On a recent shoot with our local ABC affiliate (WTNH) in New Haven, CT., Kelley and I were pleasantly surprised by a question from reporter Sarah Cody’s trusty cameraman, Mike Piskorski. When the interview was over and we were returning to our posts, Mike, who’d been appropriately quiet for 45 minutes, piped up: “I have a question for you, ladies.” He cleared his throat. “Is there anything I can do to help my wife as she considers returning to work?”
“You bet, Mike!” we responded, delighted by his question and nearly choking on our green teas at the thoughtfulness of it. If you, too, are the spouse of an aspiring career-returner, consider the four tips we offered Mike:
1 Encourage her – For most women, the single biggest barrier to successful career re-entry is a lack of confidence. The woman, who once carried a designer briefcase and commandeered the conference room, forgets all that now that she carries a diaper bag and hangs out in the rec room.
- Remind her of the success she was in the workplace.
- Point out all of the great work she does now as a caretaker of your family and a volunteer in the community.
- Show her that you believe in her and – even if you are somewhat overwhelmed at the thought of the havoc her returning to work will wreak on your home life – show her that you are excited about it.
2 Support her – with actions, not just words. Ask her what scares her most and then help her overcome it.
- If it’s technical skills, schedule a ‘date night’ to give her a PowerPoint tutorial or walk her through Excel pivot tables.
- If it’s writing a resume, show her some samples, offer to be her editor, or connect her with your company’s HR manager for some advice.
- If it’s getting started on LinkedIn, take her photo, help her set up her profile page, and share your contacts.
- If it’s lapsed credentials or the need for more schooling, explore continuing education options with her and nudge her to sign up.
There’s a good chance you have the knowledge and resources to help your wife overcome her most daunting obstacles; be sure to offer them.
3 Push her – Returning to work is a big step into uncertainty and possible rejection. It is highly likely your wife will ‘circle around the drain’ for a while before committing. Give her a gentle push by removing her reasons and opportunities to procrastinate. For example:
- Take the kids away for the day, so she can work on her cover letters.
- Give her a gift card to her favorite boutique or department store to buy an interview outfit.
- Bring her to a workplace mixer to practice her networking skills.
- Role-play interview questions with her.
- And, my favorite: network for her; tell your colleagues and friends that your wife is looking for work – and what a fabulous worker she is.
4 Push yourself – Your wife’s return to work is going to change your life, too. Significantly. You can help her best by lowering your expectations of what she will be able to do for you and the household once she returns, and upping your participation in said household activities to account for her time at work.
- Initiate a conversation about all that she does and how those things will get done once she’s working: carpooling, grocery shopping, before- and after-school care, etc.
- Consider which of these activities you can take on, and start doing them.
- Offer to invest in professional services to cover some of the others e.g. grocery delivery, housekeeping, babysitting.
- Accept that helping your wife relaunch her career may cost money to start – and that it’s an investment that will benefit everyone in the family.
And, if you want to really improve your wife’s chances of a successful return to work, sign her up for our Prepare To Launch U course when enrollment begins in three weeks!