Raising a family takes love, time and effort and is often described as one of the most rewarding things you can do. Days turn into months and years and suddenly the kids are at school and you are ready to do something for you. Sound familiar? Many parents I speak to find themselves wanting to return to the workplace after a significant career break of anywhere from 5 to 20 years.
Do you want to know the biggest barrier to returning to work after raising a family? Confidence. Once you have decided you're ready to return to work next comes the doubts...
- Will I find a job?
- My skills are so out of date
- Will I fit in?
- Will I be able use the technology?
- Will I be able to find something which fits around the family?
- CV, what CV?
- I am useless at interviews
- No one would hire me
You get the idea. This is where I come in. I am going to give you my top tips to returning to work after raising your family.
Resist the need to apologise. So many parents talk about staying at home with a sense of embarrassment, like they 'should' have been at work. It is so important that you acknowledge all of the skills you gained whilst raising your family and if asked you could say something along the lines of
"Staying at home was the best decision at the time for my family, I have added so many skills to my personal and professional life and am now ready to return to the workplace"
(Keep repeating it until you believe it).
Preparation is key. Just like you had to adjust to parenthood so you will need to adjust back into the workplace - from the technology to the cultural changes, even down to what the dress code means (business casual anyone?). I know I sound like a broken record but the best way to do this is through your network.
Can you contact your previous colleagues or ask other mums/dads you know who are currently working to give you the latest trends and up to date information? You may be pleasantly surprised about the flexible working possibilities.
I would also encourage you to get support when preparing for interviews too, especially if you haven't had one for a while. I do mock interviews and interview preparation sessions and I would also recommend a book by John Lees: Job Interviews: Top Answers to Tough Questions to help at home with someone you trust.
Reconnect with people who value(d) you skills and get their feedback. You can use a simple exercise called '5 questions' to banish any feelings of imposter syndrome you may be feeling.
Acknowledge your skills. Being at home with your family brings new skills and hones existing ones - from dealing with people, negotiating tough deals, getting creative and thinking outside the box and time management to name but a few. Writing down these skills is a good place to start, you could use a SWOT analysis tool to get a clear picture of what you have to offer. The next step is to articulate them to an employer - how do they translate to the workplace? I heard a good example from one mum who talked about customer service from the perspective of using public transport and services from a consumer perspective.
A plea from me too...remember all the skills you had before you became a parent! You haven't lost them. If you're anxious about it and if your last professional experience was more than five years ago then I would suggest a functional CV and if possible getting some work experience, shadowing, advice or volunteering in the area of your choice.
Be brave and ask for what you want, what you deserve, what you are worth. If you want to work flexibly or part time, ask. It's not only parents who work flexibly; executives, retired people, consultants and many others also choose their working hours. Many employers are understanding the benefits of working flexibly.
You can apply for full time roles but ask if they are willing to do part time or compressed hours or if they are open to a job share. Start by positioning your skills and experience and demonstrating you are the best person for the job, show them they can't do without you - then you are in a stronger position to negotiate.
Think about what you need to earn and the hours you want and look at jobs which offer that. Aim for something which pays enough and gives you the intellectual challenge and stimulation you are looking for. You don't always have to compromise. If you have no idea what you are worth, speak to other people in your network and benchmark your experience and skills against the market.
If you have any questions or would like to book a coaching session please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Get Career Confident
Applying for a new job can feel hard at the best of times, but it's even harder when you feel like you have forgotten all of your skills and you have no idea or confidence about how to start.
The Get Career Confident course allows you to build confidence in your skills and abilities, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed at the thought of moving roles, getting a new job and/or setting career goals.