Ready To Get Back On The Career Track? 10 Questions For Mums To Ask Themselves Before Looking For A Job.
So you’ve decided you want to start working again after being away from the workplace to raise a family. In my work with mums, I know that many of us tend to start by getting straight into implementation mode; writing our CV’s, updating our LinkedIn profiles, trawling through job sites, and dusting down our interview outfits. But before doing all this, it’s crucial to slow down, take stock and think about what it is you really want and need from your new job, and what you have to offer.
There’s the practical side of the process to think about too. Are you clear on all the steps a job search involves? And how are you going to carve out time for finding a job in your already overbooked life?
Below, I’ve listed 10 of the most important questions to ask yourself before beginning your search.
1. Why do I want to go back to work?
Whether you’ve been out for two years or fifteen, decide what it is that you want from your next job or career. Are you going back to work to be financially independent? To be a role model to your children? Because you want to find more meaning in your life? Your reasons for working at this stage in your life may not be the same ones that drove you in your pre-baby years, so think about this question carefully.
2. What do I want next?
Get clear on what your ‘ideal job’ looks like. Write up a wish list of what you want, what you don’t want, and why - from the skills you’d like to put to use and the colleagues you’d like to work with, to the pay, hours and length of commute. If you are not sure what type of environment suits you, this quiz will help you figure out the conditions under which you do your best work, and what kind of workplace works for you. Once you figure out exactly what you want you’ll have the motivation and confidence you need to go out and get it.
What if you are not sure what you want to do next? Start figuring the ‘best-fit’ job or career for by signing up for Ignite!, my free 7-day mini e-course especially designed for return-to-work and career change mums.
3. What value do I have to offer?
I spend a lot of time helping my clients understand and appreciate their skills and strengths, because I know that when you use these at work, you will love your job.
Remind yourself that you are still the same talented and competent professional woman you were before you became a mother. Jot down your skills and strengths, including those you have gained while away from the workforce. If you’ve taken time off to raise a family, chances are you have some pretty great organisation, management, and communication skills to add to your list!
If you are finding it a struggle to remember what you are good at, think of at least three trusted people who know you well and ask them these four questions:
When you have people’s feedback, look for patterns. What rings true? What surprises you?
4. Can I confidently communicate my value?
It’s important to craft and perfect your 60-second pitch including where you’ve been, where you are and where you’re going next, because you’re going to use it throughout your job search, over and over and over again. And this may sound surprising, but a perfect pitch is really hard to get right. You must, must, must spend time thinking about it, writing it down and, here’s the important part, practicing it. Once you’ve cracked it, the next time you’re picking up your little one from school and a friend asks you what you’re interested in doing next, you’re going to be able to smile confidently and nail the answer.
5. Are my skills up to date?
Could any of your skills do with a refresh? You might need to take some courses or gain some additional experience if you’re looking to move into a new career and want to make sure you are competitive in the job search process. Read over job descriptions on LinkedIn or monster.com to find out what skills are required for the jobs you’re interested in. Then learn these skills! You can find classes – often for free or at minimal cost – online. Start by trying FutureLearn, edX and Coursera.
Now is the time to brush up on your tech skills too. Find out what technology is used in your field of choice and again, take courses if necessary. If you are using an email provider such @yahoo or @hotmail, update it. Create a @gmail.com account to use during your search.
6. Am I up to date with recent job search trends and developments?
You may have heard that the work world is very different these days, and that job searching methods have changed quite considerably too. If you have been out of the workforce for some time, you’ll want to get up to speed on these changes. Find a friend or career coach who can help you navigate these new waters, read advice online, or even find a workshop in your area. You’ll be up to speed on the latest job search tips and techniques in no time.
7. Am I clear on all the steps a job search involves?
Searching for a job is a process, and it can sometimes be a lengthy one. Make sure you know all the steps a job search involves by popping over to the Work Happy Mums Resource Hub and downloading my Step-By-Step Guide To A Successful Job Search.
8. Am I in the right mindset for my job search?
We all live with the little voices in our heads telling us every day who we are, what we can do, and just as importantly, what we can’t. Yet while those stories we tell ourselves are often a long way from the truth, they have tremendous power to shape our lives if we choose to buy into them.
So if you’ve been telling yourself a story that you’re too too busy, too old, too unqualified or inexperienced, or not enough of something to make a change and go out there and start doing the thing you’d really love to do, why not try telling yourself another story and see what possibilities open up for you? Plenty of other mums have done it, and there’s no reason why you can’t too!
9. How am I going to manage my time and make space for my job search?
If you’ve been out of the workforce for any period of time, it is going to take some time to get back in the game. The problem is when we are in an unstructured environment (our own house), it’s hard to focus on our job search. Here’s the trick: treat finding a job like a job. Dedicate and schedule time every day to your pursuit, even if it’s just 30 minutes a day. You can’t get serious about your job search when your desk is a mess and you’ve lost track of any progress. Now is the time to clean up your desk, digital files, and your professional wardrobe. If you need help, there are lots of professional organisers out there to get you started.
It takes on average 16 weeks to find a job, so start this process well in advance of when you’d like to go back to work. Set benchmarks and goals during this period. What is it you would like to accomplish in month one, month two, etc.?
10. Who can help me?
For some reason, women are afraid to ask for help. Get over it. It is simply too difficult to return to work on your own. The good news is that asking for help becomes easier the more you do it. And you will do it a lot. Take a chance and ask a former colleague to grab a coffee with you; request that a friend makes an email introduction to a great connection, or call your old boss and get some guidance. You’ll be very surprised at how willing people are to help if you are brave enough to ask.
And if you’re struggling with finding motivation to make change, with figuring all this stuff out, and would love a professional to guide you through a process, then coaching may be for you. I’m running a Job Search Jump-Starter workshop in Berlin on 10 October. You can find all the details here. If you’re outside Berlin or would prefer one-to-one, more personalised support, take a look at my JumpStart Your Job Search package. If you book your 4 x sessions before 31 October (you can start at any time), you'll receive 20 per cent off the regular package price. Get in touch today and let's get your job search plan in place and get you hired!