If you are a mum, you are probably wondering how to return to the workforce again after years of absence and being a stay at home mum. You are not alone in this. Many women in this situation often feel very uncomfortable about returning to the workforce. Some believe that there have been quite a lot of changes in the workplace and they worry about fitting in. However, many find that they can easily adjust to these changes within a week or a month.
Returning to the workforce again after spending a long time staying away may feel like you’ve lost all your skills. The fact is that you have actually developed new ones. We are going to give you 7 tips on how to return to the workforce and how to fit in at your new workplace.
Deciding on the right time to work
As a mum, you are probably worried about leaving your child too early and rushing off to join the workforce. You will want to find the ideal time that is right for you to leave your child. But waiting for the perfect time may mean not returning to the workforce at all. This is because there is no perfect time to leave your family. Your family is designed to rely heavily on you, but that does not mean they wouldn’t be able to cope without you.
One particular mum talked about the ideal time to return to the workforce. After waiting for the ‘perfect time’, she couldn’t find one and so when the conditions seemed most favourable to her at home, she decided to take her chance. She said there was no perfect time and she knew the ideal time would never come. When the conditions are about 80% favourable, then this is a good time to take your shot at returning to the workforce.
You will want to think about this carefully. Look at your home and your children’s needs and decide if the current circumstances allow you the time to re-join the workforce.
Acknowledge that your skills are still good enough
Even being away from work for a couple of months often leaves us in doubt of whether our skills are still as good as they used to be. This is no different for most stay at home mums. They sometimes feel that they wouldn’t be as competent as they used to be. This is often the number one reason why most stay at home mums never return to the workforce – the fear of poor performance. Research has found that this fear is often ungrounded. Many women are afraid to return to the workforce after spending so much time away. However, upon taking the bold step, they realised it wasn’t that difficult. One woman stated that “the fear is just in my head, after a few weeks, everything pretty much fell into place”.
You will probably be surprised at how much of your former skills are still intact as well as the new ones you have acquired. Being at home with children develops your people skills. It hones your communication skills and how you solve problems that pop up unexpectedly. Though these skills may not be included in your CV, you will realise after getting a job at how much your people skills have increased. The time you took to tell stories to your children improves your ability to do small presentations; the time you used to decide what your children like or don’t like improves your analytical skills and ability to read people. All these skills and many more which you have acquired, not by any formal training but by instincts, will be with you always and can be used to improve your work performance.
So combining your original work experience with your acquired skills could give you an added advantage to performing your job well.
Try different job hunting approaches
Bouncing back to the workforce after spending a long time at home will need a lot of effort and commitment. You will have to hunt for a new job and probably work with new people. But before even trying to look for a job at a new company, it will be prudent to try your former workplace. You will probably be surprised that they still have an opening for you or might even want you back and will create a place for you. Talk with your former boss and friends at work to see if there is an opportunity for you.
Hunting for new jobs can be quite stressful, but you don’t have to rely on a sole approach as most mums do. It’s great to look for jobs online but you might want to include other avenues like word of mouth and contacting organisations where your skills and background may be relevant.
Prepare for an interview
Preparing for an interview is the first step in passing the interview stage. Interviews can be a hurdle that may keep you from landing the job. While preparing for interviews, ensure you analyse all your strengths and weaknesses. Use this during interviews to give your interviewer an idea of what you can and cannot do. This is a crucial step.
Also, while preparing for interviews, you may want to consider practising with your family members or friends before the actual interview. Try visualising all the possible questions that may be asked during the interview. Write these down and try to supply answers to them. Avoid being too rigid with this, as the actual interview process will probably take a different turn. Get a family member to ask these questions and supply answers to them as well as you can.
One mistake new mums can make in interviews is talking about their children all the way through. We know you are very excited about being a new mum. It is quite a thing of joy. But at the same time, you have to be sensitive to the person interviewing you. Some interviewers may not be interested in hearing about your family life and may just want to stick to your working life. This can be tricky to judge as you won’t know anything about your interviewer. As the interview progresses, you will be able to see what your interviewer discusses and which direction it goes. You will then know the appropriate things to talk about.
Ask for flexible work
Nowadays, not everyone seeking a flexible job is a mum; almost everyone is looking for jobs that offer some degree of flexibility. Therefore, don’t worry about asking your manager for flexible working hours. Employers are now more concerned about output than time spent on work. If you can get more done outside of the usual working hours, then let your boss know.
You have to think out of the box on how flexible working works, it doesn’t mean only part-time. You can be working full-time and yet your job will be very flexible if you are innovative enough. For example, flexibility might mean compressing hours so that three days are reduced to two, delayed starting so that you can have time for your children every morning, or quick finishing so that you can pick up your children from school, working from home, sharing of jobs, etc. There are many variations you can come up with that will make your job flexible. The key is to get the right combination of favourable childcare and the job done well.
Dress for work, not the playground
Look professional. If possible try to find out about the dress code for the company you want to work for and dress accordingly. Your clothes should reflect your professional appearance. Even if you plan to go to the playground with your children immediately after your job, you shouldn’t dress for the playground. There are lots of attires that you can actually use for both. Try dressing properly for a job and at the same time make it suitable for use in the playground. Alternatively, you can take a change of clothes to work.
Use jewellery sparingly, especially during interviews. You may want to keep that huge rock off your finger while going for interviews as it can easily cause a distraction. Avoid wearing anything in general that might take the interviewer’s attention away from your skills.
Know your rights
Some interviewers may not know what they can or cannot do with pregnant women in the workplace or women on maternity leave. It will be prudent that you print out your legal rights regarding your job and take this along with you when applying for a job. With that in your hand, you will ensure that you and the interviewer are on the same page – at least legally.
In addition to knowing your rights, make sure that some of the below questions have been answered clearly before taking a job. Keep these questions in mind all through your job search:
- Is the work culture of the company you are applying to favourable to working parents? Do they treat working parents with some degree of respect?
- If you were to have another child, how might that affect your work/position in the company?
- If you really want to work with a company where the culture is not favourable to working parents, how would you plan to change such perception? Are you willing to change it through hard work?
Ensure you get a good answer to all these questions before deciding to work in a company.
You are not alone. It is a fact that more than 80% of the workforce is made up of working parents. All who were once afraid of going back to work after spending a long time being away from their work. They were anxious that their skills may no longer be useful. Others were scared that they would no longer fit into an office or that they wouldn’t have the necessary time for both a job and a family. But those who venture out find that their fears are ungrounded. They find that their skills were far from outdated and that time is not a problem.
The last tip of this article is this: go out there and see for yourself. You are still needed in the workplace.
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