Going back to or changing work: top tips

Thinking about getting back to work or switching jobs to something more flexible? Look at our top tips for what to do and what not to do before you send in the application.

You’ve had a few months or years off to raise children and you want to get back to work or perhaps you need to change jobs. Before you send in your application, think carefully about the practicalities – whether you can actually commit to the hours advertised and whether you have adequate childcare in place, including during holiday periods. Here are some tips:

– Be sure you want to go back to work and are ready. This might sound ridiculous. You’ve been thinking about going back for ages. But it is a good idea to think through your reasons and the pros and cons and be absolutely certain before you take the plunge.
– Be sure what kind of work you are prepared to do and the kind of hours you want to work and be upfront about flexibility if you want it. Do you want to go back full or part time? Would you like to work in an office or be home-based? (This can influence job search).
– Don’t waste employers’ time by suggesting hours which are just not feasible for the job. Many employers who advertise on workingmums.co.uk already offer flexible working, but they usually 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.
– Once you have worked out the kind of hours you want to work and whereabouts you are looking, you will have a clearer idea of what kind of childcare you will need. Good childcare is crucial for mothers returning to work. Don’t leave it till the last minute and think you will be able to piece something together with a friend, your mum, etc. You need to have got something permanent either sorted out or at least booked when you start looking for jobs. Nurseries and childminders get booked up months in  advance so make sure you start looking around, checking prices, figuring out what you feel most comfortable with before you start applying for jobs. If you are looking for homeworking, don’t think you will be able to work around your children. Children, especially small ones, require a lot of attention. This does not fit in generally with a job. What will you do if you need to make phone calls if your children are around? Having childcare sorted will put your mind at ease and allow you to focus better on your job. This includes having holiday cover sorted.
– Have back-up plans for your childcare arrangements in case anything goes wrong. Usually nurseries cover most of the year and are only likely to be closed for bank holidays and two weeks around Christmas. But childminders get sick, go on holiday or their children get sick. Ditto grandparents. Have some sort of contingency plan so you don’t get caught out.
– Research the companies you apply for and go through the job specification with a fine tooth comb so that you know what they want, that you can provide it and that it suits your skills.
– Don’t worry about career gaps in your cv. Think of all that you have done while you have been out of the office place. Perhaps you have done fundraising or coffee mornings for local parent groups or helped out in a local shop. All of these add valuable skills to your cv in terms of networking, fundraising, planning, communication, etc. You could also say that being out of the office for a while has given you time to reflect on your career.
– If you have been out of the workplace for long, you might feel out of touch with the latest technology. You could do a crash course to brush up your skills [local colleges offer free short courses to bring you up to date with technology, for example].
– Be professional about the interview. Look smart, leave plenty of time to get to the interview in case you get lost and allow enough time for childcare to allow you to get to the interview in good time and to not have to dash away to get back home. This will help you feel more relaxed and confident. If you have an emergency child-related problem on the day of the interview, ring up and explain to the manager rather than fail to turn up. It might be possible to reschedule.
– Prepare intelligent questions to ask at the end of the interview about the job itself and also the way the office runs. At this point, if it is applicable, you could ask if the company has a policy on flexible working. This way you are not presenting it as a personal issue and more as a general benefit of the company.

Comments [2]

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi all. This is a very practical article with some really great tips. However I wouldn't recommend asking about flexible working at the interview. I was recently invited for an interview for a job I really wanted; everything was going really well until I asked about their policy on flexible working. They made it clear this was not an option and that they were also Mums who work full-time. Word to the wise. If it's not stated in the info pack or online ask AFTER you've been offered the job. That way you can decide whether or not you can accept.

    Editor: It very much depends on the employer, whether you need flexible working or could work full time for six months before putting in a flexible request [and feel they would accept this]. It is definitely worth doing your research on their attitude to flexible working beforehand. 

  • Anonymous says:

    I find this article very informative and helpful. Well done

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