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Tips for Returning to Work

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The prospect of returning to work after taking time out to have children can be a difficult and challenging process for many mums.  Our confidence has diminished, we worry our skills are out of date, we feel guilty that working might negatively impact our children and we worry how we will structure our work to ensure we continue to accomplish our obligations on the home front.  Not only that but the longer we’ve been out of paid employment the more challenging it can be to get back in.

Our reasons to go back to work vary – for some it will be a simple financial decision and for others it will have more to do with wanting a renewed sense of value or needing some stimulation and social interaction that doesn’t involve children. Regardless of the reasons there is often some apprehension about the unknown and a fair amount of uncertainty about how to move forward. So here are our top tips for getting back to work after having children.

 

1. Know what you want

You need to have a clear idea of what you want to do before you start your job hunt; so it’s a good idea to start the thinking process early to create a picture of what you would like your work to look like. Working life when you have children to consider can look very different and for some it can be a good time to re-evaluate altogether.  Will you return to your former career in the same industry or will you take the opportunity to completely re-invent your working life?  If you’ve been in a career that has notoriously long hours or inflexibility it’s possible it will no longer work for you without a lot of support.  It may even be that you didn’t like your former career all that much and you want to try something new.

There’s a lot to consider – what sort of skills you’d like to use, how long you would like to commute, type of industry, what kind of work environment you’d prefer, how important career progression is to you, how much pay you need and whether or not you’re going to need flexibility?  Do some research and if you’re really not sure consider using a career tool to identify your values, motivators and the skills you’d most like to use in your new job.  If possible talk to other mums who have made a successful transition back to work in the sort of role or industry that you want to work in.

2. Refresh your thinking

The workplace is changing rapidly these days with new technology and ways of working so it’s important to make sure that your skills and ideas are current. If you need to up-date your computer skills check to see if your local school holds any adult learning courses throughout the year that you could sign up for.  If you’re a member of a professional body, consider going along to some events to familiarise yourself with the latest thinking.  Social media is another great way to do this. Consider joining Twitter and Linkedin and follow experts in your field or industry to learn from the constant flow of great content.  

If you’ve been out for a long time could you narrow the gap with either some voluntary or temporary work?  It may be that you even need to invest in yourself by going on a course, particularly if you are going to change direction.

3. Up-date your CV

If you’re going back to work after a long break you’ll need to review and up-date your CV.  Even though you’ve not been in paid employment you will more than likely have been involved in a variety of other things through your children.  You may have been involved with fundraising or organising events at your children’s school or kindergarten, been on a committee or the School Board or perhaps you’ve helped a friend start a small business. Whatever you’ve been doing there is no doubt that you will have gained some new skills along the way. It’s a good idea to think about how you can incorporate these into your CV. 

4. Don’t rule out applying for full-time positions

You may well have made the decision that you will need to work on a part-time basis or with some other degree of flexibility.   These jobs aren’t always easy to find when you’re looking at the job boards but don’t rule out applying for full time positions.  Once you’ve convinced them that you’re the right person for the job it’s possible they’d be open to negotiation on flexible hours

5. Talk about expectations

It’s worth thinking through beforehand the implications of returning to work on your well-ordered family life (yes that was a joke). If your partner has a high powered job that requires long hours or travel, how much opportunity, or willingness, will there be for them to share the childcare load?  It’s an important conversation to have and while I like to think that organisations are offering more workplace flexibility that will allow fathers to contribute more fully to the family schedule, it may not always be the case.  Talk it through together to plan out how it might look.  What tasks need to be completed on a weekly basis?  How can they be divided between you? If your children are older, include them in the planning and give them some responsibility too. 

6. Get Support

At some point you may have to concede that you will need some support – paid or otherwise.  The first thing to consider is of course childcare.  Will it be day-care, a nanny, family, after school care or even a combination.  It can be difficult to get children into care on short notice so do your research and plan this in advance.  As much as possible it’s also important to have a back-up plan for those days when things don’t go quite as well as you’d hoped.  Children get sick, nannies get sick and sometimes you might have to stay late at the office.  Think through how you might deal with these.

Acknowledge also that you can’t do everything.   Dispel the “supermum” myth and where possible outsource things that you can’t achieve by yourself.  If your budget doesn’t stretch it might just be that you need to stop beating yourself up about the growing pile of unfolded washing.

7. Banish the Guilt!

As much as we hear that mothers working will have adverse effects on our childrens progress there is really no evidence to suggest that this is true.  If parents are happy and have a sense of purpose then we’re in a good position to help our children grow into content and confident adults.  Whether or not we’re employed doesn’t really matter!

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Guest Friday, 24 January 2020

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