As of June 2021, the female unemployment rate is 5.5%, a vast improvement from the previous year’s percentage (11.1%). Still, many women are either feeling burned out in their current roles and looking for new opportunities or were pushed out of the workforce either due to lack of support from their employer or the challenges associated with caring for children and loved ones.
There is much work to be done to support women (especially working mothers) in America’s workforce; the career experts interviewed for this article made that clear. From citing the motherhood penalty and invisible workload these professionals face to the national childcare shortage, accommodations must be made for working mothers within the corporate and private sector. The career experts also agreed: women returning to the workforce should stand by their decision proudly, knowing that they made the best possible decision for themselves and their family at that moment, as opposed to feeling ashamed of having done something wrong that needs justification.
Below career experts share seven strategies for women and mothers looking for job opportunities in 2021:
Keep one foot in the door.
“Do whatever possible to keep a foot in the door. On my team, we lost someone to burnout – but I’ve encouraged her to take on freelance assignments from us so she doesn’t have a gap on her resume.” – Allyson Downey, founder & CEO of Stellar Reviews
Highlight your emotional intelligence.
“Recruiters are also now looking out for candidates that carry with them a certain amount of social and emotional intelligence, to thrive in today’s remote working landscape. This means being able to demonstrate empathy for others’ emotions and behaviors which is crucial, especially when communicating and working with others remotely, where it is very easy for stress, excess workloads, and isolation to cause significant amounts of stress in staff. Luckily, since women tend to exemplify a strong sense of awareness and empathy, at least compared to men, this gives them an edge that should boost their value in front of recruiters, so long as they can show they have it during the interview process.” – Eden Cheng, Co-Founder, PeopleFinderFree
Bring your authentic identity to every opportunity.
“Self-awareness is an essential element of positive leadership. Knowing who you are and being conscious of all the elements that make you uniquely who you are, is a key element of returning to the workforce. Knowing what you stand for, your values, your ability to exhibit what you hope to see in others creates an example for others to follow. Realizing that no one else thinks what you think, knows what you know, or sees things the same way that you do, makes you an essential contributor to an organization’s success.” – Mark Epp, Senior Leadership Director, with Talent Plus
Don’t be afraid to negotiate for yourself. No one else will.
“One of the most important skills working moms need when returning to the workforce is their ability to negotiate. They need to be prepared to negotiate not only salaries but also flexible schedules that might include hybrid solutions for being in the office and working at home.” – E. Lynn Price, Negotiation Consultant
“The pandemic made it clear to everyone that moms are under-supported. So if anything, moms need to be braver about taking the risk to ask for what they need to perform at their best, without fear of retribution. To get into partnership with their employers to create it. Because smart employers will listen.” – Sara Olin and Anna Conathan, co-founders of Luscious Mother
Upskilling around tech can serve as a strong foundation.
“Emeritus just completed a workplace survey looking at the effects of professional learning on careers and found that the top needs are all tech-related: artificial intelligence, business analytics, data analytics, and machine learning. And, stats around the state of women in tech are fairly disheartening — just 26% of computing jobs are held by women – underscoring the need for upskilling in this area. – Erin Rosenblatt, Director of Professional Certificates at Emeritus
Address the elephant in the room.
“It is in your best interest to share the WHY behind your employment break. According to a recent study by ResumeGo, explaining a gap on your resume increases your chances to land an interview. According to the study, applicants who disclosed the reason behind their work gap were 60% more likely to receive a call back for an interview than those who didn’t! Don’t only mind the gap, explain it!” – Meg Applegate, Resume Writer
And most importantly, trust yourself.
“The most important skill a woman looking to return to the workforce post-COVID needs is the ability to trust herself. These women should know that every transition comes with its learning curve, that clarity is a superpower, and confidence is a happy by-product. Owning their story includes clarity, and therefore confidence, in the decisions they have made. That mindset assists women in presenting their story to others, while networking or on an interview, and more importantly, lets them embrace the personal shifts – like more or less time with family.” – Neha Ruch, founder of Mother Untitled
While we wait for change to occur, we must face facts. Women and working mothers pushed out of the workforce still need to explain career gaps and position themselves as more desirable candidates than their colleagues. Mothers must evaluate all their transferrable skills, including arranging schedules, managing the household and household finances, community engagement, and assisting children with academics. These transfer into multitasking, adaptability, networking, time-management, problem-solving, stress and crisis management, active listening, organization, leadership, and negotiating in the workplace.