For a lot of women, maternity leave gives the opportunity to reflect on their work life balance and having children can really put things into perspective. Suddenly the thought of being away from your babies has to feel really worth it so needs to be for a job which offers a lot of job satisfaction. If this means changing jobs, preparing for an interview whilst on maternity leave can be daunting.
After having James, I went for a job far too soon, got zero support to prepare and got it 100% wrong. It really couldn’t have gone any worse! I wish I had known about BetterHelp, who offer online counsellors that I could have talked to. I learnt a lot from that experience and after having Ted, put those lessons learned into practice and totally smashed it so here are my top tips so you can take control of your career after having children.
Baby brain is a real thing! It’s a combination of sleep deprivation, hormonal imbalance, baby related information overload, loss of identity and simply being out of practice. To combat baby brain, prepare your notes and examples of good work you’ve done in the past in a neat folder that you can take into your interview with you. Get it out and ask your interviewers politely if you can refer to your notes. It’s not a test of your memory so don’t treat it like one! Even if you don’t use them, use it as a comfort blanket. It’s there if you do need them and you can always choose to consult them at the end of the interview to double check you’ve not missed anything.
Parentcraft on your CV
Becoming a parent can provide you with loads of new skills to add to your CV. Did having children mean you had to learn how to budget? Logistics was the one skills I really developed when I had the boys. Between them, my husband and the dog, they all had different social events, medical appointments, parties to go to etc. Maybe you attended a baby first aid course as part of your ante-natal classes? They’re all transferable skills you can add to your CV and mention at interview.
Find the right company to apply to
Working Mums https://www.workingmums.co.uk/top-employers/ is a really useful site which lists companies who have signed up to a family friendly charter. This is a statement of their commitment to fully embracing the business case for flexible working, and enabling parents to progress and enhance their careers whilst managing the challenges of family life. Public Sector organisations tend to be very good when it comes to having family friendly policies including giving you time to pump or breastfeed if that’s something you need to consider.
Start the Search Early
Let your support network know that you’re job hunting and what sort of role you’re looking for. Having more people keep an eye out for vacancies reduces the time and pressure on you. Starting the search early is important as it gives you an idea of what is in the market. I found there were very few well paid part-time jobs available so this meant I had to increase my childcare arrangements. This wasn’t as easy as I expected/hoped so I’m glad I gave myself enough time to sort this otherwise it would have been added stress for me.
Find your style
After the physical changes of pregnancy, it can be hard to know what style of clothing suits you. Visiting a personal shopper is a great chance to speak to someone honest and impartial. They normally offer free consultations and you can define whether you’re looking for an interview outfit or general workwear. Getting your underwear right first is really important. After that, make sure you’re comfortable standing and sitting in your outfit. If it is something which doesn’t feel 100% right, don’t buy it. It will only cause you distraction when you need your focus in the interview.
Use your new mum mates
I was once told your network is your net-worth and this is so true! Becoming a parent, whether you plan to or not, you suddenly find yourself with new females in your life. Conversation has probably be dominated by poo, rashes, measurement charts and whether grandparents are doing what you ask them to do with your kids. (Probably not!) However, these women now make up your tribe and if you’re looking for work or preparing for an interview, use them. They will all have varied backgrounds as the only thing you might actually have in common is that your babies are a similar age. Ask them for contacts, ask them for recommendations and run your interview answers past them to practice. If you don’t feel comfortable talking through your interview examples, at least arrange a play date so she can watch your kids and you can prepare, even if this is to get your suit ironed.
Get rid of the guilt
There is zero shame in going back to work and using any form of childcare to enable this. Maternal mental health is frequently overlooked when it relates to loss of personal identity and satisfaction. I know that maternity leave days can sometimes feel like Groundhog Day. Just a cycle of nappy changes and feeding! It’s more than alright to want more from your days. That’s why I started blogging, just so I had an outlet to be creative and have some time and space to myself. If you’re really struggling with guilt, think about the impression you want to give your children. If you’re going to be a happier family going back to work then do what is right for you and your family. I personally want my boys to respect women in the workplace and know that females can contribute to a household income just as much their dad can.
My husband did really well with work whilst I was on maternity leave and I struggled to not be jealous! As an ambitious person, I wanted his achievements too and to feel that sense of being valued. I know my family appreciate me and the things I do for them but there’s something different about strangers telling you you’re worth it – so go for it!!