If you have been a stay-at-home mum (SAHM) for a few years, and are now considering a move back into the working world, you might find yourself feeling uncertain and maybe even a little anxious. You may wonder if your previous working experience and skills are still relevant. Or perhaps you feel unsure of where to even begin your job search.
Here are some tips and advice from mums who have done the switch, to help ease you through the major transition ahead.
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
Before you dive straight into the job hunt, take some time to re-evaluate your passions, priorities and goals. This process will help point you towards a career path that would best fit your objectives. It is important to note that certain priorities may have changed now that you have children. For example, you might find that a company which has a family-friendly work culture may appeal more to you than an exciting, fast-paced job that demands frequent overtime and overseas travel.
1. Full-time, Part-time or Flexible Work Arrangements?
One of the biggest questions to answer is whether you would like to return to full-time work. Some SAHMs prefer taking up part-time positions, working in the mornings when their children are in school, and being available to care for their children for the rest of the day. Other flexible working arrangements include working from home, job-sharing, and ad-hoc/ project work.
Marissa Loh, mother of an 8-year old boy and 5-year old girl, was a SAHM for five years, until her younger daughter started childcare. She currently works two days a week, with one day in the office and two half-days from home. She says: “This has been a very sustainable arrangement for me as I can be present for my two kids, manage their time and even bring them for enrichment classes and playdates. In addition, I have time for myself while also keeping my professional skills updated and creating value professionally.”
2. Manage your Expectations
It may not be realistic to expect to re-enter the workplace on the same salary scale as your peers who have stayed in the working world throughout. However, rest assured that in time, the differential in pay or seniority will diminish or even disappear, as you prove yourself in your job.
3. Follow your Passions
Having a family to support does not mean that you should let go of your professional goals and passions. Vanessa Lim, a mother of two boys below six years old, was a SAHM for one and a half years after her second son was born. She shares that when she went back to work, “contributing to the family income was important, but I still pursued a career in an industry that I was interested in. If it was simply for money, I would lose the motivation to go to work, and most likely burn out."
4. Explore New Career Options
Going back to the same field of work before kids might seem like the natural path forward. There are, however, some SAHMs who seize the opportunity to explore an entirely new career path.
One such mum is Kiren Kaur, who was working in the hospitality industry before she became a SAHM for more than 10 years to raise her two daughters. During her time at home, she decided to take up a course in early childhood education, "but it was more for my own interest and to understand my children better". As it turned out, her interest turned into her second career, and she is now happily working as a supervisor in an international preschool!
GETTING INTO ACTION
After you have figured out your preferences and career options, it is time to get down to the business of actually applying for a job.
5. Update your Resume
Needless to say, the first and most important document to work on would be your resume. If you have stayed home for a number of years, you may be concerned about the large gap in your employment history. Sher-li Torrey, founder of Mums@Work, advises in her blog (http://mumsatwork.net/blog/?p=54) that using a functional resume, rather than the conventional chronological format, can focus attention on your skills rather than the career break.
In addition, if you had done freelance or voluntary work, or taken up short courses, list them to show that you have developed your skills and talents even during your time at home.
6. Update Yourself
Get up to speed with current affairs and the latest developments in the industry you are keen to enter. Read industry reports/ newsletters and follow relevant news feeds on Facebook/ Twitter. Consider attending workshops or short courses to hone or learn new skills that would be useful for the job(s) you are intending to apply.
7. Tap your Network
In addition to scanning the recruitment pages, another effective way to search for jobs is to reach out to your network. Spread the word that you are ready to re-enter the workforce. Connect with ex-colleagues, school friends, and even fellow mummies who might know of job openings in industries that you are interested in. Referrals are often the best and most effective ways to get a job.
8. Set up the Support Infrastructure
Besides the job hunt, draw up a plan on how to keep the household running when you are no longer at the helm. Give yourself plenty of lead time to ease in the necessary changes, such as transitioning your kids to full-day childcare, or hiring a domestic helper to take care of the kids when you are in the office.
BE PREPARED EMOTIONALLY
9. Heart-to-Heart with the Kids
Even if your children are very young, it is important to sit them down and have a conversation with them about the upcoming changes. After all, they have been used to their mum being around for them all day. Let them know that you will still be available for them in the evenings and on weekends, and assure them that you love them despite not being physically present with them in the day.
10. Brace Yourself for Mummy Guilt
You may be surprised at how emotionally challenging the change might be for yourself. Vanessa shares her memories of the transition: "In the beginning, it was easy to go back to work, as I had good support at home. In fact, I appreciated the peace and quiet (away from the children)! However, it got tougher after a year, and I found myself staying late in the office quite often. The mummy guilt then kicked in.”
She credits her husband for providing good emotional support during those times. “He assures me that the kids have not forgotten me, and that I am not less of a mother when I have to work late. That was very important to me."
So there you have it, 10 tips to prepare yourself for the leap back into the working world. Here’s wishing you a smooth and successful transition ahead, and may you find much joy and fulfilment in the next phase of your motherhood journey as a working mum!
Maybe Baby would like to thank Marissa Loh, Vanessa Lim, and Kiren Kaur for sharing their tips and experiences, and Sher-li Torrey for sharing her blog advice.