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Women & Money: Can You Keep Your Career On Track from Home?

Many women choose to take a hiatus from their careers in order to stay home and raise their children. After five to 15 years, though, many of them decide that they are ready to get back into the workforce.

Forget about Sheryl Sandberg and the “Lean In [3]” option; there are a number of women who just need to make sure that they remain competitive after being outside the workforce for a few years. In fact, a recent study from UC Berkeley indicates that one of the reasons that women might not be leading in the workplace is due to the fact that they are taking care of business at home, and that interferes with career advancement.

So, what happens when you take time off to raise a family? What are your options? How can you remain competitive during maternity leave and beyond [4]?

Editor’s Note: This is part four of our week-long series Women & Money [5] – focusing on the challenges women face today. Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In [3], and her subsequent media promotion blitz have inspired us to this create this week’s series and we hope you’ll join us in discussing these important issues.

Don’t Quit

Your first option is to avoid quitting. This doesn’t work for every mom, though. In order to keep up with what’s going on in the corporate world, it can make sense to hang on to your job. But you will need an employer willing to let you telecommute some of the time if you want to stay at home [6]. Some moms can make this option work for them by going into the office once or twice a week, and staying home the rest of the time. If you have a boss that is amenable, this can be one way to have the best of both worlds, keeping your career, while still spending plenty of time at home.

Maintain Your Network

Even if you do end up quitting your job, you don’t need to quit your network. Make it a point to stay on top of the latest trends in your industry. Keep in touch with your career network [7]. Attend the occasional conference or trade show. At the very least, stay active in your local business community. Stay abreast of what’s happening, hone your skills, and make it a point to connect with your business contacts regularly.

Freelance and Consulting Work

If your career/industry lends itself well to freelance and consulting work [8], stay involved. Doing this type of work shows prospective employers that you have, in fact, kept your skills sharp. Providing freelance and consulting services can show that you keep on top of things, and that you have been actively working in your field. You might even acquire new skills. Become well-versed in using social media, and in other skills, and you might find that your expanded skill set can help you obtain more freelance and consulting gigs. You can work on your own schedule, avoid a break in your employment history, and still be present in the home.

Leave the Traditional Workforce Forever

Instead of trying to get back into a more traditional job, you can consider entrepreneurship. Consider starting a side hustle [9], and working on it while you stay at home. Perhaps, by the time the kids are teenagers, you will be able to turn your side hustle into a full-fledge business.

(Photo: kowitz [10])