Hey mama, I see you. You’ve learned all you can learn from your job. You’re Zoom-fatigued. You’ve fought all the battles you care to fight. Maybe COVID-19 cost you your employment, or maybe it just provided you with that push you needed to quit. Whatever the reason, you’re ready for your next career move. And you deserve it! But you have your baby, your toddler, your older kid demanding your time, attention and energy. You’re zapped—and it’s hard to center yourself when the boundaries between work and life are blurred. What do you do? Okay, first, just breathe.
You have a lot going on right now, but the good news is that you have all the tools you need to get ahead. Job searching as a parent (much like everything else) is about being intentional and strategic. As the great Dolly Parton once said, “We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” And at the end of the day, it’s all about staying persistent, positive and committed to learning from the ups and downs on your course.
In my day job—when I’m not wrangling two little kids—I’m a strategy consultant helping organizations advance their goals. With so many women I know looking to make career changes right now, I wanted to provide some useful strategies to help them achieve success. So, I teamed up with pros—Lauren Lipsky, a career development coach and learning and development professional and Sara Garlick Lundberg, a seasoned executive search consultant (and my mom, a recruiter of 30+ years!)—who had powerful insights to share.
Here are their top tips for parents who are job searching during the pandemic.
1. Own the moment and look to the future.
Undoubtedly, the pandemic pulled the rug out from under everyone’s lives. But now the question is: How do you want to recalibrate? Many people have used the last year as an opportunity for self-reflection and learning. Take a moment to step back and think about your definition of success. What does your new chapter look like? How do you envision positive change? There is no right or wrong answer here. Give yourself the latitude to think about how work fits into your life—not the other way around. Be clear about what you want, say it out loud and let that be your north star. When the dust settles after 2021 (yes, it will!), make sure that you are where you want to be and your goals are aligned.
2. The remote work world has some real advantages: Use them.
Research predicts that work will not go back to the status quo after this year. This means that many jobs that had once been in-person, will now permit employees to work remotely some or all of the time. While at-home work had once been considered an employment perk, attitudes and policies at many companies have changed. Industry experts are hopeful that these changes will lead to increased productivity, collaboration and a more inclusive workforce—perhaps offering greater flexibility in your search, too! Enjoy the opportunity to think differently, and possibly more broadly, about where you look for work and the kinds of roles you’re able to take.
3. Find connection.
Lockdowns, remote work, quarantine: More than anything, the pandemic has reminded us to never take human connection for granted. People value mutually beneficial, meaningful connections. We are social beings, after all. And, technology is on our side. More people are on social media than ever before. Use this to your advantage. This is a great time to re-engage your network—even forge new relationships through LinkedIn, Facebook groups or an old-fashioned email. With many people being at home, it also can make networking easier. Securing 15 to 30 minutes for an introductory Zoom call is much less effort than landing an in-person coffee. People are still craving connection, and you’ll be surprised by how many will agree to speak. Although the times have changed, the concept remains the same: Connection brings trust with potential employers, as well as new ideas, perspectives and energy to your search.
4. Know the game and don’t fall for the traps.
Here’s a secret: you CAN land a job—and succeed in it—even when you don’t have 100% of the qualifications. It’s well-documented that opaque hiring processes lend themselves to persistent biases and barriers that have kept women and people of color from getting ahead. Although it’s ultimately employers who need to change their policies and practices for greater workplace equity, what we can say is that it’s important to go into recruitment processes knowing that your advocacy and networks can be just as important as your training and credentials. With this in mind, master the humble brag and frame your pitch to let your strengths shine.
5. Enter with confidence and belonging. (Spoiler alert: This is everything.)
There are a million and one ways that you will add value to your next role; identify and communicate them. Not sure where to start? Review past performance reviews to re-familiarize yourself with your accomplishments. Talk with friends and mentors about your strengths. Center your application materials, networking conversations and interviews on the skills you’ll be building on in your next job and the assets you bring. Put your deficits and self-doubt aside.
6. When you land that interview, keep it conversational.
Demonstrate your active listening skills. Answer the interviewer’s questions but don’t give a monologue. Practice your opener response to “So, tell us about yourself and your interest in the position” so that it’s direct, concise and to the point. (“I’ve had candidates open interviews with a 20-minute response to the first question. Don’t be that candidate,” advises Sara Garlick Lundburg.) If you’ve done your background research and practiced a few likely questions, you’re good to go. Instead of over-preparing, try to get rest and relax before your interview so that you’re sharp and at your best.
7. Dress for success.
You’ll do your best when you feel your best. Even if your interviewer will only see you from the waist up, we encourage you to consider how you dress as a way to get into the right zone. A New York Times columnist recently provided some helpful tips for readers preparing on what to wear for their Zoom interviews. Among other things, she says to keep it simple and channel Kamala Harris’ style: “authority without distraction.” Also, pay attention to your camera’s positioning and lighting. We love the saying, “everyone shines in the right light.” These days it’s quite literal!
8. Work your schedule.
Don’t be afraid to schedule interviews when it works best for you and your family’s needs (for example, avoid Monday mornings if your family is getting settled back into the routines of the workweek). You don’t need to tell potential employers why; just do what’s best for you.
9. Lean into the journey.
Your job search is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. You might not see relevant job listings every day, but try to make two or three moves each week. Whether it’s networking with friends or former colleagues, checking listings, attending a webinar or updating your LinkedIn profile, keep up the momentum. Just get yourself out there. Every little bit counts.
10. Learn forward.
Reflect and learn from what’s worked well, or what hasn’t. Be adaptable and flexible. Pivot your strategy when needed. Have the courage to grow with your search!
Listen, we know it’s hard. But you have all the skills and determination you need. If parenthood has taught me nothing else, it’s to stay patient, present and open to learning, both on life’s sunny days and the stormy ones. It may not feel like it during the process, but investing time in yourself, your job search and your long-term career growth can be as essential for your household budget as it is for your self-care. So remember: Stay engaged, find your village for support (yes, virtual wine dates when needed!) and ride all the highs and the lows. Take it One. Day. At. A. Time. You’ve got this.