like the biggest underdog of all?
We have to try harder, or as I prefer to say, try smarter, through marketing and job strategy. Sometimes it’s necessary for parents and, really, all adults to ‘reset’ their qualifications. Which means rather than trying to pick up where they left off, perhaps they should return to school, get a new degree or certificate, take advantage of the continuously expanding world of MOOCs (great acronym and very democratic, by the way—even Harvard Business school is starting a program!).
Do you have any words of wisdom for parents who are frustrated by their long job search?
Buckle up your courage belt. Smile. Enthusiasm. And most important, preparation. Study the company and the persons interviewing you. Form opinions and don’t be afraid to express them. Remember: These people make mistakes every day, just like the rest of us.
Mom has gotten the job! How should she present herself? She wants to live up to the brand she created when interviewing, and also keep her two distinct roles (paid professional and parent) distinct and in perspective.
The good news is there are a lot of parents in the workforce, so they won’t be alone. I believe parents, particularly moms (as they still bear the brunt of parenthood) have to set priorities, gently but firmly. Most, if not all, companies understand that family comes first. Once a job is offered the parent can mention there may be circumstances that require the occasional early departure or late arrival. Also, job candidates can find out how companies comport themselves by asking around using some subtlety during the interviewing process, and also by checking what some websites (such as Glassdoor) to see what employees have to say about the firms.
Have you ever felt any pressure in the juggling act that exists between work and home?
During my “corporate” life I was a parent for 22 of 27 years. I decided early, even when I was just an account executive, that I wasn’t going to be one of those dads who apologizes for missing the play, baseball game, or event. I even served as “Class Dad” when my 6-year old daughter asked me to (and I still get to brag about it). My philosophy has always been to set boundaries and to stick to them. People respect that.
Richard Lewis, one of the chief architects behind the famed Absolut advertising campaign (whose origins are detailed in Lewis’s “Absolut Book”), is the author most recently of “Why Hire Jennifer: How to Use Branding and Uncommon Sense to Get Your First Job, Last Job, and Every Job in Between.” Lewis developed a popular undergraduate course at NYU, where he teaches, called “Branding: Companies, Products, & People.” He is a parent of three children and lives in Dobbs Ferry.