January 22, 2019 4:54 pm
Updated: January 31, 2019 6:44 pm

Mistakes to avoid when trying to land a job after parenting gap

WATCH ABOVE: How do you land the job you want after staying home to raise the kids? Kim Smith has some mistakes to avoid.

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LISTEN ABOVE: Registered psychologist and career counsellor Avra Davidoff has advice for parents heading back to work. 

Getting back into a career after staying home to raise kids can be daunting, especially competing against people who haven’t left the workforce.

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“I had my hands in a lot of things, but I never really had a career,” Carlin Getz said. She stayed at home for 11 years to raise three kids. During that time, she worked as photographer, volunteered and ran a day home.

Eventually her husband ended up working from home, so after more than a decade, Getz decided it made financial sense for her to grow her career.

However, despite her university degree, trying to land a job was emotionally exhausting.

“The first thing I did was go look at jobs and thought, ‘Oh my gosh there’s no way I’m qualified for this, never mind that I have a university degree,'” Getz said. “I didn’t feel qualified. What have I done over the past decade? I’ve stayed at home. I’ve changed diapers. I’ve cleaned the kitchen.”

Mistake – Don’t underestimate volunteer jobs

According to experts, one big mistake people make after taking a parenting gap is downplaying the skills learned at home, including volunteer jobs.

“If you talk about running a major fundraising campaign to build a playground in your community, that’s a big deal. You’re networking, you’re raising money, you’re looking after finances,” Tara Dragon, founder of Work Evolution, said.

Registered psychologist and career counsellor Avra Davidoff suggests asking people in your life for feedback.

“Connect with people around you that have been with you in different environments and situations and ask them: ‘What do you think are my top five skills?'” Davidoff said.

Mistake – Don’t sell yourself short

Women who take an extended leave lose, on average, 18 per cent of their earning power, according to data from the Harvard Business Review.

Dragon said when you go back to work, don’t disclose how much you used to make.

“Really negotiate for what you’re worth and what your value is. Push for the dollars that you deserve,” Dragon said.

“Women sometimes feel like they’re not in a position of strength and they need to accept anything that comes after a break. But that’s not the case. They have value. They have skills.”

Mistake – Asking for a job instead of information 

Davidoff said one of the biggest mistakes is that people will ask for a job instead of looking for information.

“Asking too quickly and not knowing what you’re asking for or what you have to offer that’s valuable to the employer,” Davidoff said.

If you’ve been out of the workforce for an extended period of time, Davidoff strongly recommends people conduct “information interviews,” to learn more about a particular career.

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Some of the questions to ask include: What’s it like to work in that career? How would someone like myself, who’s been out of the market for an extended period of time, go about accessing opportunities? What kind of training and education might be relevant?

Davidoff suggests reaching out to post-secondary institutions, professional organizations or utilizing LinkedIn to find people in the industry to speak with.

“Sometimes it’s cold calling, but letting people in your network know that’s what you’re looking for and maybe they can put someone your way,” Davidoff said.

Mistake – Don’t assume someone else is more qualified 

As people, we inherently make assumptions that there’s someone else more qualified than us, Davidoff said.

“I encourage people not to make assumptions based on who you think is applying,” Davidoff said. “You need to find that information ahead of time and where possible, try and build relationships with someone in the company.”

READ MORE: Why are parents reluctant to ask for help when they need it?

Davidoff said she’s seen people who have been out of the workforce for up to 10 years who have landed jobs that were not entry-level due to networking.

“People like to hire people that they know and trust and will be a good fit for the time,” she said. “Sometimes when people are trainable and coachable, that’s better than having someone with a great deal of experience, but not a great attitude.”

Mistake – Giving up 

After four months of sending out more than 100 resumes, Getz finally received one call back, which landed her her current position with the City of Edmonton.

“I found emotionally, it was quite a roller coaster,” Getz said.

Despite missing her kids, being back at work has been a positive experience for Getz. She said her husband is now the primary caregiver at home.

“It’s sad that I’m not there, but at least I know that my husband is there with them,” she said.


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