Women Returners

It can feel really overwhelming when you return to the workplace after a career break. Read our tips especially for women returners to help make the transition back to work easier.

New Mum WorkingThroughout the course of our careers we see a lot of friends and colleagues leave work to begin their maternity leave.

We see them bloom and glow as they progress in their pregnancy. We share in their thoughts, hopes and aspirations for their baby. We chip into the collection when they leave, and share in their joy as we shower them with baby gifts. Then they go away for a while… And come back transformed. Their outlook has changed, they get far less stressed about work than they used to and they feel generally happier and more fulfilled. They may take a little while for their workplace training to kick back in but when they’ve buffed off the rust, they’re better than ever with renewed vigour and joie de vivre. They make it look easy. But when the time comes for us to have our own kids, we realise the extent of the emotional journey they’ve gone through.

Childbirth is the source of tremendous change, both physical and psychological, for women. Looking into the eyes of your child for the first time triggers a sudden and irrevocable change in the minds of new mothers. Protecting this tiny person, whoever they turn out to be, becomes their first and only priority and every other worry that used to consume them simply melts away.

Maternity leave is a wonderful time for mothers and their babies to bond, but when it starts to come to an end all those anxieties when it comes to the workplace come rushing back. We worry about how we’re going to adapt to juggling the pressures of work and family, we worry that the time away from the workplace has caused us to forget how to do our jobs and we worry about how our baby will be able to get along without us all day.

These anxieties can conspire to instill in us a mounting sense of dread as we get closer and closer to our first day back at work. While these anxieties are neither unusual nor unreasonable there are some helpful ways in which you can beat these back to work blues.

Be prepared

It’s not just for boy scouts, it’s good advice for everyone. As tempting as it may be to bury your head in the sand in your absence, the best way to nip anxiety in the bud is to grab the bull by the horns and start planning your return as early as possible. Try to stagger your return as a return to full time hours can be jarring and draining for you and your baby. It’s important to keep an open line of communication with your employer so that together you can arrange a return schedule that benefits you both.

Planning will help you to assert a sense of control over this significant change in your life, and acclimatise your mind to the change. Arrange yourself a timetable for your new schedule in which you’ll nail down the times you’ll leave the house, get baby to the nursery or childcare provider and back to work, Make sure that these times are realistic and account for traffic. It’s easy for forget how nightmarish the rush hour can be.

Know your rights

If there’s one area in which new parents specialise it’s catastrophizing. We can all too easily find ourselves wrapped up in worst case scenarios without any evidence whatsoever that they’ll come to pass. We worry that our employers will treat us differently, that at best we’ll be handled with kid gloves and at worst we’ll be ostracized by our employers and colleagues. Here’s where knowing your employment rights under ACAS can be reassuring and helpful. When you know what you’re entitled to and how to get it, you’ll be surprised at how easily those return to work nightmares can fade away.

Don’t punish yourself for your emotions

Mum Working on Maternity WardThroughout pregnancy, childbirth, nursing and motherhood a new mother’s hormones strap her into an emotional rollercoaster. Motherhood is a wonderful experience, but it can really put us through the wringer emotionally. As such, when the paradigm shift of returning to work occurs it can be virtually impossible to preempt your emotional state in the run up to returning to work. You may feel fear that you’ll fail both at work or parenting, you may feel guilt at leaving your child unattended for 8-10 hours a day. You may even start to feel a little spark of excitement that you’ll be able to redefine yourself beyond the role of motherhood, which may result in feelings of guilt. More than likely, you’ll find yourself in an emotional spin cycle resulting in rotations of the above. Whatever you find yourself feeling, it’s important not to punish yourself. It’s not sinful to look forward to taking a step back from motherhood or to relish the prospect of a change of environment. If anything you should commend yourself for managing the fine line that all working mothers must walk with such aplomb.

Be realistic with yourself

Nobody expects your return to work to be as though you never left. Not your partner, not your boss, not your colleagues… But you probably do. You may feel the need to put pressure on yourself to be able to master your workplace obligations as easily as you did before you left. Your mind and body have been through a lot of significant changes, and employers worth their salt will know this. Having high expectations of yourself is one thing, but having unrealistic expectations of yourself is quite another and can be hugely counterproductive.

Try to set yourself two or three meaningful but realistic goals a day in your new job and incorporate this into your planning.

Be honest with your employer and colleagues

While some people may encourage you to “fake it till you make it”, the reality is that this will accomplish little short of you smiling while you burn out. Your employer will already be cognisant of the trials you may be undergoing as you juggle your work and parenting commitments (chances are they’ve had to do it themselves), and it’s important to be honest about what you’re going through logistically and emotionally. Resist the urge to smile through your struggles and take on more work than you can handle. You’ll benefit nobody from driving yourself towards a breakdown.

Taking the above steps will help the back to work blues fade away and make your return to work as manageable and (dare we say it?) enjoyable as possible.

Untitled design (43)Work For Mums official partner for careers advice and guidance is Hannah Morton-Hedges from Momentum Careers Advice.

Hannah qualified as a careers adviser in 2002 and prior to this, gained significant and valuable experience as an in-house recruiter for a number of major blue-chip companies.

As well as a 2:1 honours degree from the University of Hull, she holds the Qualification in Careers Guidance (QCG) and the Postgraduate Diploma in Guidance (PgDip Guidance).  She is a registered member of the Institute of Careers Guidance (ICG) and is committed to their Code of Ethics, which includes impartiality, confidentiality  and accountability.  She is a qualified administrator of the Morrisby Profile psychometric test and a holder of the Prospects Certificate in Life Coaching.

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Untitled design (3)If you’re like many of us, your work and social life overlap. Soon after you accept a new job offer, you realise the transition is going to affect your personal relationships as well as your professional activities. Consider these steps to take before and after you start your new gig to help you maintain old ties, and build new friendships.

Steps to Take Before You Change Jobs

  1. Hang out outside of work. There’s more to you than your professional interests. Invite interesting colleagues to go out shopping or hiking. Meet people from other walks of life.

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Untitled design (54)The decision to return to work after time off with the kids isn’t easy, and depending on how long you’ve been out of the jobs market, it can seem daunting, coping with all the changes.

The main thing you need to remember is that if you’re the right woman for the job, taking time out of the workplace while you bring your children up need not be a barrier to you getting it.

Never apologise for being a stay at home mum. Be confident about your decisions and if you feel the need to explain it, just say that is was the best decision for your family at the time, but now you are ready to return to the world of work. No other explanation is needed.

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social-network-76532_960_720Looking for a job on social media is something all job hunters need to seriously think about adding to their game plan, but it can be hard to make your profile stand out above the rest. How can you get the people you want to see you to take notice?

Create Relevant Profiles

You’re selling yourself on social media so make your LinkedIn profile, for example, the perfect sounding profile for someone who wants to work in the sector you want to get into.

Don’t ignore Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ either, they are all allies in your search for the dream job. Spruce up your public profiles; keep your updates relevant and up to date with interesting information that shows you’re bang up to date with the sector you want to get into.

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Untitled design (65)Being an at home mum is often seen as just an unwelcome gap in your work history, but with a little ingenuity you can use all the skills you’ve developed as a stay at home mum and apply them to the workplace.

1. Multitasking – not a problem

Bring able to multi-task is an asset in the office but it’s a necessity when you’re at home with the kids, trying to sort out the washing while one of them is attempting to insert the remains of a sandwich into his sister’s ear, or someone is pulling on your jumper telling you they are desperate for a wee. You need to be able to do one thing while worrying about another – and with more than one child, that’s a job in itself.

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Untitled design (66)It’s been the accepted way to apply for jobs for many years – see a job, apply and send a CV, then wait. With so many people applying for most advertised jobs, though. Candidates are looking at creative ways to make their applications stand out…

1. Designer CVs

This is a favourite for creative job seekers who want to showcase their abilities. Instead of a plain white paper CV, why not design your CV and prove how creative you actually are? You could create a CV that reads like an advertising campaign, or do what one very talented creative called Eric Gandhi did and design a CV that looks like the results page for a Google search. A Google employee saw it on LinkedIn and the job was Eric’s.

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Untitled design (25)A PA can be indispensable in businesses of all sizes or types. Sounding board, typist, supervisor, organiser, diary-keeper – it’s a role that requires humility, discretion, flexibility, quick-mindedness and the ability to improvise at short notice.

Whilst these skills are undeniably honed through years of experience in the business and require a specialist touch, when you think about it there are actually stark correlations between the responsibilities of being a PA and the duties which come with being a mum. Yes, looking after little ones isn’t easy – and remarkably you’ll find you probably already possess the skills to become a competent, reliable PA simply through the day-to-day talents you have picked up whilst raising your children.

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Untitled design (29)Many mums find themselves in one of the following situations:

  • Looking for the next step
  • Not sure which line of work to enter after a career break
  • Thinking of a career change
  • Looking to update skills and work experience
  • Not sure where to start

If any of the above applies to you, then completing one or more psychometric tests will help you determine your next steps toward a more fulfilling career as a working mum.

What are psychometric tests?

Any test or questionnaire you complete that measures your ability, personality, values, motivation, interests or any other part of your ‘psyche’ can be referred to as a ‘psychometric’. Under the umbrella of psychometric tests, there are personality and ability tests.

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Untitled design (34)If you are a mum who is returning to the workplace after maternity leave, or career break to raise your children, you may be at a loose end on how to explain the lengthy gap on your CV.

It’s important to cover and address any breaks on your CV in a positive way.  Listed below are some of the many skills mums have.

Mums Transferable Workplace Skills

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