Return to work planning for your financial wellbeing

Our guest blogger, Ian Simons from the Chartered Insurance Institute, highlights some financial aspects to consider when returning to work.
Planning your return to work is a great opportunity to take stock of your current financial situation and plan for your future. The tips below, taken from the Insuring Women’s FuturesFinancial Wellbeing Guide, show how you can actively engage in your own financial life journey and also raise awareness of the financial Perils and Pitfalls facing women.

Engaging in your own financial life journey

As you return or search for work you should consider the below:
1. When researching potential employers take time to compare financial packages, pensions and perks

2. Research the gender pay gap – reporting legislation requires employers with 250 or more employees to publish statutory calculations annually

3. Understand employers’ opportunities for flexible workers – openly disclosing policies is a good sign

4. Find out from potential employers what are the career prospects for returners and those with family commitments and are there carer policies?

5. When you start a new job, check out your employer’s pension arrangements, free employer contributions and tax deductions, and fully consider joining the pension scheme. If there are options on how much to contribute, you might be surprised how much bigger your pension pot could be if you paid in at a higher rate, together with the added ‘free employer and tax relief money’

6. If you want to work part-time, in multiple jobs or temporarily, think carefully about how you can maximise your workplace pensions (including any existing policies you may have) and any eligibility criteria
that might preclude you. Reflect on whether you might be inadvertently missing out on valuable contributions

We encourage you to read the full Financial Wellbeing Guide, in particular the re-entering the workforce section, to review your personal situation in more detail.

Arming yourself with knowledge

Once you have assessed your specific situation there are many places you can go for more information including:

  • Insuring Women’s Futures website: The resource page contains research, videos and links to useful websites and tools
  • ACAS website: You can find out more here on equal pay and gender pay gap reporting
  • Your employer: Once you are back at work, many workplaces run sessions for returners or have helplines
  • Your existing pension provider: Find out the position of your existing pension schemes and understand your options for reinvestment and transferral
  • An independent financial adviser: If you need further financial advice, you can search for a qualified, local financial adviser on Findanadviser

Empowering others

This November, Insuring Women’s Futures are running a campaign called Talk 2 10K. They are challenging as many people as possible to talk to at least 10 other people about women’s financial wellbeing. To get involved all you need to do is:

  • Read the toolkit and watch the webinar
  • Organise your conversations (these can be anything from a chat with a friend to a formal session with colleagues)
  • Spend a few minutes on 21 November sharing an anecdote, photo or video from your conversations on social media – make sure to use the following in your posts – #MakeEachMomentCount #InsuringFutures #WomensFinancialWellbeing and @CII


Ian Simons is Marketing Director at the Chartered Insurance Institute. 

Sign up to our free Women Returners network for more advice, support and job opportunities. You’ll find much more help and advice on our website.

Why ‘back to school’ is a good time to focus on your return to work

The nights are already drawing in and soon there’ll be an autumnal chill in the air. Many people have that ‘back to school’ feeling at this time of year – whether they have children or not – as the move into September can feel like a new beginning – more like New Year than New Year itself.

And it’s a great time to focus on a return-to-work as businesses return to full strength after the lull of July and August and start hiring again. You may also have taken time over the summer to relax and now feel refreshed, revitalised and raring to go. This can get your return-to-work off to a flying start!

Here are our top tips to capitalise on that ‘back to school’ feeling:

1. Getting started

Two of the most important things to nail when you start thinking about returning to work are clarity and focus. It’s therefore important to begin by taking the time to develop your return to work career direction as this will save you wasting time and energy on unhelpful job-hunting strategies.

If you’re struggling to decide what kind of role to look for it’s worth bearing in mind that studies consistently show that one of the key things that make us happy at work is using our strengths. Read our blogs for advice on how to identify your strengths and your unique strengths combination.

Once you have carefully considered your reasons for returning to work and what you want to do, you may find that you have too few choices or too many choices and therefore need to work on these. Taking the time to focus on your options at this stage will maximise your chances of success.

2. Making progress

Once you are clear on your career direction and the kind of roles you want to look for you’ll need to put together a great post-break CVoptimise your LinkedIn profile and brush up on your interview technique.

If you find yourself thinking things like ‘I’m too old to move into a new area’ or ‘I’m hopeless at networking’, these can be signs that you may have a fixed mindset, and this could impede your progress. Read our blog on how developing a growth mindset can improve your chances of finding a satisfying and fulfilling role.

Perhaps your professional confidence has taken a knock if you’ve had an extended career break – hardly surprising considering how much of our identity is tied up with our work. We have some top tips for boosting confidence and advice on how to look more confident than you really are.

Read our tips on how to be a successful returner candidate and also advice from people who have successfully returned to work. The advice from employers for returners on recognising your value can be especially helpful.

3. Keeping going

Looking for a new role after an extended career break can sometimes feel overwhelming and the inevitable setbacks may mean sustained motivation – so necessary for success – can wane. Read our advice on how to stay motivated in your return to work job search.

If you find yourself becoming demotivated – our stories from women who have successfully navigated a return to work will help give you encouragement and reassurance.

You’ll find lots more help in the advice hub on our website. And don’t forget to sign up to our Women Returners Professional Network for information on returnships, returner roles and return-to-work events and webinars.

How to write your New Year return-to-work action plan

Is Returning to Work one of your New Year Resolutions? 

How do you make sure you don’t let this fall by the wayside like New Year resolutions tend to do? Shift your thinking to make Returning to Work a goal, with a clear, specific and motivating personal action plan. Here are some of our suggestions on actions to include.
Action Steps to Get Back to Work

1. Clarify what you want from work 

Start by considering what your motivations are for returning to work. Do you need, or want, to earn your own money? Are you looking for the status a professional job brings? Do you want to be a role model for your children? Returning to work after a career break is a great opportunity to think about what you really want to do, so consider what kind of working life and job you would find most fulfilling and enjoyable. Think about what you most enjoyed about past roles and whether or not you need flexibility. You may prefer a corporate employed role, to work as a freelancer or to set up your own business.
Identifying your strengths can help you decide which career direction to take. And read our tips if you feel you have too many return-to-work options or too few. Don’t over-analyse at this stage – the ‘what shall I do with my life?’ career questions can rarely be solved just by brain-power. Move to action using a Test and Learn approach.

2. Fill the gaps in your work experience/skillset

Once you’re clearer on the broad direction you want to take, it’s time to identify any gaps in your experience and any new skills you will need. Get up to date with your old industry, or learn about a new one, by taking professional courses through industry associations, attending conferences, seminars or webinars, signing up to relevant newsletters and meeting up with ex-colleagues. Find courses locally through Floodlight and look at the free online MOOCs (Massive Online Courses). If you’re worried about your IT skills being out of date, take a course before you get back to work. Strategic volunteering can build your skills and experience and may even provide a route back to work.

3. Craft your return-to-work story

Talking about your career break and how it fits into your professional story can be tricky. Use our ‘Career Break Sandwich’ method so that you don’t fall into the trap of focusing solely on your career break (and neglecting your professional background) in response to the classic questions “what do you do?” or “tell me about your background?”.

4. Rebuild your work confidence

A loss of professional confidence can be a key factor in preventing you from making a successful return to work. Don’t let this hamper you – read our blogs on Re-establishing Your Confidence and addressing the Confidence Gap.

5. Re-write your CV and develop your LinkedIn profile

If you’ve been out of the workplace for any length of time it’s likely to be many years since you last wrote your CV. We have lots of CV information in the Advice Hub section of our website including How to Write Your Post-Break CV and the use of Action Words. A strong LinkedIn profile is also important – read our blog on how to make the most of your profile.

6. Select potential routes back to work

There are many routes back to work such as returnshipsnetworking and creative crafting of a role. Consider which ones would work best for you.
7. Prepare for interviews
Facing your first interview for many years can be daunting, and we have lots of advice on our website to help you prepare. Six Essential Steps for Successful Interviewing is a good place to start. We have advice on how to prepare for competency-based interviews, informational interviews and telephone interviews. You can also read how to respond if an interviewer tells you you’re overqualified for the role and what to wear to interviews.

8. Maintain your motivation

Our motivation to achieve our goals inevitably fades after a while. Learn from psychology research about how to stay motivated longer-term.

Sign up to our free network for more advice, support and job opportunities.


Summer return to work action plan

With the holidays started or just around the corner, you could be forgiven for focussing solely on the long, (hopefully) hot summer to come. It may be tempting to push thoughts about returning to work to the back of your mind. However businesses tend to start hiring again (and launching returner programmes) in early September. There are a variety of simple ways in which you can lay strong foundations now – while taking a much-needed break – so you’ll be in a good position for an autumn return to work.

Here are some ideas to help you make the most of the summer months:

Build up your Network Map

It doesn’t matter if you’re not yet ready to start networking, building your network map takes time and the sooner you can start the better. This is an ideal task to tackle during the holidays as it can be done in small chunks whenever you have some spare time.

Begin by creating three lists. In the first, put everyone you can think of from your past: people you knew at school and university, friends you may not have seen for a long time, former employers, colleagues and employees. In the second, list everyone you know now: neighbours, friends, school-gates and local community acquaintances, other parents, people you’ve met through your hobbies or volunteering. In the third, try to think of future networks and groups it would be useful to join: professional associations etc. See this post for more details.

Even if you start by thinking that you don’t have a network, you’ll be surprised how your map grows. You’ll be surprised how quickly your map will grow and how many people you can potentially network with when the time comes.

Get Targeted

Whether you have too many choices or too few, a useful way to think about what to do next is to think back to a work role, or part of a role, that you found fulfilling and reflect on what made it so (see this post for a process to uncover more about what gives you fulfillment). Digging out old appraisal forms (if you can find them) can help with this.

Job factors that you found fulfilling are related to your strengths and values and they will continue to be of great significance to you in the future. Working out what’s important to you will give vital clues as to what to do next. You may want to return to your old field of work; you may decide to take elements from your past roles and identify a new one or you may find you have an idea for a new business or a desire to retrain in a new area.

I was prescribed Ambien 5 mg to help me sleep. No other medication or remedy worked. Since I’ve taken this, I have got the best sleep of my life. About 10 mins after taking the pill, I already start feeling loopy and tired. The only downside is that I wake up with a drug hangover and feel a little off for a few hours, but that’s far better than being grouchy and sleep deprived.

If you’re able to identify new skills you’d like to acquire or skills you want to refresh, summer is also a good time to research courses which often start in September.

Practise your Introduction

Meeting new people while on holiday or day trips provides a low risk way to practice telling your story. You can test out and refine your answer to the often-dreaded question – ‘What do you do?’ Try using our Career Break Sandwich model, starting with your past work experience, then talking about your career break and finishing with what you want to do in the future. Hopefully by the end of the summer you will feel much more confident about talking about your skills, experience and aims for the future.

Prepare your Family

If you’re a parent, your return to work will be a lot smoother if you have the support and co-operation of your partner and children. The long summer holiday will give you plenty of time to consider what changes will need to be made and how best to prepare your family. For younger children, think about a
new school dropoff/pickup routine or new after school clubs. Older children may need to take on more responsibility such as organising their sports kit or preparing their own packed lunches. The holidays are a great time to teach your children new skills that will help them adjust to your return to work. And don’t forget to think about ways you can make the transition easier on yourself, eg, internet grocery shopping or hiring a cleaner. Read our posts on combating guilt feelings if these get in the way of making the changes that will help you.

These are just a few ideas – the main thing is to keep taking small actions to move you forwards. We hope you have a great summer!

The 5 step summer return to work plan

With the school holidays in full swing and the general feeling that the whole world is slowing down, you may be tempted to postpone your plans to return to work until the autumn. However, away from the hectic pace and demands of the year, this is an ideal time to think about what you really want from a career and to start shaping an action plan for the months ahead. By taking a few simple steps now, you will feel more focused, confident and motivated about gearing up in September:
 
1. Identify your ideal role
 
A good starting point is to think about a work role in the past that you enjoyed and then focus on the elements that made it fulfilling. This exercise will help you to highlight your key skills and values and give you the direction you need to scope your job search. You may find that you look for a role in your previous field, or explore the option of starting your own business, or consider a role that combines aspects of your old job, but in a different sector, or you may even think about retraining.  Either way, the process will clarify your thinking and give you the confidence and motivation to pursue that new role. 
 
                                                                                                                            
2. Planning for courses, workshops or events
 
Whatever your career stage or length of your career break, everyone can benefit from sharpening their work skills. This is a good time to investigate which courses could best fill your needs. By doing a little research now, you will not only be on your way to plugging a skill gap, but you will also feel more in control.                                                                                                                                                                                                  
Feeling a little overwhelmed at the prospect of researching a return-to-work strategy? Put our Women Returners Annual Conference in your diary for November. It’s an intensive one-stop-shop for finding out about returner opportunities, meeting returner-friendly employers, attending workshops and being inspired by the success stories of other returners.  
 
3. Create a Network Map
 
You may be well aware of the benefits of networking – but uncertain where to start. Begin by listing people that you have met through the different phases in your life into three categories: Those from your past academic and work life, people from your current social circles such as volunteer groups, neighbours, parents or fellow sport enthusiasts – and also people who you are yet to meet – through groups and networks. You will be surprised how quickly the list grows and how receptive people are to meeting up after a summer break.
 
                    Top tips for enjoyable networking
4. Craft your story
 
Away from the everyday, holidays are often a time when we meet new people in relaxing surroundings. Use the opportunity to practise answering the often daunting but frequently asked question: “What do you do?” Include your previous work, what you are currently doing and what you would like to do in the future.
 
See our post: Telling your story
5. Prepare your family
 
Looking for a new position requires time and focus, let alone the actual return to work. Use the summer break to plan how you can free up your time – perhaps by introducing new childcare arrangements, booking after school clubs or reassigning responsibilities among family members.
 
 
Posted by Anna Searle, Sales and Marketing Manager, Women Returners

Updating your wardrobe for your return to work

As well as updating your professional knowledge and networks to prepare for your return to work, think about spending a bit of time organising and updating your work wardrobe. Feeling good in what you’re wearing can help to boost your confidence and to shift your identity back to your professional self. If you’ve had a very long career break, workwear/styles may well have moved on and we sometimes change shape too!
Organising your Work Wardrobe
  1. Consider the culture of the organisation/industry you will be, or hope to be, working in. How formal/informal is it? What type of clothes would be most appropriate? Dress codes may have changed since you left – many sectors are less formal now – so do some research to update your knowledge.
  2. Think about how you want to be perceived and choose a few key words to sum this up, eg professional, competent, approachable.
  3. Take all your potential work clothes and shoes out of your wardrobe. If you have a rail you can use/borrow, even better.
  4. Select all the clothes that meet the first 2 criteria.
  5. Try them on to check they still fit you well and that you feel good in them. If not, sort them into piles for giving away, altering or storing.
  6. Group the remaining clothes into potential outfits. Make a note of any gaps, eg shoes, tops, and what colour would be a good match. Turn this into your shopping list and prioritise what’s most important.
  7. If you have space to store some of your clothes, such as under the bed or in a spare wardrobe, put away anything that’s not suitable for the current season. The fewer items you have to choose from, the quicker the process!
  8. I’m not a fan of selfies, but this is the exception: take photos of whole outfits (preferably with you in them) so that you can either print out a sheet of outfits or flick through your phone the night before work or an interview for inspiration and time-saving.
  9. Draw up a table (if this appeals – it may not!) and list outfit ideas on each row, eg:

Updating your Work Wardrobe

Once you have your shopping list, bear in mind the following points:
Colour: try to avoid falling into the ‘black trap’.  Black really only suits people who have ‘deep, cool and bright’ colouring, otherwise, it can be very draining, especially close to the face. Grey, for example, is a good alternative, there are many shades to suit different people and, when it comes to more expensive items like coats or bags, it will go well with many other colours.
Materials: I have a personal preference for natural fibres and avoid anything made from fabrics like polyester. Although these fabrics are often cheaper and wash easily, they can cling and feel unpleasant when it’s warm. Also, if you’re heading towards, or already in, hot flush territory, synthetic fabrics are not your friend! You might also want to avoid structured dresses with sleeves which you will feel trapped in during a hot flush unlike a jacket/top where you can quickly remove a layer if you need to. For those of you who are fortunate enough not to have reached, or been affected by, this stage, enjoy the freedom of choice!
Brands:

  • Any good department store will cater well for different shapes, styles and budgets.
  • For more formal/reasonable quality workwear, look at these high street brands: Cos, Hobbs, Jigsaw, Massimo Dutti, Zara, Reiss, Gerard Darel, Jaeger, M&S, Boss. A few good smaller brands, mostly online, are The Fold, Pinstripe and Pearls, Libby London and Rose & Willard.
  • For less formal/more contemporary workwear, consider Whistles, Top Shop, Finery, Baujken, Me+Em, Uterque, Joseph. For shoes, try websites such as Zalando or Sarenza.
  • If you’re on a tight budget, keep an eye on the sales (you can set Sale Alerts for items if you use websites such as Shop Style), look at shops such as H&M and Uniqlo and browse the charity shops in upmarket areas. If you are from a low income household, you may be able to get a referral to the charity SmartWorks which provides free interview clothing.
Prioritising: Good quality workwear is usually quite pricey but I encourage you, if possible, to buy fewer, better quality items to get a good ‘cost per wear’ ratio. Buy the key items (dresses, skirts, trousers, jackets, suits) in fairly neutral tones (eg black, grey, blue, taupe, burgundy), so you can easily change the look with more affordable tops, accessories and different colours. For inspiration on reducing the amount of clothes we tend to own, have a look at this TEDx Talk by Jennifer L Scott.
Help! If the thought of refreshing your wardrobe for work feels daunting ask for help from a friend whose advice you trust and style you admire, or take advantage of the ‘Image and Impact’ coaching session we offer at Women Returners.
For more ideas about what to wear for work, have a look at this earlier blog post: What to wear to interviews.
Posted by Natalie Hunter, one of the Women Returners Coaching Team and a trained Colour/Style Consultant. She offers these services separately, or together, for clients. Please contact coach@womenreturners.com if you’d like to find out more.

Return to work after a career break: An 8 step guide

We know it can be daunting to re-enter the
job market after taking a career break. So here’s a step-by-step return to work roadmap to get you back on the right track, summarising our top tips with lots of links to previous blog posts.
1. Be Clear About Your Career Goals
Start with clarifying your motivations to go back to work. Do you want to be a good role model for your children; do you want the status of a high-powered job; do you want or need to earn your own money? What does success mean to you? Returning to work after a career break is a great opportunity to consider what you really want to do, so think about what makes work enjoyable and fulfilling for you. What did you most enjoy about past jobs? How can you set your career compass? Then, if you are looking for flexibility to fit with your family life, think of all the different forms this could take rather than thinking part-time work is the only option: be flexible about flexibility.
2. Boost Your Confidence
Professional self-confidence usually gets a knock during a long career break. It helps to remind yourself of your strengths and achievements, before and during your break. Recognise and tackle your fears and doubts about returning to work. Remember that confidence comes from doing not thinking, so look for practical opportunities to regain your professional self, such as project work, or strategic volunteering if you’ve had a long break. You can find more tips on tacking self-doubt here and here. Don’t write yourself off!
3. Refresh Your Skills and Knowledge
Get yourself back up-to-speed on your old industry (or learn about a new one) by completing professional courses through industry associations, attending conferences/seminars, signing up to relevant newsletters and meeting ex-colleagues to ‘talk shop’. Stop worrying about your IT skills – take a course before you get back to work. Find courses locally through Floodlight and look at the free online MOOCs (Massive Online Courses), such as Coursera, which offer degree-level courses from top universities in a wide variety of
subjects.
4. Be Strategic in your Job Search
Treat your job search as you would
a job, making time each day and working methodically. Don’t fall into the trap of endlessly trawling online jobs
boards looking for the right job and firing off scattergun CVs. If you’re looking for flexible work, target specialist agencies and job boards. Do look at the growing number of opportunities aimed at returning professionals (collated on our website) and think creatively about how you can reduce your risk to an employer. Prioritise building and using your networks, as this remains the most likely avenue for finding a role …
5. Grow and Use Your Network
Networking isn’t about approaching people and asking for a job. Networking is about making contact with people and is a part of life – you do it at the school gates and in your local communities all the time. Take time to prepare a convincing and credible professional introduction first (see here for how to do so) and then read our tips for enjoyable networking. Meeting an ex-colleague for coffee or asking a friend of a friend for a quick chat is a good start. For other ways to build you back-to-work networks see here. If you haven’t heard of informational interviews, find out how valuable they can be in this post.
6. Hone Your CV
It’s likely that your CV needs updating, in terms of format and content. The point of a
CV is to show others what you are capable of. So highlight the headlines of your life, focusing on what you achieved in your roles not on your responsibilities. For
a more detailed guide to post career break CV’s see here.
7. Optimise Your LinkedIn 
You may have avoided LinkedIn or it may be gathering dust at the
back of your bookmarks. Now’s the time
to give it the focus it deserves.
  • Include a professional-style profile picture.
  • Use the first paragraph of the summary section wisely. This is the place to include a strong summary of who you are, what you have done and what you want to do now.
  • Don’t hide or ignore your career break. In your profile you can say ‘following a parental career break, I am looking to ..’. In your work experience put ‘parental career break’ with dates. Include any skilled volunteer work, small business and consulting work within this career break section or as a separate role if they’re significant.
  • To learn more about creating a great Linked In profile see here.
8. Prepare for Interviews
Read books and articles, research the organisation and most importantly, practise, practise, practise. Prepare answers to the typical
questions and rehearse them with anyone willing to listen.  Don’t undersell yourself, this is not the
time to be modest; take credit for your achievements and let your prospective
employer see the best of you. To find out the six essential steps for
successful interviewing read here.
If this article has given you the inspiration you need
to get yourself back out there, you can find a fuller list of our most popular return-to-work advice articles here.
Posted by Donna & Julianne

Summer return to work planning

With the school year finishing, and everyone disappearing off on holiday, you’ll probably be thinking more about the long summer ahead than how you can get yourself back to work. However, our advice is not to wait until September to get started. There are a variety of simple ways in which you you can lay strong foundations now – while taking a much-needed break – so you’ll be able to use your time more productively when the holidays end*:
 
Create a network map

Even if you aren’t ready to start networking, it is never too early to start creating your network map. Divide your map into three distinct categories on which you list everyone you can think of from different phases of your life: people from your past (your school and university classmates as well as former employers, colleagues and employees); your present (fellow parents and people you meet through voluntary work, hobbies or neighbourhood); and future (networks and groups you have yet to join). This is the kind of activity you can do all summer long, adding names as you think of them. Even if you start by thinking that you don’t have a network, you’ll be surprised how your map grows.


Get clearer about what will fulfill you and what you might do next
Whether you have too many choices or too few, a useful way to think about what to do next is to think back to a work role, or part of a role, that you found fulfilling and reflect on what made it so (see this post for a process to uncover more about what gives you fulfillment). As these factors are related to your strengths and values, they will continue to be of great importance to you in the future. By working out what’s important to you, you’ll gain motivation to search for your next role. And you can identify clues about what you want to do next: you might want to get right back to your old field, there might be elements of a previous role that you can craft into a new one or you may get an idea for a business or it might highlight a desire to retrain in a new area.


Practise your story 
If you are going away somewhere and meeting new people that you are unlikely to see again, this provides a low risk way to practice telling your story. You can test out and refine an answer to the dreaded question of ‘what do you do?’, including your past work experience and what you want to do in the future as well as what you’re doing right now.

Prepare your family

If you’re a parent, the summer is a great time to make changes to the family routines and responsibilities away from the hectic schedule of the school year. If you’re hoping to go back to work, you’ll need to prepare your family for the changes that will be required of them.  For younger children, this might be a new kind of after school care or route to school. For older children, you might want them to start taking responsibility for organising their sports kit, making their own packed lunches or doing laundry. You’ll know best what adjustments you will need your family to make, to support your return to work, and the more preparation they have the easier it will be.  Read our posts on combating guilt feelings if these get in the way of making the changes that will help you.
Have a great summer. We’re taking a summer blogging break and will be back in a month’s time.
* Ideas adapted from an earlier post by Katerina

Summer preparations for your return to work

In recent weeks I’ve had many conversations with mothers who’ve told me that they will be starting their back to work job search activity after the summer break, once their children are settled back to school. Having been in this position myself, I’m very aware how September rushes past in a whirl and so before you’ve made a start on your search, you’re caught up with plans for the October half-term. Somehow, your return to work search hasn’t progressed!

My advice is not to wait until September to get started. There are a variety of ways in which you can begin to prepare for your search while still taking care of your family – and having a break! This way you’ll already have made a start when September comes around and will be able to use your time more productively.

What you can do during the summer

  • Make a to-do list for your own actions: In parallel with the lists you may be making to remind you to buy new shoes and PE kit, organise music lessons, book the dentist and research your 2016 holiday, create your own back to work list. This could include: buy a work/interview outfit, subscribe to industry journals, create/update LinkedIn profile, shortlist childcare options.
  • Work out what you will stop doing: You will need to dedicate time to your return to work search and so you will have to eliminate some of the things that currently fill your time. This could be the volunteer roles that you’ve taken on to keep yourself busy and engaged, your role as family chauffeur or tidying your kids’ rooms. Starting to let go of some of these roles and tasks during or after the holidays will be great preparation for when you do return to work.
  • Identify specific time that you will dedicate to your return to work activity: You will need to commit to yourself that you will use this time for you, rather than for all the other multiple demands that mothers experience, otherwise you won’t make progress with your to-do list. You could start with an hour a week, to get used to this new habit of taking time for yourself, and build it up gradually. It will naturally be easier if you can stop doing some of the things you’ve identified above.
  • Stay connected: Although recruitment activity slows during the summer months, we have been struck by how many employers are contacting us to discuss their hiring needs, wanting to advertise supported hire roles now or to launch programmes or run events in September. Some applications will open during the summer holidays so make sure you check your emails so you don’t miss out on any interesting opportunities.
We’re also taking a break and will be back in a few weeks. Enjoy your summer!
Posted by Katerina

Advance preparation for your return to work

At the moment our household is in mid-exam crisis mode. With two teenagers sitting important exams, I’m supporting from the sidelines. Alongside making many cups of tea & stocking the constantly-emptying fridge, I’ve been doing what I can to help them to prepare. They’re completely focused on revision, so I’m stepping in for the practical side – finding the missing compass before the maths exam, stocking up with black biros & filling the water bottles. I’ve also been encouraging them to prepare mentally – positively channeling their adrenaline and discussing what to do if they have a crisis of confidence just before an exam or start panicking when they can’t answer the first question.
Advance preparation is similarly vital when you make the decision to get back to work: you need to start to prepare on three fronts – professional/technical, mental and practical.
Top tips: 1. Don’t wait for a job application or offer before you start to prepare; 2. You may not have your mum to help you out, but do prioritise finding your own sources of emotional and practical support.
Professional/technical preparation
Bring your knowledge back up-to-date. Re-subscribe to professional journals, read related press, take update/refresher courses if you need to. Go to seminars & conferences. Meet up with ex-colleagues and talk shop again. Remind yourself of the old jargon and learn the new.
Mental preparation
For returning mothers, this is the moment to address any looming guilt feelings about leaving your children – as we’ve said many times on this blog, there is no need to feel guilty for working (see here for advice).
Remind yourself of your motivations for returning and the positive rewards for you and the family: studies have shown that if we focus on the positive aspects of combining work and family life, we’re much more likely to feel good about our work-life balance, and to overcome any challenges, than if we focus on potential work-life conflict.
Increase your energy and enthusiasm for your return by spending time with the people who are encouraging you to make this change, rather than those who are questioning or critical of your decision. Also take steps to build your confidence; don’t discount yourself and what you can offer (see here for confidence tips).
Practical preparation
Make time for your return by giving up other activities, such as volunteering work that isn’t using your professional skills. Get practiced at saying ‘no’ to free up your day. Start to delegate more to your children and encourage their independence. If you’re the default taxi driver, still ferrying your older children around, let them get used to public transport. Same with your partner, if you have one – start to hand over and share out more of the home responsibilities.
Build your practical support networks. If you need to sort childcare, it’s worth planning this as far in advance as possible. Don’t wait until you have the job offer! And start to contingency plan too – work out what will be your back-up for your back-up childcare before the inevitable problems arise – line up other mothers & local grannies/students. If you don’t have a cleaner, get recommendations now so you can avoid spending all your free time doing housework when you’re back at work.
Think carefully about how work can fit with your life. Map out a balanced work week for you. When do you want/need to be at home & what for? And critically, work out what you are not going to do any more at home. What can you let go of or delegate? Don’t be the mother sewing a fancy-dress costume at 2am when a cheap bought or borrowed one will do just as well. You’ll need to be flexible about how this might pan out once you get into job discussions, but being clearer on your non-negotiables will help you to target the right opportunities.
If you’re also a mother who tells your children the benefits of not leaving everything until the last minute, this is the moment to practice what you preach!
Related Posts
Once your have the job offer, you’ll have built a great foundation for the next stage of preparation: Preparing for your first months back at work

Posted by Julianne