Last year, NextGen MilSpouse talked us through the Risk of Choosing to Stay at Home and encouraged military spouses to think about the following:
“We give so much of ourselves to others. We must learn how to take time to grow ourselves and our dreams as well. As beautiful as the choice to stay home is, it comes at a price that we cannot afford to choose to ignore.”
This post is not intended to be a commentary on whether or not you choose to stay home with your children; each family makes a decision about what is right for them. The reality, however, for many of us who find ourselves home with our children —whether by choice or necessity— is that we have every intention of returning to the workforce at some point.
It is easy to say we’ll take a few months or years to stay at home and then return, but as any military spouse with a gap in his or her resume (what military spouse resume doesn’t have gaps?!?) can tell you, the actual return is often much more difficult than anticipated.
Here are 6 ideas for current stay-at-home parents who are planning to pursue a career outside the home in the next 5 years.
Contribute to the Ongoing Dialogue
A blog may seem overwhelming at first, but it doesn’t have to be. There are a ton of online resources that can help you get started and there are a fair number of military spouse bloggers willing to lend you their knowledge as well. If the idea of creating new content constantly is intimidating, share articles from your industry and provide commentary of your own on the topic to start discussions. If you find you like blogging and want to do it more consistently, be sure to check out MSB New Media for opportunities to share your content.
Study Trends and New Practices
With today’s technology, there are very few industries that aren’t constantly changing. With that in mind, a few months and certainly a few years can make a huge difference. You don’t want to waltz into an interview talking about cassette players when CDs are obviously where it’s at (even though I definitely miss a good mix tape). One way to keep current in your career field is to read journals or websites from your industry and then share those articles on your blog or LinkedIn page (which should also stay current). LinkedIn will make it easy for future employers to see that you’ve continually commented smartly on trends and issues in your wheelhouse.
Another great way to keep current is to follow the social media profiles of companies you’d love to work for (or emulate with your own company). The same holds true for influencers in your industry. Do you want to work in social media? You should be following Adrianna Lupher. Want to work in personal branding? Follow Amy Schofield. Hope to be a journalist? Amy Bushatz is your gal. Personal trainer is your dream job? Befriend Christina Bell Landry. You get the idea.
Commit to Continuing Education
It’s awesome if you already have an advanced degree or a certificate in your field, but never hesitate to learn more and move with the tides of your career field. Find a workshop to attend locally or make a trek to your industry’s annual conference. Take an online professional development course or simply tune in to periodic webinars on subjects that pique your interests and career goals.
Nurture Your Professional Network
Make sure you keep your LinkedIn profile current and continue to watch for influencers in your industry with whom you can connect. Don’t limit yourself to the virtual, however. If possible, attend networking events within your industry and across other fields. If there is an In Gear Career Chapter in your area I encourage you to network with other military spouse professionals, but many local chambers of commerce also host networking socials or there may be a young professionals (or seasoned professionals) organization in your location.
Afraid you won’t have anything to talk about besides diapers and school lunches? Nonsense! Use that networking time to stimulate your intellectual self.
Reevaluate, Modify (Maybe) Your Professional Goals
The military lifestyle is an ever-changing one and choosing (or needing) to stay home for a time certainly changes things. As you follow your journey don’t be afraid to let your dreams grow with you. You never know, you may love blogging and find yourself looking for other opportunities to write on a freelance or more permanent basis. You might also find yourself at one of the professional networking events mentioned above and someone may talk to you about an opportunity you can’t refuse— or perhaps you’ll stumble onto the perfect remote opportunity that will let you work part-time from home and still stay with the kiddos. I’ve also known many military spouses who end up turning their hobby or passion into an entrepreneurial venture that satisfies them both personally and professionally. Let this crazy journey take you places you’d never have guessed—you may just end up loving it even more than the dream job you imagined in college.
Volunteer in Your Industry
If you are particularly passionate about your career field, schedule a few hours each week to allow volunteering in that field. There is no better way to keep current than to have your hands directly on a project within your chosen career field. Are you an accountant? Maintain the books for your FRG, and the local Girl Scout Troop, or a military nonprofit (*ahem*– I may know one that would let you do their books). Are you a project manager? Volunteer to plan the command’s annual picnic or holiday party (there’s more that goes into those events than you might imagine). You get the picture: find something in your local community where you can plug in your expertise and not only help the organization you are serving, but also give yourself experience to put on your resume showing that you’re keeping up your skills for future use.
The bottom line is: no matter how long you plan to be a stay-at-home parent, if you plan to return to the workforce, the impetus is on you to keep yourself current and make yourself a marketable candidate when the time comes to look for a job. Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way!