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From Mommy To Employee

How to step back into full-time work.

The good news: Employers are increasingly interested in hiring mothers who took time off to raise children. The bad news: The outfit you wore to your goodbye party in 1996 no longer cuts it. That's the word from Newton's Carol Fishman Cohen, coauthor of the new book Back on the Career Track: A Guide for Stay-At-Home Moms Who Want to Return to Work.

You have an MBA from Harvard University, but even so, your path back to work - four kids and 11 years later - wasn't smooth. Help other mothers avoid your mistake.

I had a finance career, and when I thought of returning to work, I thought I should go back to finance. It was what I knew, and I was good at it. It wasn't until I was well into the job that I realized I didn't want to do financial analysis anymore. I neglected to go through rigorous analysis of how my interests and skills had changed. It's important to assess your career options before you decide what you're going back to.

How do you explain to employers that decade-long gap in your resume?

You do not want to apologize. You should show you have done work to update yourself professionally. I didn't read the newspaper much when I was out of the workforce, and I was afraid I'd go on an interview and talk about a company that didn't exist anymore. I resubscribed to The Wall Street Journal and read it cover to cover for six months. Consider going to professional conferences.

But what about the self-esteem thing?

Even women who were tremendously accomplished in their professional lives often lose confidence. We remind them that people you worked with have a frozen-in-time memory of you, not the diminished view you have of yourself.

How do you tell the kids you won't be around as much?

You want to convey that your desire to return to work is not a rejection of your life at home but a chance to develop a part of yourself that's been dormant. We don't subscribe to the "I want to go back to work to buy you things" approach.

How do husbands take the change?

Either they want their wives to return to work before the wives are ready because they're feeling financial pressure, or they're so accustomed to a life where they've only had to focus on work that they get concerned about taking on additional roles at home.

Is a new suit really necessary?

It may be hard to make an investment when you haven't made any income, but it's important not to look dated.