Are you thinking about returning to work after taking time off to take care of your kids? Grab your journal or notebook and a pen and start by answering the questions below.
Returning to the workforce after maternity leave is a major step. It requires forethought, planning and a willingness to try new things as well as to connect and learn from those around you. Here are some questions you want to ask yourself:
Do you want to stay in your same career?
While it can be a bit easier to find a job if you want to stay in the same career, this is not always a possibility. Perhaps this occupation no longer interests you or this profession is not friendly to breaks in employment due to constant changes in the field – or maybe this industry is just not family-friendly enough. If you choose to stay in your field, great! Reach out to your contacts, update your resume and Linked In, and go for it.
If you are interested in changing your career, however, you’ll likely need to put in a bit more effort. Many of my clients have wanted to find careers that allow them to use their skills, strengths and passions. Jump into the hard work of learning about different careers; talk to people, google, dream and reflect. Choosing a new career is exciting! Be ready to pull up your sleeves and get to work.
Do you want to work flexible hours, remotely, part-time?
Being a working parent adds a new element of complexity. Having a flexible job is one of the best ways to manage the challenges of these dual responsibilities. The good news is that it is now easier to find flexible work than ever! The portability of laptops and smartphones allows us to do our work whenever and wherever. Think outside the box with this. Reduced hours may not work for you because you need to make a certain amount of money or need health insurance, but maybe working from home two days a week can cut out some commute time and provide you with more freedom to integrate some of your life responsibilities.
If you absolutely love a job, but it is not advertised as flexible, go for it anyway and see what you can negotiate. If you want to learn more about a company’s culture, check out the company’s programs and policies and then take an extra step to see what employees say about the company. Websites like Glassdoor.com and InHerSight.com give you a glimpse behind-the-scenes to see if companies practice what they preach.
What is your professional story?
When communicating with potential employers, you will need to be able to tell your story with ease. If you have taken time off, this can seem a little more challenging – but it doesn’t need to be. Most likely, you are continuing to use your many skills and passions while you have been home either as a parent or a volunteer.
Take the time to write your story as a way to smooth out those edges and make sense of your history. Writing your story can help you see a thread of common interests in your past, identify strengths and help you articulate who you are to others. You must understand yourself first before you can communicate your message to others.
Your story can teach you that you have always been good at sales, that you thrive in a fast paced environment or that you are a natural mentor. These realizations are empowering and help you “brand” yourself as you enter your job search.
Who do you know in your desired field?
Start tapping into your connections. Now that you know your story and the kind of job you are looking for (even if this is a bit general for now), start telling people. The best way to get a job is through connections. If you take some time to think about it, you have a ton of connections.
One of the benefits of being a parent is a much larger village of support. Don’t get uncomfortable and shy on me now. Remember two things: people like helping others, and helping someone find a job is often a win/win. Companies waste a lot of resources hiring the wrong person. If someone can help their company hire someone as awesome as you, then everyone wins!
So get out there and start talking. Make sure your conversations are upbeat. Express how excited you are to get back to work and elaborate on why. Be as authentic as you can be, and learn as much as you can from the people you talk with.
How do you apply to jobs?
Now that you know your story and have identified your contacts, create a Linked In profile. Use your story to communicate who you are and what value you will bring to an organization. Start connecting with old colleagues, high school and college friends and acquaintances. Look up people who have jobs that you want and see if you can set up an informational interview.
Apply to jobs through Linked In or other job boards like Mommybites, Indeed, Hired and Idealist. Always check through Linked In to see if you know someone before you apply. Remember, connections are the best way to land a job, so pursue a job with a multi-layer approach: have a great resume and Linked In profile that tells your story AND see if you know anyone to reach out to for help. Who you know is as important as what you know.
What will you do if you get a job?
So you are lucky and someone hires you – now what? Have you looked into the help you will need to integrate your work and life? Do you need to figure out childcare, set up carpools, outsource meal prep and laundry, negotiate new roles with your partner, and identify new responsibilities for your kids? It is best to start thinking about these things before you get your job so you can be ready to jump in. Acknowledge that you have less time now, and be sure to think of ways to lighten your load. You cannot add without subtracting.
Entering a job search when you’re ready to go back to work after maternity leave is an amazing opportunity to learn more about yourself and find a way to contribute to the larger world outside your home. Treat this process as a part-time job and make sure you get help with household responsibilities so you can focus. Prepare for trial and error along the way, and embrace each challenge as an opportunity to learn. And most importantly – try to have fun!
Amy Alpert is a certified positive psychology life and career coach. Amy works with her clients to identify and achieve goals that lead to a happier, more engaged and meaningful life. Amy was a VP of Work and Family at Goldman Sachs in a former life and has dabbled in all sorts of jobs while managing her work and family life. A mom to two teenagers and a rescue dog, she is constantly attempting to practice what she teaches–some days are better than others. To learn more about Amy’s coaching practice or to read other blogs, please visit her website at www.amyalpert.com or contact her at [email protected].
The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.