Returning to work after maternity is often a process that fills our minds and our soul with fears and challenges. Will we be able to establish a good balance between corporate and family life? Will we deal with work responsibilities after such a long pause? Are there many things we have to catch up with? Will our employer accept understandingly that besides professionals we are also mothers and as such we will have to be absent from work at times in the care of our children? In the following lines I will suggest some good practices and guidelines on how to prepare for this next life stage so that you can quickly and painlessly go back into corporate life without your personal life suffering from it. With Milena Hadzhiivanova – lead psychologist, professional coach, founder and manager of a consulting company – we will talk about how to prepare successfully for our first post-maternity interview.
Rarely, there is a perfect time to get back to work after maternity, but with certainty this moment comes. It brings many new emotions, worries, doubts, but above all opportunities. I sincerely believe that the most wonderful gift for ourselves as mothers and our children is to have the opportunity to learn, grow and entertain together from the moment we embrace them for the first time. But it is not necessary for our professional career to end with the birth of our children. On the contrary – I believe that we have a lot to give to the corporate culture and life, sharing the newly acquired skills of a parent. So when you feel that the moment to come back to the business field has come, do not hesitate but confidently start preparing for it.
Consider carefully what kind of job you would like to have in view of your experience and competencies. Do you want to return to the company and your pre-maternity position or would you like to look for new challenges?
If you decide to go back to your previous workplace, contact the HR department and check what is required of you and when it is possible to return to the office. Call your manager and tell them the happy news that you will soon share workflows and terrain. If you do not have grandmothers, grandfathers and other relatives who are happy to take care of the children while you conquer the business world, find a nursery/kindergarten. Let the children visit it for at least two weeks before returning to work, so that you and your offspring can build up your routine and get used with the novelties.
If you think it’s better for you to find a new job, look at the opportunities online, get in touch with friends and acquaintances, directly contact the organizations where you believe there is something you can do with your experience and skills or ask your ex colleagues and employers what job opportunities there are in the companies they are now in. Revise your resume and send it only to carefully selected employers, not just at random to whom and where you see. Apply both for full-time and half-time positions. Sometimes even full-time positions allow some flexibility to fit the role of a mother. Such flexibility would allow, for example, work from home, later commencement and early termination of the workday, work on projects after which a brief break may be made, and so on. The idea is to achieve a good balance between work and family, so that you feel satisfied and complete. If you persuade your prospective employer in your competencies and experience, you will be in a good position to negotiate flexible working conditions.
The truth is that even a few months outside of the business environment can make us feel with lost skills and experience. Diana Norris, a career coach, quoted by The Guardian, says that such fears are unfounded and that the women she worked with have discovered that they are still fully competent professionals as they were before their pregnancy.
To catch up with the schedule, however, it’s a good idea to go out for coffee or lunch with your old colleagues, to meet for a drink and talk with your manager. This is a good time to check what’s happening in the industry, what are the novelties and trends, how the corporate culture has changed in the office, and so on. The goal is to renew your relationship with people who have appreciated your work in the office. If you are looking for new opportunities in other industries and companies, read online what’s happening in the field that interests you, what are the prospects for future development, and so on.
The truth is that when we stay home to raise our children we acquire a completely new set of skills – multitasking, creative approach to problem solving, time and task management, more skillful prioritization … Most likely these are not some incredible qualities to put in your CV, but they are certainly things to give you confidence in your own abilities. What matters is to articulate your new skills, literally entering the shoes of your future employer – whether they are completely new or from before your maternity. Give proof of the application of your newly acquired skills in business practice.
Once you have decided to which professional field to direct to, which companies to apply to, have reviewed your CV, found a nursery/kindergarten for your children, it is time to take care of your impeccable appearance and confidence. Buy you new clothes – I love a lot of dresses because I do not have to think long enough on how to combine my clothing, and this drama, usually in the last minutes before leaving, is with an idea less catastrophic. It is important to have nice clothes especially for interviews for a new job because this is the first thing that will impress your future employers and colleagues. Choose ones in which you feel comfortable and confident and which are suitable for the position/company you are applying for.
Set up your mindset for the upcoming changes. If you were previously a workaholic and stayed a few extra hours in the office in the evening, now besides the responsibility you have for your work, you are also responsible for your children who will look forward to meeting you home after work. You will need to learn to balance these responsibilities successfully. Sometimes it’s hard for some of us to leave our child for a full workday right after maternity. Put their photos on your desk and on your phone – it will help you get over the workload during the first few days. Find other young mothers in your workplace – you can seek advice from them about how they handle their productivity while caring at the same time for their child.