Spotlight at the National Careers Service
Are you a parent planning your return to work?
Planning a return to work after time at home looking after kids can seem exciting, daunting or both. But as with most things, if you plan ahead, get all the information you need and use a positive approach, you’ll give yourself the best chance of finding something to suit your circumstances.
A positive perspective
When some people start planning to return to work they see it as an opportunity to start afresh, or to right the wrongs of previous jobs that didn’t turn out how they had hoped. Your time away from the hurly-burly of the workplace may have given you a different perspective on things, and your priorities and ambitions may have changed.
However, for other people returning to work seems scary. This is normal, as your time at home with your little ones has probably seen you create a whole new set of routines that now need to change. You may feel anxious about putting your children in a nursery. You may wonder how you’re going to juggle work and home life.
If you’re going back to your old job, you may have mixed feelings about it if there were things about it that weren’t perfect. You may be concerned that many things will have changed whilst you’ve been off. If you’re not going back to your old job you might have concerns about how to sell yourself in the jobs market.
It’s perfectly natural to have these fears – the key is working out how you’re going to tackle them. Here are some suggestions that could help you ease your way back into work.
Get the information you need
When choosing what type of work to go for, it will help if you have a clear idea what the main factors for you are. You might be settled in one part of the country, you might only be able to work certain hours in the day due to childcare, you might prefer a short commute and no business travel, you might be looking for part-time work or job share. Having these factors clear in your mind can help you choose the most suitable option for you.
Push skills developed outside of work
Your previous work experience is very important but many employers also want to know about what you’ve been doing recently. We know that looking after children is the most important, demanding and rewarding job there is – but employers will be especially impressed if you can show how your parenting and homemaking skills can be transferred directly into the workplace. You can get some ideas on how to do this from our guide:
Think of a confident and punchy few sentences that sum up how you’ve developed during your time out of the workplace, and rehearse saying them. This will help you to come across as positive and self-aware.
Sort out childcare first
Choosing the right childcare for your child can take time, so it’s best to get this sorted out well in advance. If you leave it until you’ve been offered a job you might find that you’re in a rush, which might not lead to the best decision. Also, if you get childcare arranged in advance you can spend the weeks before starting a job preparing, such as deciding on outfits, investigating commuting options and brushing up on computer skills.
Highlight your most marketable skills
When you’re selling yourself on CV or application form, try to show how your skills have made a difference. Don’t just say you’ve got a certain skill, or list your day-to-day duties and tasks – you should show what you achieved for your employers. If you increased sales, mention it. If you saved the company money, put it down. If your good ideas got taken on, make this clear. If you helped to streamline procedures, shout about it.
Think about it from the employer’s point of view. They’d prefer to read real-life examples of what kind of a difference you made – not just claims to having a certain skill.
Identify your unique selling point
Employers get hundreds of applications so if you’ve got something unique to offer, it can help you stand out. It will give them something to remember you by, and make it clear you’ve got something that others haven’t.
Your unique selling point needn’t be just one point – it could be that you can offer a rare combination of skills and/or knowledge, which makes you ideal for the job.
Develop your network
Using word of mouth to get access to unadvertised vacancies is the most effective way to get a job. If you make a list of everyone you know, including distant acquaintances, you’ll probably be surprised how many people are on there. It’s important you include everyone, as even distant acquaintances can be useful in passing on job leads.
Make use of business networking sites like LinkedIn and attend industry events. Also see informal settings as opportunities to network, such as asking around at your gym class or community group. Ask for informal meetings with employers – you can find out more about their organisation and you get your face known. Most people are happy to give a little time to talk about their jobs.
Being flexible doesn’t mean accepting jobs that are poorly paid or way below your abilities. It means being open to a wide variety of jobs – perhaps jobs in a different sector, or just one level below your previous job. When you’re not in the workplace getting a foot in the door is a valuable thing - if it is a step towards where you want to be it is a positive move.
National Careers Service advisers report that they get many calls from people planning a return to work, so they understand the common issues and decisions people face. They can help you choose the type of work that will fit your circumstances.