If you’re a mum wanting to get back into the workforce after taking time out to care for your kids, it can be hard to know where to start. But if you’re methodical and determined and have a game plan, there’s nothing to stop you. Here are some tips to get you on your way.
The first thing you need to do is scour the job sites and identify which jobs you’d like to apply for. Review the position descriptions thoroughly to see if you have the required skills. If you find that you have skill gaps or your knowledge is outdated, you may need to consider doing some online courses to get yourself back up to speed. There is a range of short courses you can do and many computer/software courses available through TAFEs and online providers.
The Australian government has an initiative currently in place called the Mothers Returning to Work Grant. This provides financial assistance for training courses and programs that will enable you to hone your skills and get back into the workforce.
Another useful resource is Women at Work International, which runs the Re-entry to Work Association. They produce a ‘Return to Work Workbook’, which they will mail out to anyone no matter where you are in Australia.
If you are registered with Centrelink, make sure you let them know you want to return to work as they can link you in with a Job Service Provider that runs courses on re-entering the workforce.
According to a recent survey conducted by The Heat Group, 69.1 per cent of Aussie mums believe the skills they've developed as mothers make them more employable and better at their jobs – skills such as multi-tasking, people management, collaboration and delegation.
Gillian Franklin, Managing Director of The Heat Group, says, 'Mums are the ultimate multi-taskers ... This high degree of multi-tasking has made them capable of churning through work tasks more efficiently'.
Having to corral often uncooperative children and manage the household also makes them effective people managers, decision-makers and organisers.
'Mums often have to run their households with military-like precision. Having dinner on the table at specific times, running to schedule with sports pick-ups and ensuring the laundry is done so that the family has clean clothes. Women have to pre-empt situations and plan their family lives, even to the minutest detail ... This augurs extremely well for women in the workplace, particularly when strategy and planning is an integral part of their workday', says Franklin.
There are a number of things you can do while you’re out of the workforce, in anticipation of eventually returning to work. Maintaining your professional memberships is one such thing and is a great way to show future employers that you have remained ‘in touch’.
It’s easy to stay abreast of industry best practice via webinars that you can participate in from home. Even better are those that are recorded, that you can watch in your own time when the children are asleep. Keep a record of all relevant professional development activities you undertake during your time out of the paid workforce so you can include them on your resume.
Read relevant industry publications, which you can often find online or at the local library. Also set up and maintain your LinkedIn profile so you can follow relevant industry groups, connect with past colleagues and potential employers, and generally stay up-to-date with your industry.
Volunteering is a great way to refresh your skills and develop new ones, and can serve as a useful stepping stone. Most importantly, volunteering helps you to gain confidence – something that might be lacking after time out from the workforce.
Think about all the volunteer activities you have already done, for example being involved with parents’ associations, organising school/kinder events, charity involvement, play groups, sports coaching, and so on.
What role did you have and what skills did you demonstrate? For example, if you were the Treasurer of a committee, you could talk about your responsibilities such as funds management, budget forecasting and financial planning.
When seeking new volunteer roles, choose something that will assist you to further develop your skills and provide you with a tangible benefit. See my column on how to seek volunteer work.