Spurred by her inner drive for career success, a divorce and a desire to model a balanced life for her children, Julia Freeland decided to re-enter the workforce after a decade stint as a stay-at-home mom. It was more difficult than she expected. Sure, she figured, she was a little bit rusty on the latest tech apps and leadership strategies, but she hadn’t spent those ten years eating bon-bons and watching re-runs of Guiding Light.
“You’ll be lucky to earn half of what you earned in your Leadership Development job you worked 10 years ago,” said one career coach.
“You will have to start over. You will be competing for jobs with new college grads,” said a fellow parent who had remained in the workforce while having kids.
And from an interviewer, “We think you would be a great fit for the company, but given your time off, you would be better suited in a lower position.”
That last comment was the proverbial straw. Julia stood her ground, persevered and was finally hired into a role within a few levels of where she had left. She quickly proved herself and earned back her old title, but echoes of the back-to-work advice continued to reverberate inside her head. She knew she wasn’t the only parent to feel thwarted and undervalued during this transition, and she also knew that the lessons she had learned could help pave that rocky path for others.
As she puts it, stay-at-home parents don’t actually stay at home, yet often those work experiences “don’t count” in both the parent's and the potential employer’s minds.
In addition to creating and raising three small humans and managing a household, Julia was Procurement Chair for a Children’s Hospital Guild, served as general contractor, architect and designer for a historical remodel, was the Director of Fundraising for her children’s elementary school, and helped a friend design, build and launch his small business.
Time and again she had stretched out of her comfort zone, learned new skills, worked with individuals from all sorts of backgrounds and pulled together successful projects with non-existent budgets. Yet, the assessment from a career coach she worked with was that this work had no business relevance. Julia disagreed and got inspired to start REvolve You to help parents who have been at home re-enter the workforce.
The program consists of co-horts of 10 parents, who meet 1-2 times per week for 10 weeks, with two additional one-on-one working sessions with a coach. All sessions fall under three headings; Getting Up-to-Speed with Job Search skills (i.e. resume and Linkedin Work), Increasing Technical Aptitude (exposure to the latest popular apps, search engines and software), and Adjusting Mindset (updating work vocabulary, expectations and looking thru the employee lens).
The biggest challenge, Julia says, is changing the way parents think about themselves. For most, their personal identities were set aside when they had kids. Her first order of business is to have them drop the title ‘stay-at-home parent’ from their vocabulary. They are full-time parents. Full-time parents do an amazing number of things in their communities, in their schools, in their homes, AND they raise children. Once the parents have re-discovered their self-worth, they can strive to find a family-career balance that resonates.
Julia noticed that some companies and technology were creating opportunities for more flexible work models, yet very few parents knew about them. In an effort to promote awareness of this progress, and celebrate those organizations, she has recruited local, successful professional moms to help educate and engage in open dialogue at a panel discussion Tuesday, December 6th from 6-9 p.m. at The Great Hall at Greenlake.
Maddy Arvold of LeaveLogic, Jessica Eggert of New York Code and Design Academy, Jessica Jobes, Founder of On the Grid, Meredith Bogguess a Microsoft Recruiting Consultant and Michelle Duffy, a Google Development Manager are the featured panelists at the ‘Workplace REvolution: How Women are Finding Balance’ Symposium. The evening, featuring networking, discussion, and a Q & A, is aimed at educating and inspiring women to create a life where career, family and passions are aligned with personal values. Tickets can be found at Eventbrite.