Updated: Jan 23, 2020
Many mothers who have taken a career pause have fears that they have become “rusty” when it comes to the professional world. Are their skills out-of-date? How bad is that experience gap on their resume? What are employers even looking for these days? The world changes fast, and it’s terrifying to jump back into the fast-paced rhythm of working professionals.
Whether you realize it or not, you’ve been training to get back to work throughout your career break. While these fears are understandable, it’s time for a shift in mindset. Let go of fear and embrace all that motherhood has taught you. There are dozens of skills that are transferable to the workplace, many of which may surprise you.
Here is an amazing list of transferable skills that most moms develop during a career pause. This list is not comprehensive, but will give you an idea of the easy ways mothers can break into the workplace without missing a beat.
10 Skills Motherhood Taught You That Transfer To The Workplace
1) Motivating Employees
If you have ever tried to get a toddler (or teenager, for that matter) out of the house on a cold day, then you know that tapping into what motivates individuals can go a long way. Part of what motivates adults in the workplace is having trust through relationships with colleagues and managers. You’ve done that with your children and can use that success in the workplace. With trust and a mutually-respectful relationship, you’ll know how to motivate even the most challenging of people to do their best work.
Science shows that when mothers are pregnant, our brains and social cognition changes to help develop and nurture our babies. In an article by Annie Brown about the study, check out what she says:
"[Pregnancy] also prepares a mind, a brain for motherhood, and … these empathy and social cognition brain regions [in mothers to-be] become fine-tuned to be able to respond to their babies emotionally and to be able to understand and pick up their babies' social cues, which of course is what we need, we need parents to be able to do, to respond to their babies."
How cool is that! Our brain rewires to make us more receptive to developing skills for empathy during pregnancy! And as most mothers can attest, from the time our children are babies, we get lots of opportunities to practice empathy and hone this skill. Many parenting books talk about letting your child know that she is seen and heard. This message is as applicable to a frustrated toddler as it is to an over-stressed colleague. Empathy is a highly sought after skill and makes stronger team players and leaders.
If you manage your household’s budget, you can confidently boast budgeting skills on your resume and in an interview. Knowing how to allocate the necessary funds to certain buckets of needs, without going over budget, is critical in the workplace.
4) Strategic Thinking
You can’t really be a mom without developing strategic thinking skills. Planning ahead regarding schedules, potential problems you need to prepare for, and keeping everyone from being at each other’s throats during hectic seasons are a benefit in many situations. If you’ve taken a road trip with the family recently, that alone probably provides enough evidence of your strategic thinking skills.
5) Research & Problem Solving
Remember all those times when you were up late reading up on parenting techniques, food and diet options for your little ones, extracurricular activities, and all the different school choices? You showed dedication to researching the best options and finding the best solution. Many jobs need this skill and many employers have a hard time finding someone who can demonstrate this well. Share your motivation to uncovering solutions with a potential employer and you’ll be one step closer to landing the job.
6) Saying "No"
Even the biggest people pleasers say ‘no’ to their children for the sake of their safety and health. Saying ‘no’ to a toddler who wants to eat candy will set them up to have good eating habits in the future. In the same way, saying ‘no’ in a diplomatic way to something that will be worse in the long run for a company is important for a manager to be able to do for the health of the business. Knowing when it’s OK to say 'no' and how to say it will take you far in life and in your career. You can frame this skill as being confident in your role and knowing how to have the tough conversations.
7) Working With a Team
If your children are school-age, chances are you have been involved in some sort of PTA or school/community committee. This is an amazing experience for the workplace as it strongly demonstrates your ability to work well with a team. Did you help recruit volunteers for events, manage sign ups, or do event planning? Whatever experience you have in this area is easily transferable to the world of paid work, so stick it on your resume!
One of my clients does a flower sale through their kids’ school every fall and spring, and guess who is the one leading the fundraising effort for her family? Her! Even though her kids help, she is the one that leads the charge and uses her networking skills to find success with the flower sales. This is small-scale compared to what many employers require in a professional position, but if you can demonstrate the skills it takes to fund raise (i.e. networking, building connections through relationships, finding repeat and referral business) you’ll be high on the list of potential candidates.
Coaching and teaching is difficult and a hard skill to learn. When your child is struggling in the classroom or in sports, it’s your job as mom to coach them through it. What’s the issue? How does your child feel about what’s happening? What solutions can your child come up with to overcome the issue? What support is needed for success? Coaching and teaching adults isn’t much different than coaching kids, so it’s an easily transferable skill for moms to take to the workplace.
10) Managing Several Projects at One Time
Moms are the queens of managing multiple schedules and thinking ahead to make sure everyone is where they need to be (and when they need to be there). Not to mention the hard work of coming up with solutions for conflicting schedules. I had a return-to-work candidate tell me that the work that she did in her MBA logistics and operations class translated very nicely to the work that she did at home in that she mastered managing several projects/tasks at one time. This is Project Management 101 and a highly sought after skill in the workplace.
Keep in mind, this is just the tip of the iceberg for all of the transferable skills that moms can bring the workplace. Take some time today to think through the specific skills you’ve been developing while at home with your children. And don’t shy away from your skills! Embrace them and be proud of what you’ve accomplished.
If you’d like support during your transition to returning to work, Parents Pivot is here to help! Learn more about the resources available to you.
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About the Contributor:
Anna McKay has been a career transition and leadership development coach since 2008. She is the proud mama of two kind-hearted and strong willed girls! After years as an expat in China and the Philippines, Anna founded Parents Pivot to help stay-at-home-parents return to paid work and find careers they love. She offers online workshops, in-person training, return to work programs, and 1x1 & group coaching. Anna is also a MentorMama on SocialMama.