I landed my first job a few months ago, prior to that I had been a SAHM (stay at home mom) for about four years. Like many other SAHM I had graduated from college and immediately started my family.
I had no idea what I was supposed to do in the real world, my liberal arts degree in communications was vague and didn’t give me much direction in applying for jobs. What I did know was that I really loved working with nonprofits and have always been drawn to that type of environment. So with virtually no experience except for a short stint at a well known Muslim non-profit organization. I started applying to every organization that I could think of. I had a really genius way of doing it (not really) I googlemapped organizations that were closest to me and started sending my resumes to the HR departments.
After a couple of days with no response from various non-profits in the area I started fishing for government jobs on USAJobs.com. As I read about the various positions I dreamed of working in the state department, so I filled out lengthy applications and thought to myself what a perfect fit I would be.
Unfortunately the State department didn’t see my urdu speaking skills as enough of an asset to hire me. And as many applications that I filled out I got that many rejection letters. My morale was at an all-time low. Nothing seemed to be pulling through for me. I looked for jobs on Government sites, craigslist, Monster and even tried to look into interpreting jobs. This was an incredibly disappointing experience for me. I remember finally applying for a retail position at the mall.
My mom encouraged me to look into volunteering and that’s when I started talking to a non-profit group in the area. It went well and I got an volunteer position to be a liaison for refugee families that they house in their shelter apartments.
Excited with this new development I called my attorney friend in DC to tell her the good news. She was happy, but gave me some great advice and urged me to volunteer in the office with the communications director, so that I could use my skills and build up experience in my field which would eventually lead me to a paid position.
I decided to go and talk with the volunteer coordinator to switch my position as my friend has advised. But even before going back to discuss change of plans with coordinator, I ran into a community member from the Mosque. I enthusiastically told her about the new volunteer opportunity that had landed my way.
She looked at me perplexed and said, “Why are you volunteering there? We could use you at FAITH Social Services,” a group that she was affiliated with. Intrigued about a Muslim social service so close to me, I immediately scheduled an interview with the director and became emerged into a world of social work that has made me both humble and grateful.
I volunteered for FAITH for about 5 months before becoming an employee. I followed my friend’s advice and started volunteering in the office. Initially I worked on flyers and little write-ups. Over time, I began to get a feel for the organization and started to see how I could contribute with my communication’s background. I saw that there was a need for a newsletter and I started working on creating a newsletter every month for FAITH.
I began to plug myself into more projects going around in the office and brainstormed ideas with the staff. Finally my youngest was ready for school and I mustered up the courage to ask the director if I could work as an employee. She agreed and I’ve been the Public Relations Coordinator for FAITH for four months now.
The point of this post is to give women who have been SAHM hope that they can work when they choose to. It might take some time to build up your resume and gain that courage but inshallah with these tips it should be a smooth transition:
1. Get the word out – Tell everyone that you’re looking for work: friends, neighbors, community members.
2. Fix your resume – If the last time you did your resume was in college, it is definitely time to revamp it.
3. volunteer/intern with the organization that you think you want to work at. Specifically in the department you want to gain experience in.
4. Make your mark while you’re volunteering (establish networks, make yourself an asset to the organization) ex: don’t just shred paper – think of ways to reduce the paper in the office –> digitalize files and get the okay from the department head. The leadership will applaud your effort and will value your initiative.
5. Don’t get disappointed if you’re not hired after volunteering. The end all is not to get a job, but it is to learn new skills, build up resume and experience. This will be invaluable and will help towards the next place that you go to.
Good Luck, and don’t despair if things aren’t moving as fast as you want them to its all part of the master plan from above 🙂