10 tips to get you started if you are returning to work after a break

It’s Monday morning, Harriet sets off with nervous anticipation for work. It is her first day at work. What’s the big deal? Harriet is not a school leaver or a graduate but a 48 year old mother of 3 children. The eldest is 18 and the youngest entered into secondary education this week.

Harriet is a well educated woman who gave up her job shortly after gaining her MBA to bring up her family.  3 years ago she decided that she wanted to go back to work and to progress a career. Her children were less dependent on her, the family needed the money and she wanted to ‘do’ and ‘be’ something in her own right.

Getting into the job market after 15 years of not working and without having started a professional career proved to be difficult. Jobs were either low paid, inflexible and offered little career prospects. Added to this was her own loss of identity, lack of confidence and her age seemed to be a barrier to prospective employers, especially as the market place seem to be saturated with younger job seekers.

Harriet’s story is typical of many women who have set aside their careers to bring up their families. Getting back into the workplace after a significant break can be daunting and many feel overwhelmed by the challenge with not knowing where to begin and a lack of confidence being a huge obstacle.

If you are mum thinking of returning to work, here are 10 tips to get you started

1. Why do want to join the workforce  Identify what are your motivations for wanting to work: is it financial, to contribute, to be a part of something, to have an identity..? Having clarity on this will give you focus and the determination to push through the difficult times. It will help you to generate and evaluate your options, keep you motivated and enable you to change direction if future work that you undertake is not fulfilling.

2Full time or part time  Spend some time (with your husband / partner) exploring the impact of working on you and your family. What changes will you and your family have to make and how will you deal with them? Consider your circumstances, core values and whether you want to work full-time, part-time, freelance, from home….

3. Be positive in your approach  Reframe how you see and say things, moving from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I can’. Write a list of what you would like to do but feel that ‘you can’t’ because of circumstances or lack of confidence. Change them into ‘I can’ statements.  For example: ‘I can’t go back to work because I have no one to look after the children after school or during the school holidays’ to ‘I can go back to work if I find the right childcare’. For each statement, explore how you would feel if this was possible and your life changed in this way.

4. Find out where your passions lie  When you do what you love and love what you do, work becomes much more enjoyable. What do you enjoy doing the most? What activities or tasks are you engaged in when ‘time flies’? What do others compliment you on? What are you known for? What sort of tasks or jobs do others ask of you? The things that you are good at and enjoy doing the most are where your strengths lie – identify them. You might not think of them as your strengths because you may find them easy to do. Ask your family and friends for feedback and make a list of all the things that you are good at.

5. You are more than ‘just a Mum’  Most stay at home mothers describe themselves as being ‘just a mum’. They often convince themselves that they don’t have any skills, that their training is out of date, that they are too old, that there are younger people with more up to date qualifications… Preparing to enter into the world of work, means moving away from this mindset to one that sees your skills, abilities and experience in a new way.

Parenting requires diverse skills, talents and qualities. Many women under-estimate the skills that they have gained from bringing up their children and running a home – from getting your children out of bed, fed and to school on time, organising a child’s party, negotiating with your teenager to tidy his room…. are all skills which can be transferred and utilised within the workplace. Think about what you do every day and how this could be translated to the business world. Make a list of all your skills and strengths and how this can apply in the workplace. For example, organisational skills, problem solving, interpersonal and creative skills.

6. Maximise your potential by filling the gaps  Find out what recruiters are seeking and fill any gaps that will help to leverage your employability. You may want to undertake a short course to brush up on your computer skills. Or perhaps study for a professional qualification which will put you in a much stronger position when applying for jobs in a new industry sector. If you have the time and little finance, hone your skills or develop new skills by offering to undertake a volunteer role – for example on a church committee, school governor or at a charity shop.

7Hone your CV  Construct an up to date CV. There are many sources on the internet that gives advice on CV writing such as  MonsterTotal jobs , Directgov  and CV templates When completing your job application, ensure that you highlight how the skills that you have will be beneficial to your new job role.

8. Be confident in your interview  Be clear on why an employer should choose you for the job / role. Show them how your experience, skills and wisdom gained during your employment gap can be beneficial to the workplace. Practice mock interviews and role play with a friend or family member to give you added confidence. Pay attention to what you wear and how you dress to give you an extra boost. View interviews as a learning process. Ask for feedback and reflect on what went well and what you can do differently next time. You can find tips on interviewing on the web from sites such as Learn Direct and Working mums

9. Find a cheerleader Enlist the help of someone who will support you and be there for you through your journey. This might be a close friend, an online network or a coach. Having someone to talk to, cheer you on, encourage and support you, will help you through the difficult times.

10. Build your resilience  It took Harriet 3 years, 2 different jobs, 7 interviews, 11 completed application forms to land her dream job. Adopt a mindset which sees setbacks as challenges to overcome and learning to be gained. Develop a ‘can do’ attitude and keep reminding yourself of all the positive and happy things that you have in your life and can be grateful for. Good luck

I work with women who are progressing their leadership and professional roles, building profitable businesses and develop teams and people within organisations through coaching and mentoring programmes. Connect with me on Twitter @verawoodhead and on LinkedIn

Image: Google images


About verawoodhead

I'm an executive coach, leadership facilitator and learning & development consultant working with managers and leaders to develop the skills and behaviours to inspire performance and drive results; achieve promotion ; make successful career changes, be resilient and thrive at work. Within organisations, I help to facilitate better conversations, design learning interventions which deliver practical and lasting solutions aligned to business strategy and goals. Connect with me on Twitter @verawoodhead
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3 Responses to 10 tips to get you started if you are returning to work after a break

  1. Some great tips here for returning to work after a break.

  2. Karen Mason says:

    Returning to work after a career break can be quite daunting, thanks Vera for some valuable tips.

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