Returning to work after parental leave can be daunting, but a little bit of preparation can ensure the process is less stressful. We’ve outlined some of the steps you’ll need to take to give yourself more confidence in your return to the workforce.
Ensure your resume represents you well
How long is it since you last updated your resume? It can be a daunting process, especially if you were in one position for a long period of time before taking leave.
“It is a competitive job market, so it is imperative that you have a strong resume that represents your experience and skillset well”, advises Rachel Perkins, Director at JustMums Recruitment. “Focus on updating your skills, experience and key achievements – or engage a professional resume writer who can help ensure you are putting your best foot forward”.
Finally, don’t forget to include any new skills you have obtained whilst on leave and any volunteer/unpaid work you have undertaken – and yes, involvement in your child’s school committee counts! Once your resume is up–to–date, you then have the basis for your job search.
Looking for your perfect role
When you see a job that you’re interested in applying for, go back to your resume ‘template’ and tailor your resume for that particular advertisement. Ensure that you have covered the key skills required for the role and highlight any experience at the start of your resume that will set you apart from other applicants. If this role is a career change for you, explain why you are interested in this role and identify your relevant transferable skills in your cover letter.
“We find some applicants have had time to rethink their careers and when they return to the workforce they want to do something different”, says Erin Kefalas, Director at JustMums Recruitment. “That’s great, but without further details on why they want a career change, it can sometimes be difficult to match them with the role. We recommend including a concise career objective at the start of the resume or within the cover letter to really make it clear why they are suitable for the role”.
Preparing for your interview
Once you have secured an interview, then you need to prepare and focus. Research the company and individuals you are interviewing with and re-read the advertisement and position description to ensure you really understand the type of employee they are looking for. Make sure that you know your resume back to front as this will help you to feel confident with your answers to any questions about your experience. If you have applied through a recruitment agency, they should help you to prepare for the interview and practice interview questions. On the day of the interview, if it’s possible, arrange for someone to take your children to school/childcare so that you have time to feel focused and arrive at the interview on time.
Put forward your best self
Many mums ask us whether they should mention they have children at the interview (or in their initial application). At JustMums, we strongly believe that you should be honest and upfront about your family situation (and the flexible work arrangement you’re looking for) right from the start, otherwise it may be a waste of everyone’s time if the employer cannot accommodate your needs. If you are the right person for the role and they truly are a family friendly employer, they will be supportive and understanding of your desire to combine your work and family commitments.
“When you’re applying for a position with JustMums Recruitment, you have a sense of comfort knowing that the employer values the contribution that women as mothers can make. You know that they will “get it” when you need to be there for your family, and they know that you will be a dedicated, diligent and highly-engaged employee”. Heather McGiddy, Executive Assistant.
Always ensure that you have a few key questions that you want to cover during the interview. Remember, you are interviewing them as a potential employer as much as they are interviewing you. As the majority of candidates we work with are looking for a long term career move, you really want to make sure this is the right role, team and company for you.
Negotiation is key
If you have been successful in the interview process you will then move on to the negotiation stage around your working days/hours, salary and any other benefits. If you are working with a recruiter, they will negotiate all of the above on your behalf and will have already informed the employer on what days/hours you are available to work. However, if you have applied directly, it is important to be clear on the times that you are available to work from the beginning as it is important in a flexible and/or remote role that everyone knows when you are (and aren’t!) contactable.
“I made it very clear during the process what hours I can work and that taking calls are extremely hard with my small children at home. The employer was very understanding and happy for me to work nights”. Rebekah Wisewould, Executive Assistant.
Before your first day
Now that you have agreed on start date and your days/hours of work, it’s time to get ready for the big day. It’s a good idea to start changing your routine early to make the transition less jarring when you do actually start. For example, getting up at a time you would have to if you had a job that started at 9am, and completing your morning routine. And if your children are in childcare, consider dropping them off a little earlier so they too get used to a new routine. Invest in some quality wardrobe pieces that are not only be practical and comfortable, but only require washing (the less ironing or dry cleaning, the better!). Also, worth trialling the best route/commute to work and whether driving or public transport is the best option.
You’ve prepared for this day (or so we hope!) so it should all run like clockwork, right? Except your threenager won’t get out of bed, your toddler refuses to get dressed and no one can find their shoes!! Don’t panic… you’re a mum, you can do this!! Step back, breathe in, and take the step forward confidently. You can have it all!