Mom Returns to Work: Average Receptionist Salary

Name: Therese Landefield
Job Title: Front Desk Receptionist
Where: Seattle, Washington
Years of Experience: 1+
Salary: $16.35 – hourly wage (See PayScale's Research Center for the average receptionist salary)
Employer: Atlas

Mom Returns to Work: Average Receptionist Salary

For anyone returning to work after taking time off to raise children and run a household, this Salary Story offers valuable advice. We recently interviewed front desk receptionist Therese Landefield about her transition from stay-at-home-mom to professional receptionist. She filled us in on what it was like to go back to work after years away from a 9 to 5 job. For readers who are nervous about taking the leap from full-time mom to employee, Therese offered tips on writing resumes, finding the job you want, and how to translate the hard work you've been doing at home into marketable skills in the workplace.

This interview is also helpful for anyone looking into receptionist jobs and the average receptionist salary. Therese gave us info on her job as a receptionist, as well as her practical and inspiring approach to work, life, and the pursuit of personal goals.


Front Desk Receptionist Job Description:

The front receptionist is important to the company because many times he or she makes the first impression of the company to the client. So I answer the phone, “Good morning, Atlas, how may I help you?” Then they tell me, “Please connect me.” And I say, “One moment please, I’ll transfer you.” And then I transfer them. Sometimes it’s difficult and the transfers don’t go through. I usually go back on the line and say, “Excuse me, the transfer failed, let me try again.”

Can you tell us about the other duties of a receptionist?

Sometimes I would be sitting alone at the desk. So I would talk to the marketing people who would walk by. And I’d say, “If you have anything you would like me to do, I will do it.”  I would do these projects for them. I set up a conference in Chicago, New York and San Francisco for some meetings. I did all the logistical set up for that.

What is your background prior to having a professional front desk receptionist job?

I went to college and I worked for an employee benefits firm. In 1989, I dropped out and had 4 children. I stayed home until 2 months ago and I went back to work. I didn’t work all those years. And it was kind of a challenge coming back, you can tell someone that you know how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but somehow they don’t know how to integrate that into what’s happening in the workplace. You have to educate them on how your home skills could apply in the workplace.

What home skills apply to the roles of a receptionist?

Logistics for sure, I can run 4 different people on 4 different schedules at 3 different schools and involve all their extra-curricular activities. Those are home skills and I believe you have to do that in business too. You have to have 10 balls in the air and get them to land where you need them to land. I do that everyday for 4 people and a dog; so those are home skills.

What advice do you have for mothers going back into the workplace?

Don’t think that you’re too special to do anything. You may not work for a high hourly wage in the beginning. You just need to do something, you need to reintroduce yourself, so people can meet you, and so you can meet people. You may have to learn new things. Maybe you’ll have to learn how to use a computer, but that skill could help your hourly wage in the long run. Maybe you’ll have to learn how to be less shy and put yourself out there.

What are the pros and cons of having a professional front desk receptionist job?

It was fun to go back to work, it’s good to be out, there’s a life beyond a kitchen sink. Going back in the workplace is fun. The obstacles of working as a receptionist were that I had to make sure that my kids, who were used to having me available all the time, felt good about having a working mom.

When you were seeking a receptionist job, did you write a resume?

When I had to write a resume, I depended on 2 friends; a friend of mine who has her MBA and worked some fairly substantial jobs, before choosing to stay home for about 6 or 7 years. Another friend of mine, who worked in technology, knows the market well and told me what to expect for an hourly wage. When I decided to write a resume, it was tricky to say what I was doing, because, as a mom at home, it’s kinda shifting sand. It’s a lot of repetitive things that you do over and over again; it’s not necessarily rocket science.

Even with little work experience, you figured out how to write a resume for a professional front desk receptionist job.

You have to tell a story about yourself. Even though I’ve been home all these years, I’ve done a lot of interesting things. I’ve lived in 2 foreign countries, 6 different cities and moved 17 times; so I had a lot of different life experiences that I could talk about, rather than work experiences.

People enjoy an interesting life and if they can talk to you about things that you’ve done, that interest them, then they can look beyond your immediate skills. They ask themselves questions like, “Gosh is this person bright? Yes. Are they interesting? Yes. Could I put them into my group? I could teach them what they need to know." So don’t draw a boundary if you want to go back to work.

What are your future goals?

I hope I’m in a marketing or a training job where I’m interfacing with people or clients. I hope I’m not behind a desk all the time, can travel a little bit and have a team to work with.

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