For mothers returning to work, applying for a job and attending job interviews will be more stressful than ever. You’re probably still lacking sleep, you might be self-conscious about your appearance, unsure of your skills or just low in confidence generally. You are not alone, a lot of mums have the same anxious feelings.
I’ve worked in the corporate world; in particular in Human Resources, and interviewed and assisted mum’s returning to work for quite a few years, and I am a mum that returned to work myself. So here are my tips.
Once you’ve made the decision to return to work or apply for a new job
For mothers returning to work, communication with your partner or wider family is really important in the process. Not only will you have less time, not having mummy around as often is a big change for the whole household. This is a time when the whole family need to work as a team and support each other.
Organise child care or at least make initial enquiries so you are clear about when there is availability and having a start date in mind will be something your potential employer will want to know.
If you work in a particular industry, start reading relevant articles to get yourself back in the ‘work’ frame of mind. LinkedIn is a great place for this.
The application process
You will obviously need to update your resume and write a cover letter for each job application you make. Given you have being at home looking after your bundle of joy there will now be a gap in your career history. Your cover letter doesn’t need to explain this gap. The cover letter should be concise – a short introduction to who you are, your skill set and appropriateness for the position. Professional, polite and to the point.
Your resume is the real selling point. Remember some employers don’t look past the first page, so this page is crucial. Ensure you have a summary (one paragraph) of your background and experience at the top of the first page. Then a quick career history with employer name, position and dates. The following pages will outline your experience in further detail. If you are still currently employed just specify the dates as normal ‘Employed at X from July 2014 to Current’ or if you have already resigned ‘Employed at X from July 2014 to July 2016’. You do not need to mention maternity leave. Let this come up naturally in the interview process. If you have had quite some time off (above 1 years) and were not employed, then in this case just state Maternity Leave and the dates.
Firstly ensure you have arranged a babysitter or care for your baby for a long enough period that you aren’t going to feel rushed. Sometimes these things run over time and you can be longer than expected. The last thing you want is to be rushing through your answers, you want to be as calm and relaxed as possible.
Be prepared! Research, research, research! The more you know about the company and the role the better equipped you are to impress your potential employer. Knowledge is power.
Don’t voluntarily discuss your children or family circumstances during the interview process unless specifically asked. If it does come up (which it likely will) be clear about your availability and have an open discussion about flexible working hours. The last thing you want to do is give the impression you are more available than what you actually are. This is only going to create stress for yourself and your family and create unrealistic expectations. Employers in this day and age are required to provide flexible working conditions and most do, so embrace this. If the company doesn’t, then perhaps it isn’t the job for you.
Show confidence in the interview process. I know this can be hard for new mums, and given you have been removed from the workplace for a period of time and in complete mummy mode, it is understandable. To gain some confidence, once your baby is asleep grab a glass of wine and write down your key selling points that you think employers will be impressed by and write down your career aspirations. Keep this piece of paper handy and keep reading it. This can be your daily boost and reminder at the value you can add to your next employer.
Develop some practice questions you think might be asked during the interview and, if possible, have someone role-play asking you the questions. Make sure the questions are relevant and show that you have researched and are genuinely interested in the role. The interviewer will always ask if you have any questions during the interview.
When answering questions, don’t ramble, to the point and concise answers is best.
Make sure you look good! If you feel good in your appearance, this will make you feel more confident. Dress to impress!
Mothers returning to work – summary:
Just because you’re now a mum, that does not take away from your skills or your career history to date. Don’t feel too grateful and feel that you should do more than required, this is not necessary. If you secure a part time job, ensure you enjoy your days off and don’t feel obliged to work on these days or answer e-mails. You will no doubt be getting paid on a pro-rata basis, so this shouldn’t be expected of you.
In my professional world I have found mums returning to work are some of the most organised, diligent and hardworking employees. It will be a busy time in your life, but us mums are multitasking warriors and anything is doable!