Back to work
Getting back into the work force can seem a daunting prospect after a career break to raise children. Maybe you want a change of direction? You might want to work closer to home or for shorter hours. You will have to work out what the best child care arrangements are for your family and what you will do in an unexpected crisis.
The first priority is to decide when you want to work and what you need to earn. Be realistic, be prepared and be as flexible as you can. Once you have a clear idea about what will work for you and your family, follow our step-by-step guide on the essential preparation.
1. Be realistic
Decide when and where you would be available to work and what you need to earn. Do you want part-time or flexible employment, can you work irregular hours, do you want to commute? Think about childcare, including one or two back-up options in case of illness.
2. Decide what you are good at
Think carefully about your experience and what you would like to do. Take advice, possibly from professional career specialist. A career change may sound appealing but consider building on existing skills. Check your local college for relevant courses or look at our Courses Section.
3. Invest in bringing your skills up to date
If your professional skills are rusty, you may have to go on some courses before you can find a job in the same area. And nowadays, it is essential to be computer competent.
4. Added value
Think about what you have been doing while you have been raising your family. You may have been busy working on school committees or helping at a playgroup. Identify the skills you've developed which could be transferable, and highlight these on your CV. Make sure you describe these activities in 'business language'.
5. Research your potential market
Some companies have a reputation of being ‘family-friendly’, meaning they offer flexible employment such as flexible hours or other schemes of help to working parents. Some may be open to home-based working. Find out where you'd like to work.
6. Do your research
Find out what has happened since you have been away and get up to date. Sound out friends in the business, contact former colleagues and start reading trade journals.
7. A new CV
If you've not updated your CV in the last year start again.CV fashions change. See our CV advice See our CV advice. And remember the basic rules - make sure it is professionally presented, with no typos and keep it brief - not more than two pages.
8. Target your CV
Send your CV to the right people. In other words, target your efforts and do not waste your or would-be employers’ time. If your application is not acknowledged, it is worth following up with a short telephone call.
9. Covering letter
Work on your covering letter/s. Write a different one for each application in which you show succinctly why you are suitable and should be considered. The covering letter is as important as the CV. Remember to state why you actually want to work for the company your applying to.
10. Prepare for interviews
- Think about what you will wear. The workplace may have got more casual but interviews haven't. Stick to a smart suit.
- Think about the sort of questions you may be asked. Always find out about the company and the role (check their website or company literature).
- Make sure you know where you are going and allow plenty of time. Have a dry run with a sympathetic friend or relative.
Many organisations are prepared to be flexible because they have found that supporting working parents has a positive impact on their business. So do not be afraid to ask an employer to consider changing your hours or allowing you to work from home. Make sure you understand your rights when it comes to flexible hours at work.
You can apply for flexible working if you have a child younger than 6, or younger than 18 in the case of disabled children.
- To be eligible, you must have completed 26 weeks continuous service with your employer.
- It is not an automatic right to work flexibly but your employer must treat your request seriously.
- If your employer refuses your request, they must justify their decision in writing. If the correct procedure is not followed, you have the option take your claim to an employment tribunal
For further useful information go to the Equal Opportunities website at www.eoc.org.uk
Part-time work allows you to keep a foot-hold in the job market and keep your skills up to date. But there are a few important dos and don’ts to think about.
- Don’t over commit yourself – agree a working schedule that is acceptable to you and your employer.
- Make sure you have reliable back up if the children are ill and you just have to go to work.
- Make sure the job you accept will keep you interested. Do not settle for something you know you will hate.
- Establish a communications system at work, perhaps a daily journal, so colleagues can deal with queries when you aren’t there. Something similar at home might work too.
- Make sure people know who you are and what you do; and when you are there and when you are not.
- Do not feel you have to fit a full-time job into part-time hours.
- Stand up for yourself and do not be afraid to remind employers of your legal rights.
- Set up good support systems at home so that you have a little time to yourself when you get back.
- Keep some of your earnings for yourself. Do not put every last penny into the family kitty.
- Do not undervalue yourself.
How to find a top employer
- Look for evidence of flexible working at the top of the organisation Anyone can talk about work-life balance, but you need to see evidence at the top to know the commitment is there.
- How creative is the company? What you want is a flexible company that offers an imaginative range of ways you can balance your work and home life, such as homeworking, compressed hours and job shares.
- Is the IT up to date? If an organisation is serious about flexible working the IT will be in place to support it. Check you will have full remote access to the office server from home.
- Are the pay processes transparent? Check that the company has a unified pay scale and is committed to equal pay for all employees.
- The female factor You want to work somewhere that values its female talent. Ask to see an organisational chart - just how many women are there in senior positions?
- Get the story Employers who genuinely care about their people spend a lot of time talking and listening to them. Ask what the employer stands for and check the story sticks from top to bottom.