Friday, March 5, 2010

Internships, the New On Ramp for SAHMs?

Last fall I had the pleasure of speaking to Anne-Lise Gere, a stay-at-home mom and graduate student seeking the right return to work strategy. Though she lives in a market we don't currently serve, we offered to help. We're big believers of good karma and besides, Anne-Lise was the perfect guinea pig for a new career-switcher and On Ramper strategy: the grown-up internship. Here's what she had to say in her own words.

I have been a military spouse for the past 10 years and we have moved 6 times during the past decade. Along the way, we have welcomed into our family three children (currently 8, 5 and 2 years of age). I have a solid resume and over 10 years of experience in Human Resources with blue-chip companies around the world, working in three countries over three continents.

I stopped working full-time a few months before the birth of my first child because of a military move. I have not been back into the full-time employment since. However I have always considered that I would go back to work some day. I have grown to be a believer that you can have it all, but not all at the same time. In order to keep my life interesting, to make new friends and to keep my managerial skills fresh, I devoted time to other activities, besides mothering three little ones. For example, I worked as a journalist in Hawaii (another military assignment), helped a friend with a small business, volunteered in many capacities (VA hospital, schools, museums). I also embarked on a new professional qualification to specialize in Compensation and Benefits. I have worked on my own with books and study guides for the past 3 years, taking one exam each year and finally claiming my new designation this year.

After years of theory, I was ready to apply my knowledge to the world of work. Regardless of the economic environment, I was not considering a full-time job. I don’t have to work for money thanks to my hard-working spouse and some good home economics. However, we are thinking about the future. We feel the need for a more balanced life style for both of us. This will entail him spending more time with our family (not difficult considering several 12-months’ deployments overseas), and me working more outside the home for money.

So I decided to look for an internship just like during my student days. I am happy to report that I have been successful. A growing defense contractor has accepted to take me on as an HR intern working on projects in the area of benefits and compensation. The company does not have a budget to pay for an intern. I was asking for $50/day, enough to cover child care for the toddler. However, they have mentioned a “bonus” once I start producing some good work products. We have agreed on 8-10 hours/week, mostly from home but I have a badge to go into the office whenever I need to.

I went into this search for an internship with 3 main objectives

  • Gain practical experience on Compensation and Benefits
  • Refresh my resume
  • Gain insight into a new industry

My current assignment meets all 3 objectives. I think using the word internship worked well for me. It sounds less of a commitment than part-time work (and it is from a financial standpoint). It also gives me the flexibility I need when one of the three children is sick or there is no school (snow days, teacher workday, vacations, etc.). I am a married, single mother with no family nearby, like most military spouses these days.

Longer term, once my husband retires from the military, my objective is to work part-time in my area of expertise either as an adjunct consultant for a professional firm or an employee in a business. And once the children are in college, I might even consider returning full-time!

Know where you want to be, put the means in place to get there and grab any good opportunity along the way. That is my motto.

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