Liz Nottingham, Regional HR Director Western Europe, Starcom MediaVest Group, has some advice:
For many mums who've had a career break to stay at home and look after the kids the thought of returning to work can be daunting. For these women, especially those who've been away from the workplace for a number of years, the office environment in 2014 could seem completely alien.
Having been knee deep in school agendas, parties and soft play you may feel that you have lost your voice in this socially connected world? You can navigate Facebook but the world of Twitter escapes you (what is there to Tweet about?), and who would want to look at your profile on LinkedIn? Furthermore, how do you explain a lengthy career break?
As an HR director my advice to these women is go for it! There just aren't enough women with a wealth of life experience available to hire and there are many businesses out there lacking this demographic of strong, capable, 'life' savvy women who could add great value to their work-force. The message I send to those stay-at-home mums thinking of returning to work, is come on, get inspired and empowered, we want you back!
But first, you need to prepare yourself ahead of approaching future employers, by reconnecting with who you are and what you have to offer, and making sure you are ready for your return to the workforce.
Here are my five top tips for mums preparing to return to work and looking to get their career back on track after a lengthy absence from the workplace:
1). Reconnect with who you are:
What are your skills, your preferences, passions and values? Get feedback from friends and family and check out your perception of yourself with how other people see you. You may be in for a pleasant surprise! With a clearer view of who you are and where you want to focus your energies, you can start to connect with the 'you' left behind at your old desk.
2) Consider the help of workplace initiatives:
Do not rush; it may take a while to gain a clear perspective of how you have changed, evolved and how the skills you gained as a stay at home mother will be useful to an employer. There are numerous initiatives out there that can do just that, Starcom MediaVest Group's Back To BusinessShip programme, which aims to support women who previously worked in the media industry is just one of them, but there are also lots of tools online to help you with your personal stock-take. Check out Myers Briggs and the New Oceans website for tools you can try at home.
3) Highlight your skills-set:
So, you may not have been at work, but you will have honed so many skill-sets, (in consistently adverse circumstances) you would be an asset to an employer constantly seeking the cream of multi-taskers. You have been a Project Manager an Events Organiser, a CFO a nurse and a problem solver. You may have been involved with the PTA, general school activities, your partner's business together with other interests and involvements. Recall these events and activities and begin to make a list of what you can do and how you do it. Again, cross check this with your friends, there is bound to be so many things that something significant may have slipped your mind.
4) Start to network:
This is an activity that brings a chill to the hearts of most of us, but push yourself to start talking to anyone and everyone. You just never know who knows who, and that is something that hasn't changed while you've been gone. Think about a placement for a few days, perhaps supporting someone you already know in business so that you can experience the new work environment.
5) Check out the ins and outs of your PC or Mac:
Look at courses, software packages, and of course LinkedIn, (which is essentially business Facebook). For those looking for something a bit more advanced, check out the Massively Open On- Line courses and sign up for free modules with tip top universities. Start following people of related interest on Twitter. If you are cautious about Tweeting as many of us are at first, set up an account with a nom de plume and get writing anonymously.
You now have stuff to talk about, you know who you are and what interests you, and your confidence will be growing by the day.
When you are ready start to look at companies and recruitment agencies that are family friendly, Mumsnet is a fantastic place to source this sort of information. And don't forget your friends and family network; they will be able to help you with referrals for friendly recruitment agencies.
As a mum, you are already an expert networker, you are already connected and your multi-tasking skills easily usurp those fresh out of University. You have lots to offer. You can do this. Believe me.