This article is part of the Back to Work Moms series interviews with moms whose stories can inspire. This series includes tips and intervews with human resources experts, resume experts, and successful moms with stories that inspire as well as taking a look at resources to help moms looking to dip their toes back in the workplace water or jump right back in. It’s for stay at home moms, work at home moms, moms who work part time and moms that have gone back to work full time.
Back to Work Mom: Jessica Kleiman
VP, PR at Hearst Magazines and co-author of “Be Your Own Best Publicist: How to Use PR Techniques to Get Noticed, Hired and Rewarded at Work”
Mom to one daughter, Emma, 1 year
Examiner: Tell me your back to work story.
Jessica: Due to a late pregnancy loss a few years ago, when I got pregnant again, my doctor put me on bed rest starting at 20 weeks. As a result, I had to work from home 5 days/week (with my legs up!) for the duration of my pregnancy and then took 12 weeks maternity leave. So when I finally returned to the office, I had not been physically there for eight months, which was a big transition for me. Prior to having Emma, I had spent lots of late nights in the office and at work-related events. Now that I have a child at home and a nanny who only works until 7pm, I have to leave the office by 6:15pm to get home in time or find alternate childcare on nights when I cannot.
Examiner: How old were your kids when you returned and why did you decide that was the right time?
Jessica: I went back to work full-time as soon as my three-month maternity leave was over but I asked to work from home two days a week and my company approved one. I always knew I would go back to work after having children but it was important to me to have one day a week at home so at least I could see Emma during the day even though I was working.
Examiner: The most challenging thing about working full time at an office?
Jessica: I’m lucky enough to work one day a week from home but when I’m in the office the other four days, it’s non-stop as I have to cram all of my meetings, breakfasts and lunches into those four days. It’s also a struggle to leave the office at night to get home in time to relieve the nanny, particularly when I used to stay late and my staffers often stay later than I do now. However, I find that after putting Emma to bed, I’m back on my laptop at night writing and answering emails, often until I go to sleep at 10 or 11 so, in essence, I’m working more hours than I used to, just some of them remotely.
Examiner: The most rewarding thing about returning to work?
Jessica: I manage a staff of eight people and I love the personal interaction, brainstorming, collaboration and mentoring I’m able to do with them when we’re all working together. I work in public relations so clearly I enjoy being around other people — staying home with your children, especially when they’re babies, is wonderful but I personally missed having adult interaction and using my brain in a different way, which I’m able to do at work.
Examiner: Tips for other parents to help mentally deal with the change of being a full time mom to going back to a workplace?
Jessica: In my new book, “Be Your Own Best Publicist: How to Use PR Techniques to Get Noticed, Hired and Rewarded at Work,” my co-author and I talk about some PR techniques that would be essential for moms re-entering the workplace after an absence. First, take a breath and don’t panic. Despite the unemployment rate in this country being near 10%, if you have the skills, presence and confidence to re-launch your career, you WILL be able to do it. Your children will not forget you if you go back to work. And, while the prospect of leaving your kids may petrify you, trust me, you’ll feel good about yourself for being able to contribute in the workplace and then do so in a different way at home.
Second, in order to gear up to go back, you will need to figure out what your “pitch” or story is — what were your career accomplishments before you became a mom, what skills did you use as a stay-at-home mother that would apply at work (i.e. organizational skills, ability to juggle multiple projects, insatiable thirst for knowledge – I mean, what new mom hasn’t read every single book and website about caring for a baby?). Next, how can you use your network to help rebuild your presence/brand in the workplace, both in person and online? For example, go on informational interviews – they’re non-threatening and most people love to talk about themselves and their careers. These meetings are a way to make connections that may result in a job, if not at that company than at another. Face-to-face interaction is still extremely effective but social media has become an increasingly important way to network your way to a new job. If you’re like me, you used Facebook, Twitter, message boards and the like to connect with other new moms to share information and advice about your experience. You can do the same for your career. Follow people in your industry of choice on Twitter; join LinkedIn, a great professional networking site, and ask people you trust for recommendations on your profile; ask your Facebook friends if they have any leads for you; and read blogs and sites about your field and companies you’re interested in working for to stay up on the latest news.
Examiner: Advice for helping kids deal with the change?
Jessica: I’d recommend that if they’re old enough to understand that you are not going to be with them all day anymore, you should sit them down and explain that Mommy has to go to work but that you’ll be home every night in time to give them a bath/read them a bedtime story/help with their homework, what have you, and that you will be thinking about them all day and so excited to see them when you come home.
Examiner: Anything else you want to add?
Jessica: Just that it’s important to realize that just because you’ve been out of the workforce for a while, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get back in. As I now know from personal experience, there’s no better test for knowing how to balance responsibilities, staying calm in a crisis, making quick decisions and managing people than being a mother. Who wouldn’t want to hire someone with those qualifications?
Stay tuned for many more stories in the Back to Work Moms series!
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