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Returning to Work after maternity leave or a career break

We’ve got a smash out 5-step strategy to re-enter the workplace after taking time off to become a mum.

I’d like to add a bit more depth about how you can prepare to re-enter the workforce after having a baby. Whoever you are? Wherever you come from? Becoming a mum changes you. For some, it’s not a big adjustment but, for others their whole world turns upside down and opens a pandora’s box of questions from who am I? What world do I want my baby to grow up in? What kind of a role model do I want to be for your child? Mums need to acknowledge their pre-children career might be different to their post-children career.

So once you’ve tackled all these questions in week one then it doesn’t stop there, the anxiety builds as you get closer to that looming deadline of returning to work. Will I be successful in my new job? Will the children miss out on me being around? How will I manage?

So now you’ve done alot of thinking, next step is action, that’s where the strategy comes in:

1. Decide on you path
Ok, this is the hardest one, so we can get it out of the way first. Switch on your careers radar, start by looking in the newspaper, listening to friends and get yourself in the headspace to think about a new role. Think about how different life is and how you have changed. Decide how much time per week you would like to work. Think about your skills from previous work or hobbies, as well as your passions and investigate a range of roles, not just one. Speak to people in those roles and find out about work/life balance, employer expectations. Consider your circumstances? If you have a FIFO partner or a child with special needs, this may be your first priority so, your career or job will have to accommodate your circumstances. This may mean a less traditional career, or a new career path. If you are on maternity leave check in with your employer or colleagues and keep up-to-date on what’s happening at work to make the transition easier, meet the new staff, let them meet bub. If you are on a career break keep up your professional skills by undertaking short courses, keeping up-to-date with industry and keep your contacts from your previous employment.

You can go into depth with a careers professional and do personality testing, debrief it and get assistance choosing your career path but you want someone who really knows what they are talking about. I would suggest visiting www.cdaa.org which is the professional association for Career Practictioners, Career Development Association of Australia. Find someone in your area who focuses on getting mums back to work. It can be around $300-400 but it is one person sitting down with you helping you to reflect on where you have been, what your circumstances are and where are you going?

2. Create a criteria
So when you consider buying a house you usually start with a broad criteria like, “I want a house”. Then when you go to a few open houses, you are like, “actually we need an ensuite, 3 bedrooms, garage, garden and more storage space, honey”. Once you look around it’s easier to create a criteria. Ask friends about their jobs, ask to job shadow someone (visit their workplace for a few hours to observe what they do). Look in the paper for Career Expo’s, go back to your uni open days for inspiration. Consider talking to someone who runs their own business? Look in the Careers section of the paper. Developing a criteria helps you save time in your job search. Set your brain to ‘search’ mode and you will start tuning into careers that interest you.

3. Upskill/Know-how
If you have done your research and find you can’t pursue a career change into Learning and Development because every job has a minimum of a Cert 3 requirement then that information becomes part of your action plan; step 1: get education. Or, it becomes ‘plan b’, because ‘plan a’ says you need money NOW.

4. Create a kick-ass resume
Step away from the online templates! Employers have seen them all before. Ask your friends to send their resumes to you so you can see a few different formats and choose what suits you and your industry. We will have a follow up article on resumes so I won’t go into too much depth but basically highlight your skills, provide examples of your education and experience and make every resume tailored to the job’s criteria.

5. Develop a Strategy and Network avoiding SEEK
As soon as an ad is placed on SEEK there are around 200 applicants. It’s so easy for employers to press the ‘delete’ button. I’m not saying don’t apply for jobs on SEEK. You need to do that but also expand your strategy to other channels like contacting organisations directly and networking.

Everyone knows someone, so don’t try that ole, “I don’t know anyone”. Have you even asked? Target employers, give them a call and market yourself to them. When times get tough and there are skills shortages, employers fall back on referrals and networks to recruit good staff so why aren’t those on the outside using networking more? Well, some people think making a call to an employer to ask about any potential opportunities is presumptuous or rude. It’s not. It shows initiative, drive enthusiasm. Just ask, don’t stalk them.

Maybe your networks are a bit slim? But everyone knows someone, so don’t try that ole, “I don’t know anyone”. Have you even asked? Try building a profile on LinkedIn, get involved in online groups with people of similar interests and start making connections there. Join the professional association in that field or a ‘meet-up group’. Create opportunities like volunteering at open days or assisting them with their annual conference preparations. Find ways to move off ‘mummy island’ to ‘industry island’. The more time you spend on ‘industry island’ the higher your chances of getting a job.

Starting this process is hard and if you have managed to get past Step 1, then you are doing great! If you figure out what you want to do you just need to tell the employer that in your resume. Keep yourself motivated in this process because, at times, it can get you down and if you are doing something and your not getting a job, do more research, change your strategy or your resume and seek some help!

About Rebecca

Profile photo of Rebecca
Hi I'm Bec and this is my my blog Daycare Decisions. I am a mum of 2, passionate about early education, nature play and a parents' transition back to the workforce after having a baby.

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