How To Go Back To Work & Balance A Career With Motherhood
Louise Karim is Managing Director of Mums@Work, a truly inspiring business that connects talented mamas with flexible work options (genius!), helping mums achieve the perfect work/family balance. She shares a few tips on making the move back into the workforce after taking a break – you can do it, mama!
We all know returning to work after a break can be daunting. Whether you have been away from your ‘paid’ job for a year or 10 you may feel disconnected, outdated and lacking confidence. I personally took a year out of work with my youngest and even in that short time I had a drop in confidence, feared of not being up to date with the business and had concerns over how I was going to manage being a great employee and an amazing mother – it was overwhelming!
Since launching Mums@Work I have spoken to hundreds of women in exactly the same boat, you would be surprised at the level of skill and experience of some of our members who are doubting their ability since taking a career break – it happens to us all.
Here are my tips on preparing yourself to get back to the workforce and land that perfect role which fits into your family life:
Be clear about what you need and want
Take time to ask yourself a few questions (be honest with yourself!)
- What is your driver for returning to work?
- Do you want to go back to the same field or do you fancy trying something new?
- Do you need to refresh your skills or retrain (considering digital transformation impacting almost every industry)?
- Is the position and industry you worked in the past right for you now?
- What hours are you looking to work? Can you afford to work reduced hours?
- What salary expectations do you have and what are the current market rates?
- What kind of company culture would you like to work within?
Granted we can’t always have the choice on all of these elements, but still, all very valid questions to ask yourself when you’re thinking about your return journey.
This is your opportunity to create a new career path which works for you and your new family. I personally chose to change my career as my previous work life was 24/7 and a hundred miles an hour, after my second child I wanted more flexibility in my day and time to spend with my kids!
Don’t shy away from your career break
So many of our candidates ask what they should say about their break in their CV? My answer… be honest. There is nothing wrong with taking a break, research actually shows that women coming back after a break actually amplify and sharpen their existing professional skills and talents, not to mention how you have created a whole new level of multitasking and negotiation skills!
Take time to think about the formal and informal tasks you have taken part in during your career break and identify what skills you have used in these tasks. For example, being the class rep and organising those endless school activities or helping a friend with a business plan – without doubt, you will have something from your break to add to your CV.
List and Update Your Skills
Refresh yourself with the professional skills you have and determine if any need a refresh. For example, were you working with different Microsoft Office packages before your break or do you need to understand how social media can be used in a business context and what new opportunities it brings?
You may find that you need to take a refresher course to get your skills up to date. Depending on the detail you need you may choose a professional certification or a free workshop or even learning online – there are so many options available to you, including all the Mums@Work workshops and our career coach the wonderful Zeta Yarwood
Revise Your CV and LinkedIn Profile
There’s no one-size-fits-all CV format, but it doesn’t hurt to research the latest examples of CV samples for roles in your industry, but remember this is your first impression SO it needs to look professional.
Always make sure your CV is:
- Concise, your CV should never be over 2 pages and make sure you focus on the most recent and relevant experience
- Show that you’ve been active while away from the workforce. List all the volunteer activities which you can tie back into professional skills, plus the relevant courses you’ve taken and any technical skills you’ve acquired
- Circulate your CV to people for feedback and proofreading. Typos and formatting inconsistencies will say a lot to a recruiter about your attention to detail
- Include a targeted cover letter, yes it takes time, but it makes a huge difference. It’s a great way for you to stand out from the other applicants and demonstrate your passion for the business and role
- Have tangible results throughout your CV, this demonstrates your abilities and achievements. Be ready to talk about how you achieved these results and their implications on the business
Update and engage with LinkedIn
Your LinkedIn profile is an essential part of your personal professional brand. LinkedIn is often the first place potential employers and recruiters will look at. Here are a few pointers to creating a stand our profile on LinkedIn:
- Ensure you have a professional looking profile picture, this really is the first impression recruiters and professional employers have of you
- Create a summary which delivers your experience and future goals in a snapshot – aka your Elevator pitch, you should make sure this includes keywords people may search for when looking for a profile like yours
- Showcase your work experience and accomplishments, be it academic or practical and invite people you have worked with to endorse this. Again keep the terminology in line with keywords that people within your industry would search for
- Build your connections – link with ex-colleagues, potential new career opportunities, thought leaders in your field and beyond
- Share your thoughts – in a professional manner of course! Give your comment on articles relevant to your profession or interest and share content you think would be of interest to your connections
You can find out more detailed advice in the Mums@Work advice and tips section on our website www.mumsatwork.ae
Network, Network, Network
Without a doubt the most important skill to master when looking to return to work. If the thought of networking fills you with fear, don’t worry you are not alone! For so many people networking doesn’t come naturally and they avoid it like the plague. I would suggest you start with your old colleagues and business contacts, it’s got to be easier with someone you already know, right?
Ahead of attending a networking event, do your homework. Find out who will be at the event, set a target list of who you would like to speak to and find out a little more about them, this will give you a nice opportunity to build a meaningful connection (careful not to come across like a stalker!)
Networking online using social media channels such as LinkedIn and Twitter to engage with influencers in your industry. Take time to comment on articles and post and share your thoughts on content you read; become a thought leader, this is about building your personal brand
Practice makes perfect
It’s human nature to be nervous, especially if you haven’t done something for a while. Confidence will come with practice, make sure you take the time and rehearse and think how to articulate your story whilst bringing out your skills, experience, and passion for the position and company. Rope in your hubby or friend in for some interview practice or worst case have a go in front of the mirror – trust me it helps!
Know Your Industry and the Players
You may have been out of the work environment for a while, but that’s no excuse for not having your finger on the pulse. Invest time in reading, connecting with Industry leaders, ex-colleagues to get up to speed with current news and trends – it’s always a bonus to refer to a topical feature during your interview and of course, give your opinion on it.
Also, it goes without saying, but make sure you know the company you are interviewing with inside out. Find out about them regionally and internationally and not only commercially, but also the culture and core values as most companies look for candidates who not only have the right skill set but also fit in well with their values.
Don’t Undersell Yourself
If you’re looking to go back to your previous career, then apply to jobs that match the skills and competencies of your last position. If you are looking for a change in career consider how your previous experience brings value to the role you are seeking, remember skills are always very transferable. Take time to look into industry salary benchmarks.
Prepare your family for your return
A change in schedule is always a challenge, especially with kids thrown into the mix! Make sure that you have discussed responsibilities and sharing the household workload with your husband. Take time before you start work to get comfortable with your child care, practice your daily and weekly routine – you will soon get into the swing of things, but don’t be afraid to take help – we aren’t super human after all!
Look after yourself
As the saying goes ‘You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others’ and it rings true mamas! Your life is about to get a whole lot busier once you return to work, but don’t forget to make time for you. Be it 10 minutes a day or couple of sessions at the gym a week or a manicure at the weekend – it’s important not to forget that you need time too and it’s for sure going to make you a better mummy, wife and employee!