Wendy N. Powell Career AdvicePersonal branding. Re-inventing yourself. Making more money. How do you do it? By taking care of you and furthering your education. Career expert Wendy N. Powell thinks you’re doing the right thing – and she has some advice for getting even more out of your schooling.

Oh, and your kids will be proud of you, too.

I recently met Wendy after reading a blog post she did for the Huffington Post. A few emails later, and I was pleasantly surprised when she said she’d love to share her insights with our Moms in School blog.

A little about Wendy: she spent most of her career in human resources at the University of Michigan, and is currently on the business faculty at both Palm Beach State College and the University of Phoenix. A member of the Society for Human Resource Management, she received a leadership award in 2002 from the Midwest College and University Professional Association for Human Resources. Powell holds a BS in business management and an MA in organizational management.

She currently lives in South Florida with her husband, Terry, son, Ryan, and her dog, Hailey. She is author of the recently released “Management Experience Acquired: Necessary Skills for Successfully Managing Any Employee,” which aims to help job seekers develop the skills they need to find work in this tough marketplace.

Q: Why should women (especially those with children) pursue additional education?

A: Education is my passion. I get a great amount of pride and enjoyment out of watching my students learn and grow, and I also learn from their experiences. Knowledge is power, particularly contemporary principles. There is significant value in a current education, that is learning the grounded principles plus applying the current issues to ready yourself for new challenges.

Take a look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics release of Oct. 8, 2010, about the civilian population 25 years and over by educational attainment. The unemployment rate is 14.3 percent for individuals with less than a high school diploma, 8.8 percent with some college or an associate’s degree, and drops to 4.5 percent for those with a bachelor’s degree and higher. The unemployment rate drops considerably by degree status.

Don’t forget that you are a role model for your family. One of my talented students does homework with her kids and they in turn, examine her grades. They make sure that she won’t fail in her goals and support her every step of the way.

Q: What can a woman/mother do in particular to highlight her skills if she stayed at home for a time in her career?

A: There is a fear of the gap in the resume, and legitimately so. You may have switched your career gears due to family responsibilities. How do you present yourself in the best possible light from a career perspective? The answer is largely in the preparation. If you are getting ready to go back to the workforce, start now to get yourself organized. Ease yourself into the classroom or re-acclimate yourself to your chosen field.

Perform a review of your goals and look at your personal brand. Make sure you know what direction you want to pursue for yourself. Make a list and check it twice, and often. This keeps you on track and reminds you of what goals you want for yourself. Perform an analysis of the types of cases and situations that you may handle in the prospective job and be prepared to discuss behavioral type questions. This is particularly important when you are taking a leap into a higher-level position.

Are you ready to re-invent yourself? The stories are everywhere about the success of following a newfound passion. I did it. It takes time and enthusiasm but the rewards are amazing.

Q: What do you recommend women do to stand out in a crowded job field?

A: Stand out with impeccable preparation. Write a stunning cover letter that describes your workplace accomplishments and describes the gap in your resume. Be prepared to discuss how you have remained current in your profession—read trade magazines, scour the internet, and provide discussion points so prospective employers realize that you have the current or recent knowledge to jump back into action in the workplace with little grooming. Tell them that you are the creative thinker they are looking for, and prepare to tell them why.

Remember, one of the best things to hear from your family is that they are proud of you. It doesn’t get much better than that. Make them proud of your accomplishments and your success will follow.

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For more tips, techniques, and information, pick up “Management Experience Acquired.” Not like you need extra reading…but it really is a great read. Do you have tips for moms dealing with the challenges of education? Share them in the comments below!

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