What distinguishes a divorced mom from any other applicant as she re-enters the workforce is that she is either in the midst of crisis or in the wake of a crisis. In the quest to find a job or clients and customers for herself, she will compete with people who are feeling settled and happy or, perhaps, wide-eyed 20-somethings newly out of college and grad school. She will compete against women who do not have the responsibilities of caring for children. She will compete against men.
In terms of preparing myself as I joined the ranks of competitors in the depths of the recession, I read many articles that dealt with resumes, cover letters, and interviews. And these were full of suggestions not without value. I would recommend reading all you can. However, I got most bogged down in the part that involved me, as an individual, reimagining my future as my world completely dissolved.
This step of envisioning where you want to go and who you want to be, takes a tremendous amount of courage and strength that is lost on those who are not in the wake of, emotional trauma.
To find that internal footing from which to launch yourself, try the following 10 tips to boost your sense of empowerment when re-entering the workforce after divorce:
1. Be “unrealistic!”: As your new life unfolds, there may be numerous opportunities to crashland in “reality.” However, I would say to try to allow for opening up wide to the potential of your future as you explore your options. Do your best to prevent hemming yourself in by “realism.” We must be philosophers and question What is reality anyway? People around you may say things like, “Oh, don’t expect to go back at your old salary.” They may grimace and frown and say, “At your age, you will bump into ageism.”
People say all kinds of depressing things that would seem to hem us in and hold us down as they project their fears onto us. Try to have your imaginary shield up for this kind of thing and don’t create an artificial box for yourself and think you are somehow limited before you even begin. Try to allow for infinite possibility, and even happiness, in your new work life.
2. Be a legend in your own mind: Because you are “starting over again,” there is a wonderful opportunity to completely change your career direction. Just because you were a project manager before having kids doesn’t mean you have to be one now. Are there any latent dreams you’ve had about becoming a milliner and running a cottage industry online somewhere like Etsy? Have you always wanted to sing? Again, as in Tip 1, try not to limit yourself too quickly (if at all) by brushing aside any dearly held dreams.
Sure, you may have to get the proverbial day job until you launch something else, however, this is a golden time in your life to reinvent yourself. Write down a list of all the jobs you saw yourself doing when you were a child. Write down the jobs that other women have that, when you ponder them, make you just a tad jealous or create a sense of longing. What does your heart long for in terms of your professional world?
3. Be Wonder Woman: So much of what we end up doing in the outer world begins with a series of thoughts we have. If our inner dialogue is fearful and cautious, we might accept sub-par job offers thinking that we have to grab the first thing even if it isn’t right for us. Even if you are the most passive woman on the planet, picture yourself not only as confident and proactive but with several super powers to boot. Have fun with it.
4. Cast your net wide: College applicants are told to apply to three tiers of choices: their “reach” schools, their 2nd choice schools and their fall-back schools. Think of your job search in a similar way. Even if you don’t get the advertised position, the HR person might pull your resume for a different opportunity.
5. Take aim like Artemis: In addition to being a superhero, imagine you are a powerful woman in mythology who goes after what she wants. Imagine a job as a bright red apple and you’re drawing back your golden arrow. Focus on what you want. Know what excites you and makes your heart say YES! and then take aim.
6. Have a multi-pronged strategy: Yes, you should look at job listings and send resumes. However, try other approaches as well. Walk into a business and talk to the people there. Invite a manager to have coffee with you for an informational interview. Go to job fairs. Be creative.
7. Don’t fret over your resume: Heresy, right? Of course, you must have a resume. However, odds are your resume won’t be the thing that gets you the interview or the job. If working on your resume is the bogeyman that prevents you from moving forward with your job search, begin by setting up a Linkedin account at Linkedin.com. You don’t have to complete it to have a presence on Linkedin. Just get your name and a brief description of your industry and past job experience so you can begin to build your contacts base.
8. Believe in your technical skills: Try not to confuse your comfort level with your true ability. When the job description says, “Must be Microsoft Word proficient,” it does not mean you have to be a Word genius. It just means you need to have worked on Word. Are you comfortable with computers? Maybe not. But that does not mean you should limit yourself from applying to a perfectly good job. Many community colleges have cheap or free classes on basic skills for computers.
9. Network like a mother: This is most likely how you will find a job. Use Linkedin. Use your friends. Use your family. Use professional associations. This is how it is done. Connections. Use your superpowers to gain courage and start the power lunches.
10. Have vision: Picture what you WANT your new life to look like in 5-10 years and hold tight to that vision. Finding a job–or settling on a career path–may take longer than expected and, at times, feel frustrating. It is important to draw upon your inner resources and who you really are–or who you can be–when life isn’t cooperating yet. Know what you really want the outcome to be deep in your heart. The road may be long, but you CAN get there.