Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Staying Home, Staying Connected: Keeping networks and skills active while at home full time

This is a loose compilation of thoughts and ideas from women who were involved in the Women in Business conference who have stayed home and been deliberate about keeping an active network and résumé and skill set along the way -- even in simple and small ways.

Ideas for Keeping an Active Network

- Create and/or maintain a LinkedIn profile (update at least once a year, even if you only alter a line or
two to reflect volunteer/service opportunities). Try to connect with people you know from school, from
former jobs, and from other settings.

- Keep business cards in your purse (or diaper bag!) with your contact information (e.g., email and LinkedIn information).

- Find joy in learning about others -- at church, at the park, at the school, at the store. Practice getting out of your comfort zone. Where appropriate, ask for business cards and/or how to connect with them through social media. Spend a little bit of time occasionally reaching out to a person or two with whom you have connected in this way.

- Look for ways to connect people you have met with others who might benefit from knowing them. Networking can be as much about helping others as about helping yourself.

- Look for online groups in LinkedIn, on Facebook, on blogs, etc. with people with similar interests/
backgrounds. Read discussions occasionally; have a goal to comment as well.

- If possible, allocate the time and financial resources to attend a conference (or two) every year (or

- Get involved with your local Management Society chapter.

- See if there is a professional organization in your area that meets together. Attend a meeting on

- Connect deliberately with other women who are in your similar stage of motherhood. It’s important to build that kind of support network, too. (As you do, you may also find other women interested in business/ professional development!)

- Practice talking in positive terms about yourself, your motherhood, your choice to stay home, and your
interests in business. Be prepared with what you want to say when people ask, “What do you do?”

Ideas for Keeping Skills and Résumé Current

- If you haven’t finished your degree, keep that goal in your sights. It’s often easier to finish earlier than later. But later is better than never. And timing is always best guided by God.

- Define what skill set you have developed through education and past experience (your own “core competency”) as well as what skills you are using in church callings or other service opportunities (e.g., volunteering at schools). Ponder what talents and skills you feel God may want you to develop or use.

- Practice talking about your skills with others. (OR, decide what kind of skill set you want to build and try to do some of the below with that goal in mind.)

- As you network with others, look for simple opportunities to offer your skills or time (even a couple of
hours once a month/quarter/year volunteering to help with a defined project, fundraiser, activity, etc. can
give you some experience and exposure). This can also be to create opportunities to associate with those
from whom you may want to learn some skills.

- Consider finding a mentor in your area of professional competency/interest. (BYU's Alumni Database
is a possible resource, as is the Advisory Board list on the Marriott School Website.)

- Shadow someone for a few hours who is in your area of professional competency/interest.

- Subscribe to (or regularly read) relevant industry publications, even if only online. There are also many groups on LinkedIn, on Facebook, on blogs, etc.

- If you don't already have one, consider a subscription to The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, or other reputable news/business magazine or newspaper. (Or read from such sources online.)

- If relevant for your profession, keep up continuing education credits or licenses (or at least know how to do that if the need arises).

- Consider resources like TED or Khan Academy for resources for skill- and knowledge-building.

- Again, if possible, allocate time and resources to attend an occasional conference as part of your family calendaring and financial planning. (Or if you can’t attend, read conference proceedings, etc.)

- Include your mothering skills and needs in your efforts to “keep skills sharp.” There are a multitude of resources available (books, free online networks and resources, conferences, etc).

- Take a class (one-time class, a college class, an online class).

- Teach a class or mini-class (e.g., community education, church activity, classroom presentation)

- Find ways to include your children in volunteer or other efforts, and/or focus “on the side” endeavors in ways that correspond with and support them in their current stages of life.

- Enjoy learning with your children, and teach them things you may be learning along the way.

- Look for ways your family might be able to share some experiences that could also build up your résumé (e.g., family service project to support a local non-profit).

- Write regularly, whether in your journal, on a blog, in a family letter update, or just on your computer in a word processing program about topics that interest you. When you send emails, look for opportunities to practice using good business communication skills.

- Look for opportunities to also practice oral presentation skills at home and elsewhere. (e.g, Teach your children how to use PowerPoint and practice giving presentations to each other.)

- Attend an occasional LDS Employment Services seminar on topics such as résumé building or interviewing skills.

General Thoughts

- You’ll be more effective at staying connected if you are first effective and deliberate about your choice to stay home. Honor this season; be bold and positive about your motherhood (and be patient with the process of learning that goes along with this role). The confidence that comes from being grounded and focused with regard to your eternal roles will show in everything else you may do, and can prevent doing things for the wrong reasons (think of Sister Beck’s recent comment about the risk of doing things to “escape” covenant responsibilities).

- Consult often with God and with your spouse. Ponder words of the prophets, scriptures, and your patriarchal blessing for guidance as you consider what gifts and talents to develop/use, and how/when/where to use them, and as you consider how goals to skills and networks active may play a role in your family’s emergency preparedness plans.

- Embrace the concept of times and seasons. There may be significant periods throughout your mothering where you feel all your time and energy needs to be spent focused on your family. There may be other times when you feel prompted to give some attention to education or professional development. Sometimes there may be a mixture of the two. (Again, personal revelation is key.)

- Be willing to revisit decisions and time/energy allocations frequently. Life and family dynamics can and do change regularly. Also, remember that children often can't (or won’t) vocalize their needs; be sensitive to how your decisions create much of their reality.

- Be aware, brutally self-honest, and deliberate about how you spend your time. It’s easy to waste time when bored, tired, stressed, etc. Be precise about personal and family priorities (scripture study, prayer,
FHE, date night, recreational activities), and tighten your own at-home time usage. Even short spurts of focused time on a regular basis (whether that be weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc.) could help toward a goal of keeping some professional skills, knowledge, and connections active.