Your Back-to-Work Success Guide
Education Created a Hurdle
You've been a stay-at-home mother, and you've been loving it, but what would you do if your circumstances changed for the worse and you suddenly had to get a job? Would you be prepared? Learn what you can do to make a smooth reentry and boost your family finances.
Looking back four years, Vicki Locricchio, 40, is still amazed at how quickly her best-laid plans came undone. Business was booming at her husband Joe's employment agency in downtown Manhattan. They had just moved -- with sons Joseph, then 4, and Nicky, 2 -- into a new dream home in central New Jersey. Locricchio, who'd held a management position in human resources at Citicorp, had been home with the boys for two years. "I never really looked to have a career," she says. "My ideal was to stay home and raise the kids."
But that was before the economy went south in 1999. As firms began firing instead of hiring, Joe's business was hit so hard the couple feared they wouldn't be able to make their mortgage payments. Locricchio began looking for work -- and was shocked to find her search impeded because she had only an associate's, not a bachelor's degree: "Seventeen years in human resources didn't matter. I couldn't get in the door."
Unfamiliar with doing Internet searches, Locricchio had to catch up fast. She went to the job site Monster.com, but didn't know how to reply to postings or e-mail her résumé to others. "I learned by doing -- it was a matter of survival," she says. After three months, she found a job as human resources director at a telecommunications start-up. But it ran out of money in less than a year. Joe's business wasn't close to turning around, so Locricchio found herself back in the job market. This time it took six months of hunting until she heard about an opening at Franco Manufacturing, a textile company in Metuchen, New Jersey, 50 minutes from home. Three interviews later, she was hired as HR director at a salary $10,000 less than what she earned at Citicorp. Still, she was ecstatic. "My corporate background was an asset," she says, "but what clinched it was my reputation for being someone all sorts of Citicorp employees felt comfortable talking to."
Locricchio started work on September 10, 2001; the next day, the World Trade Center was destroyed. Though Joe's office building was still standing, he lost many clients and contacts who were based in the Twin Towers. His agency couldn't recover, and the Locricchios scrambled to pick up the pieces. They'd already sold their home and moved into a townhouse with a lower mortgage. Last spring, they used the profit from the sale to buy a small company that services swimming pools -- a business Joe once worked in. Their first year went reasonably well, but the future is still "a scary prospect," she says.
After work, Locricchio picks up the boys from day care, prepares dinner, and gets them washed and ready for bed. She also handles phone calls and keeps the books for the pool business -- so Joe doesn't have to pay for part-time help -- before collapsing into bed at 11:30. Though the boys, now 8 and 6, seem to have adjusted well, Locricchio still feels guilty about neglecting them. "I miss a lot of school functions, and I hear about it: 'Tyler's mom was there. How come you weren't?'" And the job? "I like to say that I'm the mother of two at home and the mother of 150 at work," she says. "One thing I've learned is that you really can't plan too far into the future. Life can always throw you a curveball."
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