Resources for Entering the Workforce Post-Parental Leave

We have compiled a few tips on entering the workforce for KATIEs who are pursuing a degree while planning to join the workforce after a parental leave!

If you would like support in developing an action plan to make concrete goals for entering the workforce, you can schedule an appointment with a Career Specialist.

  • Assess what you want in this stage of your career.
    The transition from full-time caregiver to full-time employee can be jarring and overwhelming. If you were previously part of the work-force, remember it will be different now as you are still a parent and have different demands on your time and attention then when you were previously a part of the paid workforce. 
    • Consider your schedule
      There are options to apply for part-time or remote work if you want to ease back into the workforce. Take time to plan out what are non-negotiables before you start your job search. Check out some tips on what to consider in your schedule.
    • Learn with other parents via Access & Success
      This department focuses on resources for pregnant and parenting students and hosts regular support meetings for you to discuss any topic with people in similar situations.
    • Reflect on the skills you have developed
      Remember that many parents go through this process after various lengths of parental leave and that you have continued to develop relevant skills that will make you a valuable professional. Review The Muse’s research on how parents positively impact the workforce.

If you want reflective exercises to help you generate ideas about what you want in your career, the Stanford School of Engineering offers a free, asynchronous course called “Designing Your Career” or you can read the related book “Designing Your Life: Build a Life that Works for You” by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans.

  • Research real positions.
    Before you’re ready to start applying for jobs, it’s good to still start researching open positions and networking with professionals who have positions that you are curious about. This research will help you narrow down what jobs may be a good fit.
    • O’net
      If you are not sure what job titles to search, you can search by industry on this site from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that compiles information about jobs across the United States. Each page will give you examples of typical tasks, average pay (by zipcode), AND examples of job titles that you can search on job boards to find real postings.
    • Job postings via job boards
      Find a couple of job boards that you can check regularly and then collect notes on skills that are listed the most often in job postings that appeal to you. Consider if you already feel confident in these skills; if not, make a plan for how you can continue building these relevant skills in class or through your current work.
    • Network via PeopleGrove, LinkedIn, or events with employers
      Search for alumni with the degree that you are pursuing, people in your existing personal and professional network, and/or professionals who work at organizations that appeal to you and review their career paths. Again take note of any skills that are frequently listed. You can also reach out and ask to schedule an informational interview so you can chat and learn more about how they got to their current position, and what steps they’d recommend.
  • Prepare to explain your extended leave from the paid workforce.
    • Resume
      Briefly acknowledge your parental leave on your resume. If you have been out of the workforce for a considerable amount of time, consider a skills-based format over the traditional chronological-format. For examples and a template, check out resources from The Mom Project. Remember to emphasize transferable skills, career competencies, and keywords that match the job postings.
    • Cover Letter
      In the first paragraph, address the fact that you are entering the workforce after a parental leave and why you are ready for that transition. In the middle 1-2 paragraphs, answer why you are qualified and make connections between your transferable skills and what is listed as requirements in their job description. Finally, end by thanking the employer for their consideration and answering why they should hire you over another qualified candidate! Check out more tips and an example cover letter here.
    • Interview
      When asked about employment gaps, be honest and have a brief elevator pitch prepared to describe why you are ready now to move from your chapter as full-time caregiver into the organization’s position. Emphasize your transferable skills from your new degree and your previous work experiences.
      *Quick legal note – Prospective employers asking about your family life is complicated as they can ask if they already know you have children; however, it is discriminatory if they only ask these questions of people with uteruses. Here are some ideas about how to handle inappropriate interview questions.
    • Offer Negotiation
      Research average pay in the industry and compare benefits between job descriptions. Prepare to articulate why you qualify for a certain salary range or benefits.

  • Test it out!
    Before diving into a completely new routine, and possibly a new industry, we recommend trying out opportunities in a small way to make the best decision about a good fit.
    • If your children are still young, ease into new childcare routines
      Before you anticipate starting work, do a few practice runs with your new childcare provider. This allows you to build trust and process the emotions that come with being away from your children. Try out the new routine and make adjustments as you scale up to the childcare routine that’s needed for your new work situation.
    • Explore options to build up your skills – especially if you were out for an extended time or are entering for the first time after being a stay-at-home parent:
      • ReturnshipSimilar to internships but meant specifically for professionals returning to the paid workforce
      • Ask your faculty about conferences that you can attend so you can learn about a lot of job possibilities within industry and network with professionals there.
      • Volunteer at events or apply to internships within the industry that you are curious about – for some students, clinical or internship experiences will already be built into your degree!

Entering the workforce as a parent is challenging, especially if it involves a potential move, salary impact, or otherwise affects additional people in your life. Getting one foot in the door and testing out a new type of work will hopefully help you feel more confident in the ultimate transition. Throughout the process, make sure to give yourself credit for all the previous experiences you’ve had and the skills that you’ve developed as a parent, student, and worker which have prepared you for this next chapter – your confidence is key in communicating how you are qualified to potential employers. If you would like support in launching into the workforce, please schedule an appointment with our Career Development office!

For additional resources, check out the following:

By Teresa Butel
Teresa Butel Employer & Career Specialist