So you’ve been a Stay at Home Mum dedicating your heart and soul to educating, engaging and supporting your children. You may have taken extended maternity leave and by the time you want to return to work your position has changed or your organisation or team has and it’s time for a rethink. Where do you start and how do you get a foot in the door?
No matter how long you have taken out from the workforce it can be extremely daunting to get back into it. Technology leaps and bounds forward every year leaving people over the age of 15 behind. In my ‘other’ job I am a Career Advisor at a Uni so I see everyone from undergraduates to PhD students who are soooo smart they scare me. What I have noticed across the board is that people generally undervalue their skills and those that put themselves out there and self-promote are the ones that get the breaks. Self-promotion is often seen as an ugly word but executed effectively it can be a very helpful tool to get your career to where you want to go.
Here’s my top 5 tips to get you moving:
1. Consider your direction? Some people choose a ‘dream job’ and work their way back to planning their training, networking and job search strategy around their end goal. One of the other ways to consider your career direction is to reflect on your skills and abilities and see what potential areas you could apply these too.
2. Know who you are – You have probably spent so much time being the Human Resources Development Officer for your children you may have forgotten who you really are. Take some time to reflect on the things you enjoy doing, what you don’t enjoy doing and what you would like to do. Rally your supporters and get some help in reminding yourself the things that you are good at. That also includes acknowledging your skills as a parent. Never undervalue the learning, development and humourous anecdotes you can draw on having brought up children, but the caveat is know your audience. I have often seen resumes where you can tell the applicant doesn’t know who they are or what they want. Be clear about your direction whilst acknowledging your past experience.
3. Know what you want Do you want to work for government or in the private sector? Do you want to work part time or full time? Do you want to work in a small niche organisation or a large multi-national? You already have experience informed by age, maturity and exposure to the workforce so without even realising you have some sort of selection criteria in terms of what’s in and what’s out. Switch on radar to the fields that interest you. Attend careers expos at TAFE’s and Uni’s to spark your interest, tune into friends talking about their careers and ask them questions. Join forums and facebook groups, post questions and investigate your options and gain a real perspective from someone working in the field.
4. Build your profile It is most often the case ‘what’ you know is just as important as ‘who’ you know. Think of all your networks and make the most of them. Family and friends and their extended networks. Don’t just think of using your networks to get a job, think of using them to gain knowledge, understand your options and get to know people in the field. Join an industry association, attend events, networking functions and collect business cards. Online you can create a profile on Linkedin but if you don’t know who you are and what you want you will find it hard to create an effective networking strategy. Before you enrol in an education courses, get to know what the industry considers ‘the standard’ and ‘valuable’. Education is expensive and you want to get it right. You often don’t know as an outsider and think you know what they want. Some industries value experience over education. Think about the outcomes of the course e.g. Membership of a professional body, up-to-date industry knowledge, industry placement?
5. Dive in Work experience isn’t just for high school students. Although, as mature professionals you can re-brand it and call it a ‘job shadowing’. Ideals of a particular job can be challenged when you get to spend a day in a workplace. Recently, a male friend undertook some work experience at a school, shadowing a teacher. In the staff room they convinced him to return to his plumbing career. His idea of teaching was one of sharing holidays with the kids, finishing work at 3:00 and students listening and studiously working away. It may not be rocket science to some of you but he was exhausted after 2 days. All his ideas were blown out of the water of what a ‘teacher’ does, how long the hours are and how hard it is to get a permanent position in a metropolitan area. Sometimes ideas and reality are two different things. Maybe if he had gone to another school he may have had a slightly different view? Either way, research is the key to help inform your decision-making process.
Returning to the workforce, job searching and changing careers can be an emotional rollercoaster. It is a little bit like getting back to the gym after a break. It is going to be painful, it’s a long road and you reap what you sow. As a parent though, you have untold experience, often acknowledged by fellow parents in the field. Try not to over-complicate things. Some people spend hundreds of dollars getting special ‘personality’ tests only to spit out a list of jobs without any debrief. No one can give you the ‘golden’ answer and to be honest no one should ‘tell’ you what to do. A good careers counsellor will guide you through a process of reflecting on your skills and abilities, understanding the latest labour market information and assisting you in evaluating your options. You can find a Careers Counsellor through the Career Development Association of Australia
And remember what they say, “The one who gets the job is not always the one who does the job the best, but knows how best to get the job.”