I’ve written about how I want to go back to work and how its incredibly hard for me to find the right job which would cover out childcare costs for three children in my sector many times. However, one of the things I haven’t discussed is the approaches I have taken to try to get back into the workforce, which ones have worked and what hasn’t. I thought this might be useful.
Working whilst not at ‘work’
One of the best things on my CV is the amount of freelance and voluntary work I have done. I’ve used it mainly as a way of keeping my brain active and working, a way of trying to avoid getting sucked into a life of daily chores. Until recently though I didn’t keep a meticulous record of all the things I was doing and when. That meant that in order to update my CV I needed to look through five years worth of family diaries and email records to rediscover what I had been doing with my time. However, it does mean that I don’t have a gap on my CV marked ‘parenting’. Lesson: Update your CV with every major project, bit of voluntary work.
Revisiting your CV
One of the best things I have done recently is to get a friend to look through my CV and give me her opinion. This has been useful as I had underplayed various roles I have taken and over emphasised some other things which are not all that relevant to the jobs i’m applying for now. It really helped me to have someone that has known me for a while and works in a similar industry to cast an eye over it. I’m now working towards a much improved CV which has been great for my confidence and will be useful when applying for positions. Lesson: Get a friend to look at your CV before you start applying for jobs
One of the things i’ve found is that the people who I used to work for are no longer at work! This is a problem when being asked for references as you tend to need at least one person who has worked with you in a similar role to which you are applying. I’ve taken the approach of providing four references and explaining that the reason is that my direct line manager is no longer in the role and i’ve lost contact. It remains to be seen how successful that will be. Lesson: Keep in touch with references.
I work in a creative and academic industry. Its not somewhere where people wear suits. As a parent I have hardly any smart clothes and so this poses a problem when it comes to networking events and job interviews. Just what does one wear? I sought out the advice of someone senior within my industry and she said that its best to wear a suit to an interview regardless of the role and position. Since I fairly recently gave my suit to the charity shop, I need to find a good affordable suit. Lesson: Unless you have a very unique and distinctive sense of style its really important to keep some smart clothes or a suit in your wardrobe!
Over the past few years the Internet has become the place to go to find jobs and to keep updated in your area of expertise. This is really perfect as a mother as you have the resources right there at your fingertips. One of the sites I use is called jobstoday which has loads of resources and jobs. I also use museum jobs which is very industry specific but gives a great idea of the sorts of roles out there and what you need to get them.
One of the hardest things about becoming a mother is how it can influence your personal confidence. From once being able to speak to senior managers you are reduced to a quivering wreck after fighting with the three year old to stop pulling the cats tail whilst changing a nappy. Stop, take some time and think about what you used to do, how you used to approach situations and compartmentalise your work persona and your parenting persona. Anyone who can run a household and look after small children without going well and truly mad should be proud of themselves!
Working hours are a major barrier for most parents, me included. Its not just the endless demands of school from assemblies to parent reading. Its also the need to get them to school and pick them up. School clubs and childminders can take care of some of this, but in many roles you might not be able to afford them. Consider sharing responsibilities between both parents, negotiating working hours for example could you start very early, work compressed hours or work late building up time off in lieu. Progressive employers will be open to suggestions. My friend Jessica Chivers has some useful advice on her website.
At the end of the day someone will employ you for who you are, children or not. Once you have the basics of the application process right and you are sure that you want to be back in the workforce things will work themselves out. Good luck.