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Job search tips for parents returning to work

Parent returning to work kisses baby

Returning to work after taking a career break to be a parent can be both exciting and overwhelming. If you don’t have a job to return to following parental leave, you may be worried about what a potential employer will think about your absence from the workforce. Or you may feel unconfident about how you will cope with working again.

But remember, although it won’t be easy to return to paid employment, you’ve developed many skills in your absence that you didn’t have last time you were working!

Here are our top six tips to make returning to work after parental leave easier.

1. Explore different career options

Having children may have inspired you to do something different to what you did before you left the workforce. Or maybe you’re keen to start your own business, providing greater flexibility and part time hours?

The key to changing your career is thinking about your existing skills, including those you’ve developed since becoming a parent, and transferring them to other career options.Research job ads and see the skills employers are looking for. If you need to improve your skills or develop new skills, consider retraining or upgrading your skills.

2. Have realistic expectations

If you want to prove to yourself (and perhaps others) that you can cope with working life, think about easing yourself back into the workforce with something easier than you did before your career break. Take a lower level position or accept temporary roles to get the practical work experience you need and re-establish your credibility.

Temp jobs will also give you the opportunity to experience different company cultures and to find one that fits your lifestyle and demands as a working parent. In a lesser role, you’ll feel less pressure, and hopefully get noticed and promoted if you make the right impression.

3. Do your research before returning to work

Before you start job hunting, familiarise yourself on work trends in the industries you’re interested in and new technology. Review trade magazines and search the internet to read up on industry and company news.

4. Use your extended network to find a job

Tell everyone you know that you’re looking for work. As well as former colleagues and other professional contacts, don’t forget other potential avenues to possible job opportunities such as:

  • Family connections
  • Parents of your children’s friends, teammates and schoolmates
  • Community organisation co-workers.

Let them know what you can do and what type of job you want. They will be of more help if they know what skills you can offer and roles you are looking for.

5. Fill resume gaps with new skills

Make sure your resume is up to date, formatted well and tailored to the work you are looking for. Be honest about resume gaps. Explain briefly what you did during these times, and then focus on how you’re ready to return to the workforce and what you can do for potential employers. Showcase any unpaid school and community activities you have been involved with; the skills you’ve used and developed as a result are relevant to work.

Use them to your advantage when applying for positions by framing them in ‘work’ terminology. For example:

  • School fundraising: uses communication, business development and marketing skills.
  • Tuck shop duty: requires financial skills, customer service and team work
  • Chair of your childcare centre’s management board: shows leadership, business management and governance abilities.

Consider using a functional resume instead of the more traditional chronological one, to highlight your skills instead of how continuous your employment has been.

6. Get expert career help

Career coaching can provide you with expert help in developing and implementing a return-to-work strategy.