What you need to know to plan for your return to the workforce after having your child. Important tips for planning ahead.
So, you have decided to return to the workforce now that you have had your child. Good for you. Now is the time to start planning some career development before you are ready to return to the workforce.
Depending on the field you are in and how long you have been out or will be out of the workforce will have a profound impact on how you will need to prepare for your return. For most people, you will probably only been gone for 6-12 weeks and are most likely just be returning to your previous position, for others, you might be planning to take a longer leave of absence and you will be returning as a “free agent’ to the workforce.
If you have planned ahead and are just going to be gone for a short time, there are several steps you can take to help develop and prepare for your return. One of the most important things you will what to remember is to stay aware of what is happening in your office while you are away or you might be caught in the dark upon your return. Make arrangements ahead of time with your boss or a co-worker to get copies of emails and memos, project reports, minutes from meetings if they are available, or any other information that can help you to have a good understanding of what has happened while you are gone or will be happening when you return. The last thing you want is to be completely ignorant about what is occurring at work. If getting this type of information is not available, meet some co-workers for lunch or talk with them over the phone to get any information that might be need for your job when you return. While I was on leave with my daughter, I still attended weekly staff meetings and conference calls, so that I still had some input on what was happening and was going to be happening within the company so I was better prepared for my return. Some companies will allow a parent on leave the opportunity to telecommute, if the situation warrants it and if the idea is feasible enough.
By doing these things, you will also show your superiors your dedication to the company and this can only help in your favor when promotions and raises become available. This will also help to prove your ability to organize your career and home life, by showing that your home life does not interfere with your job performance.
If you are planning an extended leave, you will need to have some plan of attack as to how you will continue to sharpen your career skills so that you are not left out of the job pool when the time comes to actively rejoin it. For most people on extended leaves, your former position will probably not be available when the time comes to return to the workforce. So you will be “dusting’ off the old resume and starting over. Be prepared. Some employers look at gaps when going through resumes and will wonder about them. When possible explain why there is a gap in your cover letter and tell them how you have developed and advanced your skills during this time. There are many ways you can do this.
If your schedule will allow it, volunteer your services or consider a part-time job, this will allow you to keep your hands in the field while still allowing you the time that you want with your family. Or if the time and resources are available, take a course at a local collage or on the Internet in a subject you feel will benefit you and your career in the long run. Learn something new or improve a skill you might already have but are not completely comfortable with. Computer software is great to work on during this time. You have the time available to experiment at your own pace and develop the skills and knowledge, which can be very helpful. Learn some new software. Using the Internet to comparison shop will help you find reasonably priced software packages that may have been utilized at your previous company or you feel might be beneficial for your next position. If purchasing the software is not an option for you, check with friends or former co-workers who might have access to a copy you can borrow. Some public libraries have various software titles available for loan. It is always best to learn what you can and to take advantage of the time you have available to advance your skills at your own pace before you actually need them. You will retain more information then if you are rushed into learning something new in a very short time frame.
Another thing that you can do to develop your career while on leave is to read. Subscribe to magazines that are pertinent to your field, pick up or have delivered your local newspaper so that you can stay up to date on what is happening with local businesses, or get the “Times” or “Wall Street Journal” to help stay up to date on what is happening with businesses nationwide. Take advantage of the Internet. It is one of our greatest resources to help you stay on top of developments that are occurring in your field and what companies are involved. As they always say, “Knowledge is power.” The more you know, can only help you.
Your local library is a great source of knowledge. With the wide selection of books on a variety of subjects, you can learn pretty much anything if you have the ambition. You can brush up on your interviewing skills, learn how to communicate more efficiently, get hints on improving or redeveloping your resume and cover letter to help get it noticed when the time comes, or anything else you think will benefit your development.
An additional effort you might want to make during your leave is to continue to network with former co-workers and any other people you feel might be able to help you keep up to date with what is happening around you and to maintain the contact for the future. Join an Internet chat room and network with a new group of contacts in your field to help you get a better picture of what is happening and how things may be changing. When the time comes and you decide to return to the workforce, these people will be a valuable asset in helping you look for and obtain a new position.
One last option you might what to consider is freelancing. While freelancing is not for everyone, for some, it might be just what you need to bring focus to your career development plans. Freelancing allows you to use and expand your skills on a large variety of tasks. Now freelancing is more difficult because unlike having a superior who just assigns the tasks to you, you will actually have to go out looking for them. However, if you still have a strong network of contacts from which to draw upon, freelancing can be a very lucrative alternative. You will still be able to be around for your family and can work your own schedule for the most part. However, keep in mind, you will not always have a regular paycheck and most likely no benefits at all. If your partner carries the family health benefits through their employer, freelancing can be a great option. Another point to remember is that it will probably take some time to build up your clientele list so you want to make sure that you can afford to take that risk prior to making the decision.
While this option is not available for everyone, you will need to decide, based on your skills and knowledge, whether this is an option for you. Some fields have no use for freelancers, while other fields are ripe for freelancers. Use the Internet to help you discover is this would be the right choice for you at this time in your career and life. If the market is right for your skills and if there is a great enough need for your services and skills, freelancing might be a good choice for you.
When I began as a freelancer, I had a very small clientele list. At the beginning of my career as a freelancer, I made next to no money for my first 6 months, but with perseverance and hard work, my clientele list built up and the opportunities became available on a more regular basis. If you have the dedication and the drive to succeed, this might be the right path for you.
Now, that you have the information to help you choose the path in which you want to travel on your way to developing your career during and after having your child; it is now up to you on how you will proceed in your efforts. While children are one of the greatest joys in life, you must always remember that your career is an important part of who you are as well. Make your plans, as much in advance as possible so that you will be prepared for the multitude of different avenues that you can follow to get where you want to be. Where you what to go is the easy part, deciding how you are going to get there is where the problems are.