Jodi Meyer

Jodi Meyer: returning to the workforce, changing careers, and making it to Mars and back before dinner

Every candidate I meet has a story that spills beyond the resume. There are life changes that explain gaps in employment, relocation and other “red flags” that Recruiters often use to dismiss candidates. Jodi Meyer, a stay-at-home mom of seven years was not only looking to re-enter the workforce, she was changing careers as well. Two things became clear to me when I met Jodi: She was an exceptional candidate with marketable, transferrable skills and it would take a progressive and open-minded company to take a chance on her. ‘

Jodi and I pursued five different companies together before she landed at Mars, Incorporated as an Executive Coordinator in November. Six months later, Jodi reflects on her journey, support system and how corporate America changed during her time away. I thought Jodi’s story would resonate with stay-at-home parents who are considering re-entry into the workforce. It doesn’t always work as seamlessly as it did for Jodi but our conversation, shared below, offers up several nuggets of advice.

(LR) Did you always plan to leave the workforce once you had children?

(JM) I couldn’t imagine staying home with kids because I couldn’t imagine having them. As soon as I got pregnant, I realized I wanted to be at home. I didn’t know if or when I would go back. My babies were 16 months apart so it would cost even more to have a nanny and I was having fun with them.

(LR) Why was this the right time for you to re-enter the workforce?

(JM) Kindergarten was around the corner for my son and my daughter was almost 7. My husband and I felt it was important to be good role models for our kids and especially for my daughter to see her mom work every day. I didn’t want to settle and I knew it would take time to find the right job. It ended up being only a few months. Once I met you [Lori], it all happened quickly.

(LR) Did you ever feel discriminated against or dismissed during your job search because of the time you spent raising kids?

(JM) I didn’t but I’m not sure if it’s because of you [Schechter Reed] and the way you talked to people ahead of time. My bigger issue was switching fields and function.

(LR) What made you decide to change careers? How did you come upon your new career choice?

(JM) Once I had kids, I knew that I couldn’t go back to the hotel industry because of the hours–I wasn’t willing to sacrifice that time with my family. I did a lot of talking, I talked to my husband and asked my friends what they did. At first, I considered meeting planning because I knew that was a strength, but the demanding hours still concerned me. I am a very organized person and had proficiency in MS Office so I thought an administrative position in an office setting would be a good fit for me.

(LR) You used networking, LinkedIn, and job boards during your search. What tools were the most helpful?

(JM) I think your network is first and foremost. It’s how I got to know you [Lori Reed]. It is truly a matter of talking to anyone about what they do and who they know. LinkedIn is huge and that was one [area] I had not updated. My husband suggested I get on that first because he job searched two years earlier and found LinkedIn to be very helpful.

(LR) What were the biggest workplace changes you noticed during your seven years out?

(JM) Technology has really impacted the workplace. I felt I was fairly tech-savvy before but there are now robots roaming through factories and [a lot being accomplished by] videoconference. There is a whole world out there that I never knew. I think that after seven years [at home, raising kids], technology changed so much. I thought I was keeping up but the technology is so different from the hotel industry.

(LR) How did you explain the change to your children? How would you describe their transition?

(JM) I interviewed the Monday after Thanksgiving and started temping the following Wednesday. When I told my kids, my daughter burst into tears! I hired a babysitter to pick them up from school and I promised to be home each day by dinner. Then, my husband told my kids that I was working for Mars. My son asked how I could work on the planet Mars and make it back for dinner! My daughter thinks I make M&M’s at work each day. For the first two weeks, I brought home a pack of Skittles or M&M candy every night. My daughter definitely took it the hardest. My mom helped until we found an amazing babysitter. She has helped me put my fears to bed—the guilt of not being able to do something. I feel really fortunate. My daughter is comfortable now because she loves our sitter.

(LR) What was your relationship with the business world during your time away? Did you continue to read newspapers and keep on top of industry trends or did you completely disconnect?

(JM) I used to read the business journals because it was difficult to transition from 60+hour workweeks to being at home, feeding and changing babies. I wanted that connection. I’m still friends with people from that life but not as much as I once was. I didn’t sit down and read the Wall Street Journal but I stayed fairly in touch with what was going on in the economy.

Now, I have little time to read the paper so I get my news from Facebook. Its my way of keeping up with people and the world – though not something I do as often anymore.

(LR) What advice would you give to parents who are considering staying at home to raise children?

(JM) Write your resume now because you won’t remember it years later. I couldn’t remember the specifics and details and felt so far removed from [the work I did seven years prior].

I did my research on resumes and learned that what was unacceptable before, like having a resume go beyond one page, is now acceptable.

(LR) How do you use your commute?

(JM) I don’t know what I’m walking into with the kids [each night]. I listen to music and roll down the windows. Occasionally, my mom will call. On the way to work, I keep in touch with 2-3 friends that I know are around during that time. I only have a 15-minute commute. One of those [traffic] lights is always for putting on lip gloss.

(LR) What advice would you give to parents who are considering a return to the workforce?

(JM) Find your support system. I used to bounce ideas off my friends when I was [job searching] and I needed my friends to tell me the good, the bad and the ugly. I didn’t realize how many things I would miss with my kids. Many of my friends work but I had to rely on my village in every way possible: carpooling; covering when the sitter is sick; helping when a delivery is scheduled; having someone there to pick up a child.

Also, find something you want to do. It’s got to be worth it.

(LR) In what ways are you proud to work for Mars?

(JM) I’m proud of myself for finding a field I enjoy and for finding an amazing company. Mars really is a great place to work. My boss is so flexible even though my Managers rely on me for support. I love the fact that Mars is local-it’s in my hometown, basically.

At the time, I don’t think I realized how important it was to work for a family-friendly company. I am going to new-hire training in NJ tomorrow and will learn about “The Five Principles” of Mars. It shows how much they take pride in their name and in their brand.

Jodi Meyer