Looking for a new job after taking time out to have a baby can feel like a big step. But it’s also your chance to make sure that your career is working for you, and if not, to look for ways to change what you do.
Returning to work may not seem easy when you’ve been living in a baby bubble for the best part of a year (or longer). Research shows that staying at home for several months can knock a mum’s professional confidence, and having a baby can force you to re-evaluate what you want from your career. But it’s also an incredibly exciting prospect, giving you the chance to take a fresh look at your skills and experience and what you want from a job.
So before you leap into a new job search, it’s important to take some time to consider exactly what it is you are looking for. To help you get started, we take a look at three important questions you need to ask yourself.
1) What do I want from a job?
It wouldn’t be the best idea in the world to apply for a full time position with long hours and regular travel if your priority is to spend more time with your family. Equally, a part time job in a more junior position won’t make you happy if you want to get your career firmly back on track again.
So before you start looking for work, you need to ask yourself some clear questions about what you want or need from a job:
- How many hours or days do I want to work a week?
- How far do I want to commute to work?
- How much do I need to earn?
- What do I enjoy doing?
- What kind of company do I want to work for?
- Do I want to work alone or with other people?
- How much responsibility do I want?
- How important is status to me?
2) What skills and experience do I have?
If you’ve spent the last few months or years cleaning up after children, it can feel like a lifetime since you last thought about – let alone used – your skills and experience. But though it may not feel like it at times, everything you used to know and do is still there.
Not only that, but the time you’ve spent away from work has taught you plenty of new skills that can be valuably translated into the workplace. As a mum you’ll have honed great time management, negotiation, budgeting, communication, strategic and management skills – not to mention learned how to be patient!
So take a moment to think about the skills you possess:
- What was I really good at when I last worked?
- What did the people I worked with rely on me to help with?
- What skills has motherhood given me?
- What do other people think I’m good at now?
- What am I most proud of?
- What do I enjoy doing well?
3) What are the options available to me?
As much as we’d like to have every option under the sun available to us, there are certain practical considerations that will restrict the jobs you can apply for. For example, there’s no point deciding firmly that your ideal job is a ski instructor if you live on the south coast!
So as well as identifying what you want from a job, and what skills you have to offer, you need to think realistically about the choices that are available to you:
- What type of industries are based in my area?
- What are my transport options?
- Which local companies offer flexible working opportunities?
- What kind of employer needs my skills and experience?
If you find that your ideal choice is hampered by practicalities such as lack of experience or qualifications, you could decide to take a little more time out and study, or build up relevant experience elsewhere to help increase your chances of getting a job later.
Once you’re clear about the type of work you’re suited to and feel excited about doing, you can create a much more targeted and effective job search plan. And look forward to taking the next step forward in your career.Hannah Martin