As spouses lose jobs and the pressure mounts to bring in money, the recession is forcing some stay-at-home parents back into the workforce sooner than expected.
“They’re dealing with the fact that their education is now old, their skill set is often not up to par, particularly as to do with computers,” says Anne Brunelle, an employment counsellor at Times Change Women’s Employment Service, a not-for-profit organization based in Toronto.
“It’s a matter of figuring out what skill set they have been working on as stay-at-home moms that they can transfer into the workforce.”
Jumping back into work after a decade or more can be scary. “They (may have been) expecting eventually to go back, but they thought they could take a bit of time. Then their spouse loses a well-paying job and they both end up looking for survival jobs so they can keep the house and keep the kids fed,” Brunelle says.
Many stay-at-home parents have been involved in volunteer work through sports their kids are involved in, or may have written newsletters for the school or helped with fundraising. These are “transferable skills” that can spruce up a dusty resumé.
“We have a career-planning workshop … where women tell the stories of tasks they’ve done and then the rest of the group tells them what they saw as skills and accomplishments,” she says.
“For women who are desperate in the short term, we figure out what they can do that is not so skilled.
How can they sell themselves as someone who works at a grocery store, even though that wasn’t what they had done before and they may be well overeducated for it?” she says. “It can very difficult to say, ‘I’ve was a librarian and have my master in library sciences, but they no longer recognize what I’ve got. I have to do something; do I end up working in a book store where I used to run a library?’”
Once the basic fiscal emergency has passed, parents can use courses at colleges or public libraries to update their computer skills. Many clients Brunelle sees don’t have email accounts: Get one, or you’ll look outdated.
“The Facebook account you share with the kids isn’t enough,” she says. Then, look at furthering education. “While employers may not recognize a 15- or 20-year-old education, education institutes sometimes will.”
That can slingshot you back into a career path that is satisfying — and pays the bills.