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Going back into work after having a baby

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Women going back into work after maternity leave are often stuck with menial jobs that don’t reflect their education, experience or skills – but if you plan ahead these can be avoided quite easily.

How to get back into work

Tips include finding ways to work from home before you leave your last job, making sure you’re fully au fait with MS office including the less obvious applications like Access, using sites like Gumtree & People per Hour, getting 100Mb broadband, and getting familiar with the power of social networks.

I wish I’d known this information when I went back to work after having my first child. I was a successful executive in my last job, and upon my return to work, I expected to waltz straight back into the position to which I had become accustomed. Big wake-up call. I sent my child off to school, went into the Job Centre, CV in hand…and got rejected for every job I applied for.

Because I had a four-year gap in my employment history, I could barely get an interview, let alone go back to my plush office and fancy car with leather interior.

As the rejections piled up, I had to accept it – I was punching way above my weight, and I’d have to take something which I considered to be way beneath me. Not that there’s anything wrong with a clerical role – it’s just I knew I was capable of so much more. Second time round, I was prepared, and although I was determined to look after my child until school-age again, I made sure I took the correct precautions so I wouldn’t lose my footing on the career ladder:

Keep up-to-date with software developments

There is only one thing that moves faster than fashion and celebrity gossip, and that’s the development of software packages, and it pays to keep on top of developments in your particular field of expertise. Subscribe to industry newsletters, take a refresher course, train online. If you can demonstrate to your future employer that you are bang up-to-date with the latest IT, your CV is less likely to go to the bottom of the pile.

Keep a toe in the water

There is a website called People Per Hour, where you can hire talent by the hour. This is the ideal way to gently ease yourself back into the workplace, no matter what field you work in. Categories include business support, admin, marketing and PR, translation, tutorial, design, and writing. Post your services and availability on here, and even if you only take on a handful of jobs while you’re waiting to go back to work full-time, it will keep you fresh, and certainly demonstrate enthusiasm and commitment on your CV. Plus, a little bit of freelance work can often turn into something much more substantial, especially with a few favourable recommendations and testimonials.

Get back into work after having a baby

Consider retraining

Did you feel fulfilled in your last career? Did you enjoy the work, and did your pay reflect your abilities? How about changing direction completely? After all, you are never too old to retrain. Retraining doesn’t mean having to do a long course either, it could be a weekend refresher, or a few days each month. You could retrain while you’re looking after your child: Grab a few hours of study here and there instead of watching Eastenders and the doors of possibility spring open. Identify what you are passionate about, identify your skills, and choose an appropriate new career path.

Volunteer

Up until recently, when I thought of volunteering, I thought of helping out in the local charity shop. However, with a little research, you could soon find a voluntary role in your chosen profession, even if it is only a few hours each week helping out with admin or training. Once again, this is perfect CV fodder, and could open doors via the automatic networking that takes place in such a situation.

Social networking

Social networks aren’t just for checking out photos of the ex, playing jewellery-related puzzles, or for updating the world on your X-Factor opinions. Get active on professional social networks like LinkedIn, finding out who the movers and shakers are in your field of interest, and making yourself known to them. Even if they can’t help you directly, when you choose to go back to work, they may know someone else who is recruiting. And while we’re on the subject, don’t forget that potential employers often check out a Facebook page, so it’s best to remove that picture of you doing the bottle trick. And if you favour LOL-heavy status updates, with vapid content and slapdash spelling and punctuation, you may want to start brushing up on the quality of your posts.

Run your own business

Setting up your own business doesn’t have to be costly at all, especially with the amount of money-making opportunities that exist online nowadays. Firstly, make sure your internet is tooled up to the max – if you have 100 Mb in your area, it could be a worthwhile investment. Waiting for pages to download is not only tedious, but it also slows down work rate. There are thousands of ways to make vast amounts of money online – a quick Google search reveals affiliate schemes, surveys, and freelance job opportunities, and yes, many of them are kosher.

As you can see, going back to work and taking a job that you consider ‘below you’ doesn’t have to happen, although it does take time and determination. All the best with your endeavours – if I can do it, then so can you.

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About Alison McKay

About Alison McKay

Alison McKay is a charity PR professional with over 15 years' experience in full-time, part-time and jobshare roles. Since being made redundant while on maternity leave, she has divided her time between working for a local museum, freelance and volunteer writing, and being chief wrangler to a two-year-old mud-magnet and an almost-seven-year-old wannabe dog-care worker with a penchant for hair accessories. Alison's hobbies include yoga, reading cookery books and putting away just enough clean laundry to keep the pile below 3ft tall.

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