You’ve been off work for months, years even, but you know you want to get back – maybe to stimulate the cranial muscles or maybe just to pay the bills. But….there are so many buts. Will technological advances mean the office is no longer recognisable, will you be able to find suitable childcare, will your skills be up to date, will you be able to cope with the 9 to 5 grind and looking after children and will your employer recognise you have caring responsibilities and make allowances?
For many mums the prospect of returning to work is clouded by fear: lack of confidence about their own abilities and fear of what colleagues will think of them; fears about childcare and about how flexible employers will be. A survey by Workingmums.co.uk found that 53% lack confidence after an extended period out of the job market and 90% find it hard to find flexible work.
For some mothers actually getting to the job interview is a feat in itself. What if a child goes sick or there are last-minute childcare problems? Katie Slater, founding director of career management company A Brave New World Ltd, says you need to alert managers if there is a problem with getting to an interview. It is better to tell the truth than invent reasons, she advises; “There are a lot of women who don’t like to say that they have a problem with their children and they lie and get themselves into deeper problems,” she says. “The problem with lying is that it reflects a perception that you have a problem because you have kids.”
She advises interviewees to think carefully about what they have been doing during their career break and what skills they have learnt. Have you, for instance, been on the parent teachers’ association at your child’s school or been involved in any voluntary groups or work? Has this improved skills such as communication and networking? Have you done any courses? It is a good idea to look into these before embarking on the interview process, for example, there are free short courses in technology which allow you to brush up your skills. Try to link anything you have achieved to the competency skills required for the post you are going for.