This blog is for all you women/men out there who have taken a year or so off work to care for your child(ren) and are now thinking about going back to work.
There are so many things to think about in this process, so this is going to step by step guide to a) getting back there and b) get you ready to rock n’roll once you’re in the door.
Getting back to work
- First things first! The right time to go back to work has to be and can only be the right time for YOU.
You have just had a child; which is an incredible thing, so don’t put pressure on yourself – go back when the time is right.
That time is going to look different to each individual person depending on your circumstance, so just because Jill down the lane didn’t need to go back for 3 years, doesn’t mean that if you decide to go back after 9 months that you are doing anything wrong. I also know of people who have set a go back to work date and then after talks with their company, decided it wasn’t quite time yet, so delayed it. I also know that companies have different requirements for their staff, so ultimately this will perhaps govern some of your decision.
You are dealing with this at the best time, because companies are (usually) great at dealing with this now, so talk to your manager, go to your back to work meetings and be open.
- What do you want to do?
When you start your conversations with your employer about how you want to broach going back to work, make sure that you have in your mind what it is that you actually want to do.
- What hours do you want to do?
- Do you want to go back full time or part time?
- What work do you want to be doing?
It’s not to say that everything you want will be able to be accommodated depending on your industry etc. but its worth at least going in knowing what you will and won’t compromise on.
- Don’t rule anything out
This is important, as the conversation with your boss should be two-way. What are they offering you? Remember those are not your only options. It’s a conversation, so make sure you allow your voice to be heard.
If you’ve left your company and are looking to go back into work after a substantially longer period of time then do not rule anything out even if you’ve been out of work a while.
Full time positions, management positions and flexible working are ALL available to you. Remember though – you do not need to put yourself in a position where you are working all the hours God sends just to fulfil a crazy notion that if you don’t then you won’t be valued. There is a lot of press around this at the moment, but it is going to do you a lot better to be happy at work and doing well in the hours that you are working than working 60 hours a week to fulfil your own insecurity.
- Know your rights
This is important! Your company should have it together when it comes to maternity leave and what is expected of you when you want to come back and what definitely isn’t. But this is not always the case.
If you need advice then seek it, speak to the CAB for free advice, or get in touch with a legal firm if you feel that the information your firm is giving you is not fair/adequate. Or even your company’s HR team, they will know, well they should know(!) what is expected of them.
This could cover things like – you being made redundant when you come back, your role changing without prior warning, the issue of paternity leave etc. etc. There will be things built into the maternity leave policy at your firm, so it may be useful when you are meeting with your employer for them to bring a copy for you to review.
So now you’ve decided you want/need to go back to work – what can you do to help yourself?
Feedback from friends, family and past clients who are in this situation is – ‘oh my god I’ve been out of the loop so long, I’m not going to be able to cut it, I’m a different person, I have new responsibilities, will I be taken seriously?’ So let’s go through some ways that you can reinvigorate how you feel about yourself and the ton of skills that you had before and still have now, and perhaps some new ones!
- Make a list
Of all the reasons why you got the job in the first place, all the skills you felt you used to have when you started the job – e.g. I had the right qualifications, I was good at leading a team, I got everything I needed to done, I was a good leader, I can organise anything and everything to the minute detail… etc.
When you’ve made this list, look at it. Don’t dismiss it as things that you used to have – because you still have those skills. Yes ok your organisational skills may be more in the arena of, I can get my child dressed, throw them a birthday party and my partner a 10 year wedding anniversary dinner, get my pets groomed all whilst writing a successful blog – but hey, that is still organising no matter how you wrap it up.
Just because you are out of work for a few months/year/years doesn’t mean that you lose your brain cells – this has not been scientifically proven, therefore your logic is false.
Make the list, think about how great you are and get motivated.
- Review your priorities
Ok so now you think you’re wonderful again, it’s time to think about what you can actually do. Remember that no matter what people say – you can’t have it all. You really can’t.
You are going to have conflicting priorities no matter who you are or what stage of life you are at so don’t put too much pressure on yourself. This goes back to point 2 on the going back to work bit at the beginning. Work out what you want. Do you want to work 60 hours a week and get a nanny in or will your partner be able to stay at home? Do you want to work 3 days a week 9-5? Do you want to work 5 days a week 10-3? Fine. Be honest with yourself, then go to your employer and work out what is feasible for them and for you. You may not get everything you want, but it’s worth asking and finding a compromise.
It is also important to think about how this reflects on your career progression and salary expectation. In a recent survey it was said that women’s salaries are 33% lower than men’s up to 10 years after they give birth. This is probably down to the fact that women are going in part-time and due to them needing to clock off earlier than their male counterparts (usually, this isn’t a blanket statement). It is just something to be aware of. If you want the high flier job, then you need to compromise on time with family initially I would imagine. If you want to leave at 5 every day on the dot and work 3 days a week then probably you will have to compromise initially on your career prospects.
This isn’t a blanket rule and I’m sure some people will be sat here frowning at me but this is the reality of life. You need to work out what you want and be ok with that choice.
I would also say what I said in a previous post – just because you can’t do everything now, doesn’t mean you can never do it. Your career doesn’t need to peak at 35/40, there are a ton of successful people who are much older than this who have started their careers again after they’ve finished having children.
- Amend your LinkedIn profile
Once you’ve figured out what your role is and what you are doing at work it’s time to freshen up your LinkedIn profile. Just because you’re a parent now and you’ve amended your working hours it doesn’t mean that you are not hot property and that someone wouldn’t want to hire you. Get yourself back out there.
- Review your profile – this is the first thing that people see about you
- Review your skills – this is what people are going to endorse you for
- If relevant ensure your qualifications are up to date
- In your company experience summary – it is that, a summary
- Ensure that in your profile there are buzz words that meet industry requirements so your profile gets picked up
- Pep talk
If anything, you need to tell yourself that you can do it. As stupid as this sounds, stand in front of a mirror and look yourself in the eye and say to yourself
“I can do it, I am a smart person, I am a successful person, I am valued in X organisation, I am good at my job etc. etc.”
It’s stupid but it works – you may even find it really difficult. But if you want people to take you seriously then you need to take yourself seriously too.
And that’s it! I’m kidding – this is such a stressful time and a daunting time. But you really have this! If you need some guidance, or would like a session on how to manage your return to work, then please get in touch. I’m offering you a 10% discount on a 1.5 hour coaching session – £75 reduced from £90 with the code #dontpanic – firstname.lastname@example.org