Going back to the workforce after having kids can be quite daunting. Polishing the CV, preparing for interviews, getting the courage to believe in your non-baby care skills again – things can be difficult. So, Her Collective asked JustMums Recruitment for some advice to help others out there prepare for their return to work.
JustMums Recruitment consultant and director Rachel Perkins answered some of our questions about re-entering the workforce.
How hard is it for mums to go back to the workforce these days?
It continues to be a challenge for mums returning to work for a number of reasons largely due to the fact that many mums are seeking a flexible or part-time return and businesses cannot always accommodate this. In addition to a lack of part-time employment opportunities, there is a lack of affordable and quality childcare places, which impacts heavily then on the timing of a mum’s return to work, along with the decision around whether it is financially worth it when you are then paying for one or multiple children in care. Unclear career direction, low confidence or self-esteem, outdated skill-sets and a competitive job market are other factors that come into play, making the barriers to return to work significant ones.
What advice would you give those who are looking to go back after taking time off for the family?
When considering a return to work we advise our candidates to remember the three Ps: be prepared, be positive and be patient.
Prepare your return to work at least six months prior to your anticipated date of return as there are so many factors to consider including childcare, the employer or role you will return to, flexible work opportunities, requirement to retrain or up-skill and transitioning the family into a new routine. All of these factors will shape your return to work journey and with adequate preparation will ensure your transition back to work is a smoother one.
It is also important to be clear about why you are considering going back to work. Whether it is for financial reasons, to advance your career or try your hand at a new one, preserve your sanity or just because you are craving the social interaction. If you are clear on what is motivating you and confident with your decisions, the easier it will be to adjust back into work mode.
While still looking after kids, is there something mums can do to keep their skills updated?
Most education providers and training organisations cater perfectly for mothers looking to study, whether it be to up-skill or retrain, offering a range of courses that can be done online from home or during part-time contact hours either during school hours, evenings or on weekends. When on parental leave you are entitled to 10 “keeping in touch days” as a way to remain in contact with your employer. It might be that you utilise these days to return to the business to reconnect with colleagues, refresh your skills or you may be able to attend a conference, professional development or training courses offered by your employer. It is equally important to remain up to date with your industry, profession and the market. Online platform LinkedIn is always an excellent medium to facilitate this.
What is the biggest issue facing women going back to the work force today?
As outlined in Q1:
- Lack of quality and affordable childcare places
- Lack of flexible or part-time employment options – More than 85 per cent of our network are seeking flexible or part-time employment
- Competitiveness within the market, particularly for those women that have been out for a number of years and those with outdated skills / knowledge
- Workplace discrimination – discrimination against women (pregnant) in the workplace is currently the highest reportable form of discrimination in this country.
Any advice to calm interview nerves?
Preparation is key, the better prepared you are the more confident and in control of the process you will feel. Preparation should include researching the business and the position you are interviewing for, developing answers to questions you may be asked, deciding what you are going to wear and working out how long it will take you to get to the interview. There is nothing worse than running late for an interview or arriving in a fluster a few minutes prior. It is also important to remember that an interview is a two-way process and an opportunity for you to see whether the organisation you are interviewing with is the right fit for you so ask them questions too. Finally, stand tall, believe in yourself and all of your incredible talents and skills and definitely remember to breathe.
Is there something that mums should not say when they’re trying to get a role?
We recently heard about return to work mothers being advised by various professionals to remove “maternity or parental leave” from their resumes to increase their chances of securing an interview but our view is that women should be transparent, honest and proud of the fact that they are not only women, but mothers.
Mothers add value to a workplace and bring with them a range of skills and abilities unique to being a parent. We should not have to hide the fact that we have children at any point during the application or recruitment process. It is not about what we shouldn’t say but what we should say and this would be more around demonstrating how you will add value to the business, effectively perform and successfully manage in the position you are applying for.
Based on your experience, how flexible are workplaces in Australia today for working mums?
Workplace flexibility is a hot topic on the agenda of many Australian businesses. Many understand and respect the fact that their employees may require flexibility to care for children or elderly parents, pursue studies or simply to prioritise better work-life balance. Employers of choice understand that if flexible work policies are adopted, they will attract key talent to their business, raise retention rates and create healthy and positive culture across their business. Performance is not managed by how many hours are spent in the office, rather on what work outcomes are achieved, with technology allowing most of us to be able to fulfil our role remotely with ease.
Many employers are contemporary in their thinking and recognise that in a modern workforce, the traditional ‘9 to 5’ working week is now outdated and not suitable for many individuals. That said, whilst clear progress is being made in this area, there is a significant way to go before we see flexibility as the norm opposed to the exception.
Discrimination against pregnant women and mothers in the workplace is at an all-time high. Many women continue to be made redundant whilst on maternity leave and many more are forced to resign from their employers because they fail to offer flexible work options post parental leave. We need to continue to talk about these issues, challenge traditional thinking and workplace structures and applaud those in leadership who are championing flexibility and driving this through their organisations. It is not until these things happen over a long period of time that permanent change will occur and women will return to work with ease and successfully manage family and career.
Have you gone back to work since having kids? How was it for you?