Stay-at-home mothers have the most important job in the world — raising their little ones. But now that the kids are older and more settled, you are finally allowing yourself to explore the possibility of returning to work.
For sure, it’s not going to be easy. After all, when was the last time you donned a power suit or spoke in front of a room fill of human beings above age 5? How are you going to cope with not seeing your munchkins for more than six hours a day? What if you’ve to stay late — who’s going to make them dinner and put them to bed?
You may have doubts, but you can reintegrate successfully into the workforce. Paul Heng of Next Career Consulting Group points out that you are still relevant in the workforce if you take note of three things. “First, keep abreast of developments in your field of expertise. Second, keep up with current affairs and what’s going on in the world. Third, make sure you stay healthy and fit, and look professional and presentable.”
So, fret not — opting to stay at home to raise your kids is not the death knell for your career. Here are the top back-to-work tips to take note of.
1) Pick the right time to return
Think about why you want to return to work. Is it a financial reason — perhaps your husband isn’t doing quite so well at work and it’s eating into your savings? Or is it personal decision — did you always see yourself as a financially-independent woman?
Keep in touch with your friends or ex-colleagues, so you can stay up-to-date on new work trends.
Many mums decide to go back to work once their children enter preschool. Yasmin Suryani, 30, mum to 4-year-old twins Shaffiq and Basil, returned to her nursing job when her sons turned 2. “I had no choice but to stop working when they were born — they needed me, and honestly, being a SAHM was the toughest job ever. Now that they are in kindergarten, I am back at work and happier, which I think, makes me a better mum.”
Don’t forget that rejoining the workforce also means you’ll need to make childcare arrangements. If childcare is going to cost as much as what you’ll earn, you might want to reconsider your decision.
Also, support from family members is important. Selina Seah, a recruitment consultant with Men At Work Recruitment Consultancy recalls finding an administrative job for a mother of two. However, the mum quit after a month as she could not cope with the late knock-off times. “She could not rush home to prepare dinner for her kids, which was important to her. Thus, a lot of mental preparation needs to be done before you consider going back to work.”
2) Cast your net wide
Use various ways to look for your new job. Online job portals like JobsCentral and JobsDB are useful, and so is social-networking site LinkedIn. But don’t limit job hunting to the online route — keep in touch with old colleagues, as well as business partners, and let them know when you’re in the market for a job.
What else can you do to increase your “hireability”?
3) Acknowledge your skills
We all know that a SAHM works pretty darned hard. You’ve probably been balancing budgets, managing multiple tasks and individuals, as well as mediating disputes. If you’ve been running your family successfully, you probably have valuable skills that can benefit many companies. When interviewing for a job, don’t make excuses for your time at home — be proud of it and let your potential employer know what you’ve learnt.
If you’ve volunteered at your kids’ school, put that in your resume. Member of a book club? Add that in, too. Did you start a mini-online business, or design a friend’s website? Cite these experiences, which show that you’ve made an effort to stay relevant and connected with the community.
4) Be clear about what you want
What kind of work are you prepared to do? What kind of hours do you want? Be upfront about flexibility if you want it. “Most women look for a less stressful job, jobs that allow you to leave on the dot, as well as jobs related to their past experience or something they are familiar with,” Seah says.
Most mums who hope to re-enter the workforce are also particular about the commute and the hours they’ll need to put in. “Women in this position usually need at least three to eight months to find a suitable position as they have many considerations when it comes to balancing work and family life,” she adds.
HR practitioners note that Singaporean employers are now more receptive to the needs of working mothers. More companies these days are offering flexi-work plans, perhaps because of “difficulties getting full-time staff, particularly in the administrative levels, which see a high turnover rate”, Seah notes.
Go to www.careermums.com.sg or www.mumsatwork.net for listings of part-time or flexible work positions.
A willingness to try a different industry can work in your favour, too, since potential employers will view you as a versatile employee.
5) Sign up for a crash course, if needed
Even an absence of several months from the workforce can leave you fearing that all your experience and skills have vanished. But these fears are usually unfounded. Says Yasmin, “It all came back very quickly, like it was just yesterday. Plus, I was very driven to do well. Perhaps my motivation came from wanting to be a good role model for my kids.”
However, you shouldn’t hesitate to familiarise yourself with new software skills either. Keep in touch with your friends or ex-colleagues, so you can stay up-to-date on new work trends.
Seah says that a willingness to try a different industry can work in your favour, too, since potential employers will view you as a versatile employee. Heng adds that one should “close the gap by demonstrating adequate knowledge and interests” if you lack relevant industry experience.
For instance, Mums at Work holds regular conferences to bring working mums together. Or look into private schools that hold skills-upgrading courses, such as MDIS and Kaplan.
6) Find your “working self” again
Be professional from the get-go. You may have a whiney tot or a sulky tween at home, but if you’ve decided to get back to the workplace, you need to show that you mean it.
Look smart for your job interview and be punctual. Set aside enough time to settle your childcare arrangements, so that you’ll feel more relaxed and confident. If you have an emergency child-related issue on the day of the interview, give your potential employer a call and explain the situation, rather than fail to turn up.
If you reckon that you need help with your wardrobe, hire an image consultant such as from Image & Me (www.imageandme.com). Make some time to get a good haircut and a facial before you go for your interview — a few minor tweaks to your appearance will go a long way towards making you look and feel more confident!