I had a pretty dispiriting meeting with a recruiter recently where I was talking about ProfessionalMums.net and how I'm trying to increase the amount of female talent in the market by finding flexible roles for women. This recruiter said that he would very rarely look at women that had been out of the market for more than two years because there would be a question mark about whether their skills were up-to-date. By the way, I don't think this recruiter is alone in thinking this; I had a similar conversation with a senior architect last week. This architect said it was hard for women to get back into work after a career break because of the raft of younger and freshly trained architects coming into the profession that would have more up-to-date skills.
So what's a girl to do when she's taken a few years out of the workforce to put some time and energy into her home and family life? Here are 5 tips on how to get a job after a long career/maternity break.
1. Work on your confidence. According to Prue Gilbert at PGC confidence is the biggest problem that women face when they start knocking on recruiters' doors. Her advice is to focus on a previous project or experience at work where you excelled and talk about that to underline the value that you would bring to the role.
2. Demonstrate that you have kept up-to-date with your industry. Experienced women shouldn't feel that they need to take a course to get back to work, but it is worth making sure that you still belong to your industry association and to attend a couple of networking or education sessions to show that you have stayed in touch with your industry. Attending events like these will also boost your confidence.
3. Tailor your at-home experience. We all know that being a mum means you develop a whole range of new skills with regards to negotiation and time-management. Gilbert says these can't be your main selling point but it's worth thinking about how to present them. It's particularly worthwhile if you've taken on voluntary roles such as running the parent and teacher association, organising school fundraisers or been the treasurer of a school-related organisation
4. Focus first on delivery, not on flexibility. The burning conversation that women want to have when they go back to work is about flexibility, but bear in mind that the employer is more focused on what you can deliver. Gilbert advises that you first commit to the deliverables and then negotiate flexibility. This point might be a bit contentious but the truth is that high-performers get all the flexibility that they need.
5. Know your rights and responsibilities. This is a point raised by Gilbert (who is also a lawyer) where she says that women should be attune to discriminatory questions during an interview process and should point out that they are not relevant. Questions such as—are you going to have more children, have you got children at home and what ages are your children—are not relevant and let's be honest, no-one would ask a man these questions during a job interview.
By Kate Mills
ProfessionalMums.net is an online community for working mothers in the professions of law, accounting, engineering and management consulting. Our goal is to put these mothers in touch with family-friendly firms and help redress the gender imbalance in the professions. If you are interested in being contacted by firms please sign up for free here, if you want to join the conversation then please join our LinkedIn Group.
Image supplied by Ambro, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.com