"There was a perception that this group has extreme demands," says Corrie Martin, who runs a program for returning workers at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business. Most people who come through the program, she says, want challenging full-time jobs. "They just want to be less accountable for the nitty-gritty of time."
Beverly Israely spent a decade in real estate banking and then took two years off after her second child was born. Early in 2006 she was ready to go back to work but not back to banking. Now she's an executive recruiter.
"It's a great career for a mother," says Israely, 40, who started a real estate practice at GloCap Search in New York City. She's home before six most nights. A bonus: "This is the first job I've ever really loved."
"Companies are expanding the traditional model of work," says Cali Williams Yost, author of 'Work+Life: Finding the Fit That's Right for You.' "It's an awareness that great talent comes in a lot of different forms." To find the right spot for you, take these steps.
1. Stay involved
Rewards that parents returning to work want in their new career:
Flexible Schedule (manage own time)
Passion for the Work
Mental Stimulation and Challenge
Skill Enhancement (on job experience)
Promotion and Advancement
Keep your network going if there's even a slight chance you'll go back to work one day. At the least, have lunch with ex-colleagues every few months, says Mercy Eyadiel, director of alumni career services at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business.
2. Get back in the game
Join a professional organization and attend conferences to make contacts and catch up on best practices. Take courses. After 16 years at home, Roberta Wood, 49, a divorced mother of two teens in The Woodlands, Texas, is studying accounting. She's lost most of her contacts from her days in system sales at IBM, so she joined the college accounting club and attends networking events.
3. Make your volunteer work count
Put your pro bono accomplishments on your résumé. And get a reference from a key person at the nonprofit, says Eyadiel. Or follow Kim Culligan's example. She turned a six-year, three-hour-a-week volunteer gig at nonprofit Girls on the Run into a paid job as New Jersey regional director.
4. Redefine success
Don't raise the bar so high that you feel like you're missing it. A big, prestigious company might be your dream, but a smaller company might offer more flexibility.
5. Find the right fit
Look for a recruiter that meets your needs. Mom Corps, On-Ramps and other placement firms specialize in companies that are recognized for giving more than lip service to work-life balance.