12 Most Marketable Management Skills of Parents

12 Most Marketable Management Skills of Parents

Are you a stay-at-home mom or dad looking to move back into the workplace? Are you an employer looking for a new team member?

Times are tough and standards are high when it comes to hiring. It may seem that a parent who’s been out of the workforce for a few years isn’t ready for that open spot in your company’s leadership, but you’d be wrong. The right parent brings unparalleled real-world experience that no tele-seminar or college course can teach.

Mom, Dads… don’t sell yourself short! Parents are often reluctant to translate their at-home skills to the workplace, but that’s really unfair. From baby bottles to the board room, the things we learn in both places can
make us better employees and better parents. It’s time to highlight the complements, not hide them.

1. Networking

If you’ve ever been to a kid’s birthday party, playgroup, half-day preschool or PTO meeting, you know how to network. A really effective parent knows you need to make connections to make life easier. You find out information from other parents not in books and on websites. You get new ideas. You share ideas. You make connections and build relationships. This is a highly marketable skill.

2. Multi-Tasking

Anyone who’s ever changed a diaper while on the phone, or made a sandwich while helping with homework is a talented multi-tasker. Life doesn’t slow down when you’re a parent and unexpected needs pop up constantly. Babies never nap as long as you hope. Toys break. Food spills. If you can handle when all three of those things happen at once, you can bring that skill into professional project management.

3. Conflict Resolution

Inserting yourself between two battling third graders, or biting toddlers, is often a lot harder than negotiating an argument between co-workers. At least with co-workers, they are worried about their performance appraisal and potential raise; biting toddlers are going for broke. Co-workers can be about as rational as nine year olds, so moms and dads who have successfully implemented the “suggest your own solution” or “choose your punishment” strategy can easily translate that to the cubicle arena.

4. Negotiation

From potty training to trying brussel sprouts to using the computer, parents negotiate with their children. Some parents call it bribing but the soul is the same. As a parent, you’re looking for the one thing your client desires in their innermost heart at that moment. Once you’ve nailed that, you can work out the whole contract to your benefit. Convincing someone to sit on the potty and convincing them to choose your firm require the same delicate balancing act but winning gives you the same high. (Hint: the same kinds of strategies work)

5. Emotional Intelligence

When looking to encourage good behavior in your children, from toddlers to teens, you need emotional intelligence. You need to know how to nurture, communicate, read non-verbal cues and work for mutually beneficial encounters. It sounds so formal when you apply it to parenting, but the goals and impact are the same. When you attend that fancy EI training session at work, the trainer is probably moonlighting at a parenting workshop in a community center. Parents can use their EI to skillfully coach their employees and create a positive work environment.

6. Effective Feedback

Anyone who’s read a parenting magazine or website in the past ten years has heard that you need to minimize the amount of negative attention you give children and emphasize the behavior you do want to see. Parents have probably also read that it’s better to discipline by saying their children made a “bad choice” instead of saying “you were bad.” That’s the basic point behind effective feedback. If you know how to use positive discipline strategies, and focus on the behavior and not criticize the person, you can provide effective feedback in the workplace.

7. Customer Relationship Management

One kid likes scrambled eggs with salt and butter. One likes them with salt and pepper. One takes them plain. Can you remember all that and more? Do you know who likes Hello Kitty and who likes Polly Pocket? Who needs their bear at bedtime and who hates wearing corduroys? Parents retain the smallest details about their children’s preferences – and can apply those same skills to CRM. With careful listening and caring about their clients’ special requests, they will win your company loyal customers for life.

8. Budgeting

It’s not a booming economy but kids don’t know that. They leave the lights on. They waste food. They tear holes in their clothes and lose their retainers. Parents need to know how to handle emergency expenses and plan for fun nights out. You can really ask people about their personal finances in an interview, but parents should be able to use these techniques to show their creative solutions to everyday financial challenges.

9. Time Management

Kids have excessive activities and clubs demanding more time from a family’s schedule. Managing multiple kids requires careful planning to minimize scheduling conflicts. And don’t forget those class projects the little darlings forget about until the night before the due date. This happens in the workplace, too! And moms and dads have experience handling these situations. They keep detailed schedules and delegate to get tasks done – and bring these talents to your team and to your deadline.

10. Prioritization

What is more important – getting out the door on time or letting your kid tie his own shoes? What’s more important – taking a shower or taking a nap? Sometimes you can only choose between two desirable product features. Parents can take a look at the pros and cons and make those tough decisions. (By the way, I always picked the nap).

11. Diversity Awareness

It’s 2011 and we live in a diverse and beautiful world. Our children have a variety of needs from food allergies, to communication differences, to physical limitations, parents are helping their children adapt and thrive.
Parents can adjust to the different needs and skills and requirements of employees, volunteer, clients and customers. They know that if you support and value a person who experiences the world a little differently, they can reveal overlooked wonders.

12. Recognition

From celebrating the first steps, to the aced test, to the swim meet victory to the driver’s license, parents are pros at providing recognition. Parents know the smallest milestones are meaningful and they also know that people prefer to receive praise in different ways – but that they always love a little love. An excellent manager can incorporate what they know from their days in the cheering section of the audience at the school play. They have enthusiasm, and they can bring it.

So that’s my pitch. I’m a parent, and I’m a valuable team member. These twelve skills come from days and nights of my unofficial management internship, otherwise known as Mom of 3. And these aren’t the only talents parents can offer. Don’t even get me started on loyalty, stamina and forgiveness.

There’s a trend in our culture not to bring your family life into the workplace because people feel the drama and challenges of home life detract from the job. But I firmly believe parenting is a proving ground, and offer fruitful learning opportunities that can enhance and improve our work style and methods. Work- life balance may be an elusive goal because the two blend constantly.

Why not use the overlap to the mutual benefit of both?

Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan


Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan is a writer and mother to three boys that are forced to endure her edible adventures weekly. Desserts are her speciality, as well as failed pancake experiments. Elizabeth writes the blog Try It & You May and Our Better Daycare. She also owns Sweet Tooth Communications, LLC. You can follow Elizabeth at @prbysweettooth and find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/SweetToothCommunications.

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This is outstanding, Elizabeth. If I was interviewing someone who started pulling these anecdotes out of the air, they'd probably jump to the top of the list. It's all a matter of perspective when it comes to hiring someone who might be re-entering the workforce after time off to raise a family. You point out that, if anything, their soft skills and time management skills may have been sharpened during their time away from the traditional workforce.


Great article; i agree with leadership skill ! very useful and critical nowdays. You can add also Ethics on their behaviors.


Elizabeth, Excellent and spot on! There are so many other skills as well.... project management, human resources (incentives and penalties), and leadership! Parents lead each and every day, which could be a 12 Most post by itself. Thank you. Jon


Well, I am a bit of an optimist, so this definitely reflects what I consider to be the bright side of using parenting to move your career forward. Of course, I didn't write about how you can be up all night and still manage to be productive the next day, or go without food and still function, or clean up bodily fluids without blinking an eye...not sure how marketable those skills are!!


@Stavros I considering ethics, but sometimes as a parent I am just plain unethical. I lie to my children to get them to do the things I need them to do. I lie to them about who is eating their Halloween candy.


@ThinDifference Glad you like it. I just cannot separate my parenting habits and lessons from my work life, and vice versa. I frequently tell my husband to approach our boys the way he would approach an annoying co-worker that you need to convince to finish a task...