Whether you’ve only taken a few months off work or a few years, returning to work is never easy when you have been basically living another life with children. Despite the parallels between toddler tantrums and office politics, the cold reality of trying to do both a job and the full time role of being a mum is not an easy one to face so it is best to be prepared. Here are some tips on going back to work.
The first thing you need to do when considering getting back into the workplace is to weigh up what you want to do, how you want to work and whether you are ready to go back. It is best to plunge back in with 99% certainty rather than 40%. Women’s motivations for working often change after they have had children and you may find that you want to reassess the kind of work you do and how it fits around children. For instance, you might have had an all-consuming 60-hour plus job before children or have been in a job which is difficult to do flexibly. Look at the skills you have and think carefully about how you can adapt them to other types of work or industries with more flexible working possibilities. If you have been out of the workplace for some time, you might want to consider retraining for another career or brushing up on your office skills. Local colleges often offer courses for, for instance, updating office skills.
Once you have decided what area you want to work in, you need to consider childcare options
. It is important to have these in place for when you go back so that you are not rushing around sorting this out in your first weeks at work as this makes settling into a new job all the more stressful. Most forms of childcare allow a week or so for your child to become accustomed to being away from you. It is a good idea to do this before you start work so that you are happy that they are okay before you begin. Research all the possibilities. Talk to other working mums if you can and find out what they do. Go and look round nurseries and ask around about childminders. A recommendation by someone you trust can be invaluable. You can get a full list of registered childminders from your local authority and make sure you are armed with the right kind of questions before you interview them. Also make sure that your childcare hours actually cover the time you need to get to and from work so that you don’t find yourself rushing hell for leather every evening and making yourself ill from the stress of it all. Think about things like school holiday cover if your children are school age and have a back-up plan of action if, for instance, the childminder rings in sick.
Looking for a job in the current economic circumstances will be difficult, but it will be doubly so if you do not feel confident about what you have to offer. Lack of confidence
is one of the major hurdles for women returning to the workplace. The important thing is to know your strengths [and weaknesses]. Draw up a list of all your skills. Include in this any voluntary work you have done, for example, for the parent teachers’ association. Include also your parenting skills. It is not, after all, as if you have been at home doing nothing for the last months/years! Many of the skills you have learnt are precisely those which employers want – multi-tasking, people management, diplomacy, team-working…
Now comes the easy part! When it comes to applying for jobs, make sure you always appear professional at all times. Don’t just send round a general cv
. Adapt it for the particular job you are applying for. If you have big career gaps, write a cv which promotes your skills rather than a chronologically based one. Ensure the covering letter
summarises your experience and sells you as the perfect candidate.
Allow yourself plenty of time to get to the interview and think of questions you want to ask. Go through the type of questions you think your potential employer will ask, based on the job specification, and do your research on the company. Have examples stored up to back up your skills. Even if you decide you don’t want to attend the interview or some emergency crops up at the last minute, let the employer know. You may be able to reschedule. Look smart and professional. If you want to work flexibly, ask generally about the company’s flexible working policy, but don’t make it the first question you ask. The current legislation only allows new employees to request flexible working after six months in post, but you may be able to negotiate some flexibility if they really want you for the post. Don’t, however, waste employers’ time by suggesting hours which are just not feasible for the job. Most employers stipulate the hours that need to be worked to do the job. You need to make a good business case for why flexibility will work for both the organisation and you and remember if you ask for flexibility from your employer, they will expect some flexibility in return. Good luck!