Moms to the Rescue: How to Begin Once It is Time to Return to Work

Are you one of the unsung heroes of the pandemic?  You know, a mom who had to ditch a promising career so your kids would not be home alone?  Have you spent the last year deciphering math mats with your child, wrangling the unemployment system, and soothing your stressed-out significant other?  

If it feels like you time-warped to the sixties, that’s because you did.  By October 2020, eight times more women than men had dropped out of the labor force (617,000 compared to 78,000), half of them between 34 and 44, or parenting age.  Only 57% of women who want to work are currently employed, down from 71.4 percent of American moms with kids under 18 in the 2018 labor force (Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS).  Nearly three million women are still unemployed because of lay-offs, school closures, or lack of childcare.  And hardest hit were women of color. February’s labor reports showed unemployment rates of 5.3%, 7.4%, 8.6%, and 8.5% for white, Asian, black, and Hispanic or Latino women, respectively (BLS).  Reasons why more women are out of work than men?

  • Women staff some of the hardest-hit industries like education, hospitality, healthcare, and retail. 
  • Inequalities in wages (in 2020, women made $0.81 to a man’s dollar).  For many households, it comes down to simple economics.
  • In two-parent families with younger children, more women chose to stay home (32.1% compared to 12.1% of men), or some dads didn’t step up and take their turn.

But here’s the good news! 

The reopening of schools.   In a February town hall, President Biden responded to a question about reopening K-8 schools: “I think we’ll be close to that at the end of the first 100 days… The goal will be five days a week” ( transcript, February 17).  Numerous states have already reopened, and with $170 billion in federal funding, more school districts can start in-class learning.

Help for the hard-hit childcare industry.  Reduced enrollments, pandemic-related costs, and low wages crippled the nation’s half-million-day care centers.  The American Rescue Plan supplies $39 billion to help providers safely reopen and boosts child tax credits to help parents pay for daycare.

Optimism for an economic recovery.  Available vaccines, a $1.9 trillion cash infusion into the economy, and increased consumer spending should boost recovery.  Despite job-shedding at the end of 2020 as COVID-19 cases peaked, many industries forecast hiring and growth in 2021-2022.

How to jumpstart your new career

With things looking up, what steps should you take to ensure career re-entry does not look like starting all over again?    

  • First, revise your personal marketing documents. Don’t hide your absence or make excuses for it in your cover letter.  Companies are well aware of the sacrifice individuals have made over the pandemic.  Don’t apologize.  Simply state the reason for your absence (e.g., caregiving) and summarize your skills and accomplishments.  Add updates like classes or technical skills you developed during your leave of absence.  Define what contributions you can make in your ideal position.  
  • Next, if your last employer is still in business, give them a call and set up a meeting.  Even if they are not hiring, chatting with a former manager will help you gain confidence.  Discussing future opportunities, industry updates, and former work colleagues’ status can help you reconnect with your network.  
  • Finally, companies are thinking differently about hiring during pandemic recovery.  Remote work, contractors, and temporary work have helped fill labor gaps for unsettled industries with variable labor demands.  If you don’t get a full-time job right away, don’t be discouraged.  Suppose there is still some instability at home or you didn’t like your previous job. In that case, it might be better to ease into it with a temporary work opportunity, internship, or a “returnship.”  

Transitioning back to work after a lengthy leave is not easy.  A temporary position is a low-risk way to help you gain back the confidence and skills you need to once again be on top of your game.  Many companies hire top candidates who begin or re-start careers as temps, so why not give short-term work a try?  

Partnership Employment is a recruitment agency passionate about setting up talented women for success.  We ensure your first placement is a perfect fit for your skillsets with offerings in industries like legal, HR, IT, finance, and accounting.  If you are stressed about navigating a return to work, why not let us help you find a temporary placement so you can try before you “buy”?  Or, if you have solid expertise and years of experience, one of our caring consultants will come alongside to transition you back with a supportive company ready to welcome you as a valued member of their team.  Call us today!

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