De-Housing the Housewife

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This week, we’re going to address one of the questions that I’ve been getting from my articles. What are you supposed to do when you are a housewife and you want to leave home? I am using housewife for lack of a better term – I’m sure that someone will tell me that I should be using the words “Stay-At-Home Parent.” In any event, in my conversations with, err, stay at home parents, I found that there were two main reasons that they wanted to leave home. First, they were bored. Either the kids had moved out, the kids had moved back in, there were no kids and no one wanted to have kids, ever, or they were just plain-old bored of watching The Price Is Right. The second reason was that they needed money. Some people had a husband or a wife that recently changed jobs, and some wanted to make extra cash. Of course, some of these people were also tired of being at home. Anyone who has stopped working and then tried to start up again knows how difficult it can be to find a job. Thankfully, for those of you looking to get back into your old career, Nexxt has a lot of articles to help you explain what you did in your old job and why you have not lost any of those skills. For this article, though, I am going to focus exclusively on people who want to make a fresh start. So, if you worked in banking and now you want to be in advertising after a few years off from paid labor, read on. The first thing that you have to do is ask yourself: Would you hire you? I know that you are smart and funny, but you have to recognize that an employer probably does not want to let you into middle management when you have no experience in the industry. Unfortunately, keeping up a household is not something most employers value. Therefore, if you are moving into a new career, you have to be prepared to start at the bottom. This can be very hard for people. I talked to several housewives (sorry, stay-at-home parents) who were on track for greater things at their companies. Some of them quit to have children, and others quit because they just wanted to do something different for a while. Then, once they decided to stay at home for a few years, their skill set got rusty and no one wanted to talk to them anymore. This seems very unfair, right? Well, look at it from the employer’s perspective for a moment. They have an applicant who, ten years ago, was a shining star and who wants to be compensated as one. Then they have an applicant who graduated from college two weeks ago and has the potential to be a shining star. The college student is cheaper. Which one would you take a chance on? My money is on the college student, but sometimes I am too much of a cynic for my own good. You can do things to help prove that you are ready for the workforce and that you are committed to making your new career work. For example, before you start applying for jobs, hang out your shingle as a consultant for a little while. If you want to be in advertising, post on the internet that you are in advertising and that you are aggressively seeking to add new clients. Charge very little for your work, and see if you are in any way competent – and keep in mind that the only way you have of judging your competency is whether or not your clients are happy with you. Then, once you have done a few projects, ask your past clients to be references for you in your new job. That might sound like a lot of work to you, and it is. As any full-time consultant can tell you, getting clients and keeping them happy is a full-time, thankless job. So, if you are looking for an alternative way to build your resume, volunteer. The days are long gone when your only choice would be volunteering at the local library. Look through the want ads, and if you see a company that looks interesting, email the HR director (or whoever else they tell you to contact) at the company. Tell them that you have been at home and that you want to have an unpaid internship once per week at their company. Everyone wants to have free labor for a little while, and it will give you a handle on how things really work in your new industry. These ideas are all well and good if you have time to spare, but it could be that you need a job and money fast. In that case, I have three options for you. First, go back to your old industry. You are a heck of a lot more valuable when you actually understand what it is that you are supposed to be doing. Write your old office, tell them that you want to come back to work, and see what happens. Then write everyone you ever competed with, and ask them if they want you. Do not stop until someone says yes – you will get a lot of nos along the way. The second option is to take a paying job anywhere you can find it. Read this very carefully: there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a job you do not want while you search for another job. I know that I am going to get hate mail from employers for that one, but it is true. You do not have to commit to any job or any career. If, for example, you can get a job as a bookkeeper – something that you hate – while you search for your dream job, then do it! Employers do not expect you to stay with them for the rest of your life, and ones that tell you that they are looking for multi-year commitments are, well, they do not necessarily breathe the same air as the rest of us. The third option – hopefully, it is a little more palatable for those of you looking to change careers – is to start your own company. You are probably thinking that I have lost it here. How can you start your own company and a new career when you have nothing and you are eager to make money quickly? Actually, it is not as difficult as it might seem. For starters, you can follow the advice in the paragraph above while you are trying to start your company. And, if you are the type of person that would be inclined to start your own company, it probably means that you have a company that you would want to start in the first place (read that sentence again if you thought that I pointed out the obvious there – I do not think that I did). For example, maybe you knit very well (one person I interviewed dreams of owning her own yarn store). Maybe you think that your local dog groomer does a bad job and that you could do it better. Maybe you are interested in building houses. Any of these – as well as a lot of other businesses – is possible. Here are the basic steps as to what you should do. If you want me to write more on these steps, let me know and I will dedicate a future article to them. First, draw up a business plan. You do not have to make it fancy, but you should note what it is that you will be doing, where you will get your customers, what you will charge your customers, and other information like that. Also, try and come up with other examples of people who have succeeded with the same business in the past. This is also a helpful exercise for you so that you can think through everything that your business would need. Second, find someone in the industry. See if you can find another person with a similar passion to you. This is because you will need all the help you can get. You are better off if the person you find has been in a business in your chosen industry – for example, if you want to start a yarn store, you are better off partnering with someone that has worked in a yarn store before. Third, come up with real financial projections. If you are opening a yarn store, chances are that you will not clear a million dollars in your first year. Chances are that you will not even record a profit in your first year. Make sure you understand what you need to make your business work. There are a variety of people out there that can help you with financials; your best bet is to find a student that focuses on accounting, finance or business. They will enjoy the challenge and, if you are lucky, they will also work for free or a share of profits in the future. Fourth, if you need to find a location for your business, scout a few out. Make appointments with a local real estate broker. Do not feel bad about telling the real estate broker exactly what your budget is, and make them show you everything that they can. Fifth, take your business plan, partner, projected financials and possible locations to a bank. Ask to talk to someone in the Small Business Loan department. These people specialize in helping people like you start businesses. Expect them to say no, and when they do – it is very likely that they will say no the first time you meet them, as there are a lot of opportunities that come their way – ask them what they are looking for. Never be shy about this – they will tell you exactly why they do not feel comfortable investing in your business, and it is unlikely that they will mince words. Heed their advice and come back again the next week after you have fixed whatever the problem is. There you go – a five step guide to starting your own business. Expect this process could take several months, possibly more. Also, do not get discouraged.

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