10 steps for women going back to work

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I checked out a new web site called YourOnRamp.com. It’s flawed, but of potential use to women who have left the workforce and are attempting a comeback. I say women because the site is clearly targeted to moms, despite the fact that more and more men are making similar choices. Their loss: gentlemen readers, perhaps a market opportunity?

That’s one gripe. Another: its perpetuation of the term “on-ramp,” popularized by Sylvia Ann Hewlett and her recent book, Off-Ramps and On-Ramps. It refers to women who have taken the off ramp from the career highway at exit number Mom, and who attempt to take the on ramp back to the fast lane. It’s a hackneyed and clunky term that paints people who work for pay as the only ones going anywhere. Bull.

According to the release the company sent me, “approximately 37% of highly qualified women voluntarily leave their careers for some period of time, and 58% of those women take a ‘scenic route’ (a flexible or reduced-hour option). Among those who off-ramp, however, the overwhelming majority (93%) want to return, but face challenges including a loss of confidence, a neglected network, outdated skills, and confusion about how to balance work and life.”

The site is relatively well designed, though the dark grey background and white type made my eyes blink after a while. The networking channel is a little tough to figure out; you’d have to commit some time to signing up and building contacts, and for this I find LinkedIn a far better option (read my tricks for using that network for professionals here).

The job board isn’t industry specific, though there are ways to search; however, the search function isn’t remotely as sophisticated as some of the more established ones such as Vault.com or TheLadders. Being that the postings ostensibly target women returning to the workforce, however, they could become a valuable collection of family-friendly employers.

The blogs are supposedly a main feature of this site. It appears that anyone can join in, which might explain the erratic quality. Check out this bizarre posting about Italian food; I’m not sure the author is a native speaker of English (I’m not, either, but I watch a lot of TV).

The site also features articles on women and careers. Here’s a nice one about an ad exec turned cosmetics entrepreneur by Jessica Dickler. But she’s identified as a CNNMoney.com staff writer, so perhaps the article isn’t original to the site; it’s not clear.

YourOnRamp.com’s raison d’etre is embodied in a 10 step plan for women planning to get back into the workforce. It’s pretty cheerleady and basic; even the most diaper-addled mom remembers she needs a dang cover letter. But maybe that’s the point of this whole site: to rah-rah women preparing to join the paid-to-work society again. Lord knows, working moms need all the support we can get.

1. Clear the decks! Deliberately set aside time and space where you can focus without the multitude of interruptions that often cloud your days (If you are like us!). Spend focused time every day on YourOnRamp “project.” That means dodging the email “black hole,” saying “no” to volunteer requests that do not contribute to your effort, and outsourcing non essential chores.

2. Gather the right tools. If you don’t have a Blackberry or the equivalent, now is the time to invest in one. Computer, DSL, email, voicemail, text messaging, these are basic musts! You want to be organized, efficient and up to date on the technology that is now ubiquitous in the workplace. For online questions, answers and tools visit our business/technology section.

3. Devote time to complete a Self Assessment. This is often the deal stopper, don’t let it trip you up! This is a valuable opportunity to recognize what you enjoy doing and when you feel the most successful and fulfilled. We have great tools to help you understand yourself, how you define a balanced life and where you will best contribute.

4. Develop an Elevator Pitch. This is your 1-2 minute description of your self and your job objective (if you have one). It is an essential tool for networking.

5. Build a Network. This is the most important aspect of your onramp effort. Your chances of getting a job are much better when you know someone at the company. YourOnRamp is here to help you build your network in all areas of your life. Start now! A complete personal profile will help friends and colleagues find you with ideas and new connections.

6. Get Educated. Research ideas, industries, companies, people, you name it, there is unlimited information available with a few key strokes. At YourOnRamp, we are working hard to make sure you are current and know where to go for answers. The newsroom, the library, our blog and discuss topics are all designed to help you get up to speed.

7. Compile your Resume. Need help presenting your work and volunteer experiences in a meaningful and effective way? We can help. You should also compile a list of references. See how here.

8. Craft Cover Letters. Yes, you need them! They go hand in hand with your resume and are an essential communication tool, persuasively matching your prior experience to your future career goals.

9. Prepare for Interviews. Preparation is the key to successful interviewing. What questions will I need to answer? How should I explain my time away from the workplace? What if my skills are outdated? Look the part. Ditch the 1980’s Brooks Brothers suit and update your wardrobe. We can help you gain the confidence you need to address these basic questions and more.

10. Ask for the Order. Email a prompt thank you highlighting your interest and qualifications for the job. If you want the job, ask for it and tell them why you’re the one for the job. Don’t be shy.