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Back-To-Work Savvy for Full-Time Moms

Like many moms, Joanne Brundage enjoyed working, but she found the juggling act too tough. So the Elmhurst, IL, mom left her job as a postal worker to stay home with her newborn and 7-year-old, vowing to return when they were older.

She isn't alone. According to Formerly Employed Mothers at the Leading Edge (FEMALE), a national support group cofounded by Brundage, 96 percent of its 6,000 members plan to return to work when their children reach school-age. (Brundage founded the organization after she quit her job in 1987 because of her difficulty adjusting to full-time motherhood.)

But moms who quit may encounter problems reentering the job market, since their skills become rusty and they lose their contacts. When they do find work, it's often less lucrative than before, with less responsibility.

Of course, many women do manage to take time off without such sacrifices. How? By keeping up with old skills and contacts and developing new ones  -- even while they're home. Three steps to take, according to Marilyn Moats Kennedy, a career strategist in Wilmette, IL:

  • Maintain computer knowledge. Become proficient in the newest software being used in your industry and cruise the Internet to see what your previous employer and its competitors are doing online.

  • Attend trade association meetings and subscribe to industry publications. "To find a job, you need to know a lot of people who will return your calls," says Kennedy.

  • Get a part-time volunteer job. It may seem a step down, but it's a low-risk way to investigate other careers.

In 1995 Brundage was hired as coexecutive director of the Elmhurst City Center, a nonprofit marketing and management group, solely as a result of contacts and skills she acquired while volunteering with the Elmhurst Historical Society and FEMALE. "Being at home can be a great opportunity to explore other areas of interest," says Brundage, now a mother of three. "And it also can give you a door right back into the workplace."

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