Back to work tips for working mums

Coach Emma Louise O’Brien gives some tips on how to go about retraining.

Back To Work


Information up to date as of April 2019

Returning to work after having children is not always straightforward. Your priorities have changed, you require more flexibility and you need to cover those childcare costs.

Have you heard yourself saying things like “I can’t do that job because I don’t have the right qualifications or the right training”? Have you therefore considered re-training? Many women find that the option to re-train allows them to begin a new career that fits around their new priorities as well as being more flexible.

When you are unclear about what your options are it’s easy to find yourself aimlessly trawling through recruitment sites and feeling disappointed when you don’t find anything that catches your eye or reflects your experience.

Retraining doesn’t mean abandoning the skills and experience you’ve acquired. It’s a way to enhance your skillset and open up more opportunities.

Where do you start?

Self evaluation: Evaluating your current situation and where you want to get to is a great place to start, take a step back and ask yourself some of these questions:

  1. What are my priorities? Identifying your career priorities is essential in order to become more focussed on your long term objectives.
  2. What skills do I enjoy the most?
  3. What are my interests and can I make these into a career?
  4. How do I want to use these skills?
  5. How do I move into my chosen role?

It is important to remember that the career priorities you have identified now may change in five-10 years’ time so focus on what is important for you in your next career move.


Researching job role profiles is a useful way of finding out more information.

The National Careers Service website:  these role profiles also give advice around what training you will need to do in order to begin your new career, the salary to expect and what the job roles include.

Career Guidance books in your local library which also highlight what types of training and experience is necessary to do a particular role.

Visit job boards to research jobs, have a look at job descriptions and the specifications that employers require for the types of roles you are interested in.

Ask contacts, family, friends including other parents

It is easy to forget that those people you meet with on a day to day basis may be really useful to talk to about your future aims and goals. Talk to other mums and ask for advice and guidance.

They may have worked in the environments that are of an interest to you or have their own network of contacts they can put you in touch with to seek further guidance from.

Self employment

Another popular option is exploring self employment. Do you have a hobby or an interest that you could make money out of? Would this enable you to spend more time with your children but also earn you a living wage?

Think carefully about this option: if you do your hobby purely to escape or as something that gets you away from your “day job” you may end up losing what you enjoy about it.

Is there a gap in the market that you could explore? Have you found yourself looking for a product or service that doesn’t exist? Do you have a talent that could be a business opportunity?

A client of mine started making birthday cakes for other mums as she was renowned for her baking. It was something that she really enjoyed and was great money making opportunity.

Word of mouth and positive feedback gave her lots of business which she has fit in and around childcare.

My advice would be to get in touch with people who have already chosen this option. Speak to people and ask for advice – they will be able to give you tips and tell you how they pursued their interests and re-trained.

I have worked with many mums who over the years have secured new employment opportunities through talking and networking with other mums.

This has been achieved through attending playgroups, children’s parties and even conversations at the school gates. Every conversation you have is a great opportunity to obtain information.

Where to find courses

Courses are available through a number of channels depending upon what type of route you have chosen, for example, if you have decided that teaching might be something you are interested in then visiting the Department of Education website will provide you with further information about training options.

Useful links

Training providers and resources:

Learn Direct 

The Open University

Hot courses

All of these provide a range of courses and information to research your options and help you come to a decision. You can fit your training around your other commitments whether it’s full time, part time, classroom-based or distance-based learning. Get in touch with your local college, council or visit your local university website to find out more about training in your local area.

Funding your training

Training can be costly, but there are ways to ease the pressure. Visit to find out where you can get support.

Retraining might initially be daunting as you venture in a new direction. It could also be the quickest route to finding new fulfilling opportunities whilst also ensuring the right work life balance for you.

*Emma Louise O’Brien is a senior career coach at Career Transition and Job Search Support specialists Renovo and provides practical, tailored and supportive careers advice and job search techniques enabling individuals affected by redundancy, or those looking for a career change, to transform their lives. Emma Louise was awarded CDI Career Coach of the Year 2013. Emma Louise is also mum to Imogen, who is almost 4. She has worked for Renovo for the last five years and works on a flexible basis. Renovo;s support is delivered through an innovative blend of personal career coaching and access to the latest in eLearning technology. It has a range of support programmes to suit individual’s needs and budget. If you have any questions for or want any advice from Emma Louise, email [email protected].

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