Going back to work!

Being a stay-at-home parent was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. 

In spite of the exhaustion, exasperation and constant haggling with my boys over everything from what they ate to what they wore, I enjoyed those years spent hanging out full time with them — and re-falling in love with them every day. 

I wouldn’t trade them for anything. 

And I know I’m not alone in that. 

According to a 2015 survey by the Pew Research Center, about 39 percent of women — and 24 percent of men — with children reported taking a “significant amount of time off” to care for a child or family member. Roughly 27 percent of women and 10 percent of men quit their jobs. 

Ramping up to ‘on-ramping’

If you make the move to stay at home with kids, odds are that you’ll probably want to get back to work eventually. The stay-at-home life may be rewarding, but it’s also nice to have a grown-up’s life. 

Luckily for me, I was able to keep one foot in my publishing career — taking on occasional freelance projects and maintaining connections to my network — even while I was home. When I was ready to re-enter the workforce full time, I was able to do so without too much trouble.

That’s not true for everyone. Spend a few years outside your career — “off-ramping,” as they say — and skills, technology, even terminology can pass you by. It can be very hard to “on-ramp” again. 

Hit job sites, then take a class

So what’s a parent to do when it’s time to get back to work? One thing you may have to do is mind your skills gap. If you’ve been out a significant number of years, your tech skills are almost certainly outdated, for instance. If your skills have grown stale or irrelevant, it may be time to think about taking a class or two to catch up. 

Look through job postings to identify where your skills gaps are or talk with people in your network about changes in your industry. Then consider university, tech school or community ed courses. 

You may be able to take a class online through a source such as Lynda.com, which offers nearly 6,000 online courses in business, technology and creative skills taught by industry experts. Or maybe your friends and former colleagues can help catch you up. 

Talk it up — and practice

When it comes time to interview, it pays to practice. Be prepared to talk confidently about your decision to stay home as well as your qualifications and ability to do the job. Hiring managers are likely to be nervous about taking on someone who’s been out of the workforce for an extended period. 

Don’t avoid the topic. Let them know that you’ve carefully considered your decision to return to work.

Not an internship exactly

One on-ramping option is a returnship. This is a relatively new term for an internship specifically designed for adults re-entering the workplace after an extended time off, such as stay-at-home parents and military veterans. 

The idea of a returnship has been credited to the investment banking company Goldman Sachs, which launched, in 2008, a 10-week program for unemployed mid-level men and women looking to reignite their careers. 

Since then, other companies have started similar re-entry programs. The idea is simple: “High-potential” workers are eased back into the job market by way of a paid trial period of employment. 

Though there’s a risk of not getting hired, the benefits include getting a foot in the door and closing that skills gap. Employers get a chance to bring in skilled workers with life experience. 

Some labor experts, however, argue that returnships exploit returning workers. In some cases, only half of those who do returnships are hired on full time. Others argue that returnships are a great way to get back to work. 

If you’re considering one, it wouldn’t hurt to ask the company in question how many interns are typically hired full time. 

Your parenting experience

Spending years at home with our young kids might mean we have some work to do in getting back into the workplace, but it doesn’t make us bad employees. 

 I’d argue it makes us great ones. We have real-world experience and drive to spare. Plus, haggling with toddlers makes us great negotiators.

Eric Braun is a Minneapolis dad of two boys and the co-author of The Survival Guide for Money Smarts: Earn, Save, Spend, Give for young readers. Send comments or questions to ebraun@mnparent.com.