After intentionally taking a career pause when her son was born, Jen Alford’s plan to return to work in the fall of 2019 was taking a bit longer than she anticipated. Then life events, both personal and worldwide, set her timing back even further.
Returning to work after a career pause
“I was out of the workforce for six years, which felt like a significant amount of time,” Jen tells The Mom Project. “While I was raising my son, I was working with nonprofits in both fundraising and leadership roles. But my goal was always to return to the workforce when my son entered elementary school. When the time came though I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to return to. I was having issues in my job search because I kept wavering between going back to my former industry (logistics) or exploring working at a startup in the Bay area or wondering if there was something else I should do. Honestly, I thought it would be much simpler than it was.”
Then in February 2020, Jen’s father was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. “It just felt like a bomb was dropped on me. From the hospital, I was interviewing with tech companies like Uber and Amazon then on top of that the pandemic hit.” All of a sudden Jen’s kindergarten-aged son began remote learning as schools closed at the onset of the pandemic. Jen and her son moved out of the city and in with her parents to help with her father’s care and it was one more ball in her already delicate juggling act that she had to keep in the air. “I was doing all of these things and still searching for a job, now six months behind my goals. I felt really overwhelmed as if I could not move forward, or move at all really. Then I found The Mom Project.”
Joining The Mom Project Community
Jen joined the Community and jumped on all the benefits provided for free to members of The Mom Project. “I needed as many free resources as I could find so anything I could attend I joined. I was on the calls for events, reading the articles and newsletters, whatever I could participate in, I did.”
In their calls, Katie helped Jen align her values with her professional goals. “I was afraid that I had spent so much time valuing my work first that I wouldn’t know how to value my family as much as I wanted. I had my child at a later age so I had spent a significant amount of time fully focused on my professional world. I wanted to be dedicated to my career again, but I had to figure out what that would look like.”
Once Jen determined what she was looking for in a role, she and Katie worked together to set up goals for Jen and Katie helped Jen break those larger goals down into smaller, actionable steps. “During this three-month process (with Katie) I found a company that was a startup in logistics and after four months of intense interviews, I got the job in November of 2020. I didn’t need a resume fixer or a workshop. I needed someone to provide a caring and calming space for me to focus on my values and goals and Katie was supportive the entire way through the process for me in the way I needed. Without Katie, I wouldn’t have had the success I found. Through Katie’s kindness and compassion she provided me with the structured support to achieve greater wellness and personal success.”
Work-life integration these days
As for finding the right work-life integration for herself, Jen tells us that the motto "be where you are at" really resonated with her. “To me this means focus on the place you are physically. If you are at work, think of work. When at home, think of home. Be mentally where you are physically.”
Those aren’t always easy boundaries to set so Jen shares with us that she started taking walks and listening to spiritual or meditational audiobooks and podcasts. “This helped me fill two buckets at once.” As for other advice for working motherhood, Jen shares these tips: “At work, I just need to do my job well. Because I also have a job with my son and I volunteer at nonprofits and those things together make me a top performer for my own life.”
Q&A with Jen
1. What motivated you to sign up for The Mom Project?
I needed all the free resources I could find and The Mom Project’s events were helpful. I participated every week while I was in the job search.
2. What is your favorite aspect of The Mom Project?
The events - finding out what a life coach and career coach was and how they could impact my personal and professional well-being was such a big part of my success.
3. Are you still participating in The Mom Project Community?
I did sign up for RALLY. (RALLY is a peer-to-peer networking program)
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Tiffany Nieslanik is the Managing Editor at The Mom Project, a graduate student, and a homeschooling mom to 3 young kids. In her (limited) free time she’s also an avid reader, a proponent of power naps, and enjoys getting outside as often as possible