After 12-year career break how one Cary mom found way back

September 19, 2016

Marla Wolf took a 12-year career break to care for her girls, now a tween and teen.

She didn’t completely step away. She worked part time as a fitness professional, fulfilling her passion for fitness and training, and she spent about three years working part time in retail. But, she had all kinds of expertise from a wide range of professional experiences, including call center manager, accounts receivable, account manager and project manager.

When she decided to return to the full-time paying workforce, Wolf took the time to attend last year’s Back to Business Women’s Conference, which helps women who have stepped away from their careers to raise children or for other reasons. The next conference is Oct. 6 and Oct. 7 in Research Triangle Park.

Today, despite that dozen-year career break, Wolf is account manager in business development at ITSco, a small technical firm that has been in North Carolina for 20 years.

By email, Wolf and I chatted about her decision to seek full-time work and lessons she learned from the conference. Here’s our Q&A:

Go Ask Mom: When and why did you decided to go back to work?

Marla Wolf: I decided to go back to work in 2013, when my youngest daughter was nine. I had fulfilled my goals as a fitness professional and was ready and needed to spend my time contributing to something that would, in return, make me feel challenged, accomplished and fulfilled.

GAM: What were your top worries about re-entering the workforce?

MW: The usual worries about computer skills where forefront for me, as well as creating a resume that would attract recruiters and hiring managers. I always maintained a sense of confidence about my professional people skills and ability to learn new skills quickly. I also knew that I needed to get in front of a hiring manager so that message could be relayed.

As time went on, I noticed huge differences in finding a job currently compared to 10 years ago. There was rarely face time. They have taken the person out of the first stages of hiring and job search.

GAM: You attended last fall’s Back to Business Conference. How did that help you during your job search? What takeaways did you find really useful?

MW: First I would like to say how well thought out and put together the conference was last year - from the opportunity to get a professional picture taken for your LinkedIn profile to the panels of re-launchers and recruiters, along with resume and interviewing skills, Microsoft overview, networking, making connections, informative speakers and more.

After the conference, I was re-motivated and amped up my search with re-direction, focus and more productivity. I continued networking, I joined Meetup.com groups and listened to the resume webinars that followed up the conference. I stopped spending so much time blindly applying for jobs on online sources and applied for jobs only that had a name connected with hiring - a person I could then send an email. I utilized LinkedIn for my search and updated my profile strength.

In the end, I focused on informational interviews and making connections. I needed to be the person that popped into their head when a job became open. In the end, that is exactly how I got my new job.

GAM: How has it been balancing motherhood and work since you returned to the (paying) workforce?

MW: I am very fortunate with the timing of my “re-launch.” My daughters are at the age where they like a little time alone, they can connect with their friends themselves. I also was working part-time previously. My job is very flexible and I am able to work from home, if needed. I am in early and home by 4 p.m. most days. My husband also has the ability to work from home. Sometimes things work out as they should, not when you want them to happen. The timing of this opportunity could not have happened at a better time for my family.

GAM: What tips would you give to moms in your situation who are now looking for jobs?

MW: Research companies where you can see yourself working or spending your time. Pick three to five and try and connect with someone who works there. Ask them if they would mind meeting you for coffee or lunch for an informational meeting where you can make a connection, find out what they do and how they got there.

Network Network Network. Meetup.com is an unlimited resource. Create a business card to hand out - something you are proud of that can relay who you are and what you can do for them. At gyms, churches, PTA, let people know you are looking.

Create a resume you can be proud of. Be precise with your objective. Create two or three resumes using different objectives for different positions. Spend the money on a career and professional coach. They will find out who you are and help you pinpoint what you want and how to relay that on your resume and interviews.

Meet with other women who are trying to re-launch. We love to help each other. You never know who they know.

Don’t undervalue your experience because you have been out of the workforce.

Do online courses to update your computer skills.

Check the Wake County library for free workshops in resumes and job searches.

Registration is open for this October’s Back to Business Conference. The conference website has more information.

Go Ask Mom features local moms every Monday.

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