Networking for Stay-at-Home Parents

by John Sylo

Networking Chit Chat

It has become increasingly common for one parent to take a job hiatus to raise kids. Often, as the kids get older and head to school, those parents decide they are ready to re-enter the workforce. It can be tough to head back after an extended absence -- skills might be rusty and networks may have dried up. But, stay-at-home parents often overlook some very strategic networking opportunities they have. Here are some tips for stay-at-home parents looking to reinvigorate their network.

  • Think about everyone you know socially and from volunteer work. Kids are an amazing entree to allow you to meet a wide variety of parents. Think of their classmates, their teammates and the others you come into contact with on a regular basis. Make sure that you are a parent who goes out of your way to be friendly to everyone - not just because you might be job hunting one day, but, well, it can never hurt!

  • Do some detective work. Once you are starting to get serious about looking into updating your network, do some sleuthing to see where these friends, neighbors and parents work if you don’t know. Make sure you are on LinkedIn, and check out their business profiles. See who they know that you know and if there's a fit with your area of interest and expertise.

Tip: Go to your settings and make yourself anonymous while you snoop around so you don't look like a stalker. Once you are ready to engage with them, you can turn your setting back to your name, but anonymous is a great way to check people out initially!

  • Ask other stay-at-home parents what they did in their former life. You might be pleasantly surprised at the talent that is standing on the soccer sidelines! Many times you'll discover you have former business backgrounds in common and it's a great way to start building your network.

  • If you are seriously considering heading back to work, casually mention it to parents with whom you volunteer or socialize. If you have a specific company you’re interested in, or just an industry, make sure that you let people know you are seeking contacts. You never know who knows whom and people are typically very happy to help.

  • Get in touch with former colleagues. Even though it seems as though you haven’t been in touch forever, former colleagues are typically pleasantly surprised to hear from someone they used to work with! Reaching out via LinkedIn is a low-key way to start touching base. Send them a friendly request with a note that you are considering re-entering the workforce. Many will respond with a note that they'd love to help -- and that's your chance to set up an informational interview. Also, once you're linked in, check out their lists of contacts to see if there are people you have forgotten about who would also be great contacts.

  • Focus your volunteer work on your area of expertise. Volunteer work can be a great resume builder, but it has to be strategic. Of course you might want to work in your child's class, but also consider taking on leadership roles that will help build your talents and resume. If you're in communications, help write the newsletter or create the school’s crisis plan. If you're an event planner, take on the annual auction. It will build your skills in a tangible way, and also remind you what you're good at!

Most stay-at-home parents eventually realize that they'd like to re-enter the workforce. The time they've spent at home can be a valuable asset in terms of relationships they've built -- if they mine them strategically.

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