"If you’ve survived a divorce, and you’ve spent years raising a family, most jobs will be a lot easier than that"
I haven’t had a real job since my oldest was born, but now, after my recent divorce, I’m suddenly faced with starting again. Problem is, I have no education. Most jobs I’m qualified for will barely cover the babysitter and costs of going to work. Where do I start?
One of the most common themes I find in people who’ve been out of the workforce for a while is that they’re intimidated by “professionalism” and are so concerned that they’re lacking experience.
But let me assure you, unless you’ve been relaxing on a beach for the last many years, you’ve got lots of experience that can be very valuable in the workplace! The challenge starts with you recognizing it, gaining confidence in your own abilities, and then packaging it in a way that demonstrates your skills to potential employers.
Raising a family requires a large skill set, and each person naturally brings their strengths to their life roles. The cool thing is that sometimes those skills are transferable and can be used in a totally different way. Maybe you’ve got a great eye for detail and enjoy reading (editor?), maybe you’re the neighborhood event planner (social media campaign manager?), or you’re the one always organizing the complicated carpool routes (logistics coordinator?).
First, though, let’s back up to the basics — how much money do you need to support yourself? I know this seems counterintuitive; shouldn’t you just try to get any job? Nope. Like you said, if it’s not even going to cover the costs of going to work, it won’t be worth your time. We’ve got to start with your reality and figure out what the ballpark figure of what your expenses are. I’ve learned this from the model used at the Derech Shalom Center, where they offer financial planning services (among many other supportive services) to those going through a divorce, before career coaching. This way, people approach their career search with clear numbers of what exactly they need to earn.
One more thing before you start your job search — talk to an accountant. Unless you’ve been working with a mediator who took things like taxes and dependents into account as part of your divorce agreement, keep in mind that they can significantly impact your income. Find out things like: Who claims the children as dependents? How does your child support agreement impact your tax bracket? Are you eligible for child care tax credit? What income level would make you eligible for government assistance? Finding all that out can help you determine your income needs more clearly.
Finally, let’s explore what you’d ideally like to do long term. You may already have a dream of what this is, or you can take an aptitude test to find out what your strongest skills are and what kind of jobs you can use them in. This job should have the potential to earn what you need.
Once you know what kind of position you aim to ultimately find, I recommend working backwards and figuring out what kind of entry-level job can give you the experience and skills that will be helpful in your ideal future role. For example: You want to be a designer, so you look for a job in a textiles or showroom business, and then pursue design training. When you’re ready to look for your next job, you’ve got useful experience to add to your résumé. Although this job will likely not fulfill your income needs, it will be the stepping stone you need to get there.
Now you’re ready to apply to that first job! I suggest putting together a functional résumé — one that highlights your skills and doesn’t focus on the timeline. The idea is just to create a simple, organized profile to present yourself professionally. If you feel it would be helpful to explain that you’ve been out of the workforce for a number of years, don’t be afraid to put in a simple explanation stating that you took off time to raise your family. And don’t worry that you have nothing to put on your résumé. Think about any volunteer work you’ve ever done — for your shul, kids’ schools, or local organizations. That all counts.
At this point, you can start applying to relevant jobs. Beware that many jobs are never advertised — they are simply filled by word of mouth. Use that to your advantage by sharing the fact that you’re in the job market with people you know. Your cousin’s neighbor’s son may just be hiring, and you might be the one they need (true story!).
Lastly, I’ll leave you with a secret — if you’ve survived a divorce, and you’ve spent years raising a family, most jobs will be a lot easier than that. Really. You’ve got what it takes to be a success. Now go prove it to yourself.
Shaina Keren is a career consultant who helps people discover and create careers that fit their best talents, interests, and life goals. She also advises businesses on hiring and keeping “the right people in the right seat,” in a win-win approach to growing businesses and careers.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 905)
Oops! We could not locate your form.