Turn your ma­ter­nity leave into an op­por­tu­nity for a ca­reer change


Hav­ing a baby is like a thrilling roller coaster ride with its crazed ups and downs, which leave the par­ents thrilled, scared, ex­cited, laugh­ing and cry­ing! For a long time, moth­er­hood was pro­jected as this per­fect phase in life where a smil­ing baby and mother ex­ist in a per­fect home. The re­al­ity is a ‘tad’ dif­fer­ent and thank­fully with so­cial me­dia and real mommy blog­gers blog­ging out there, all those un­real sce­nar­ios are get­ting busted. Al­ter­nately, the real chal­lenges of moth­er­hood are dis­cussed with hon­esty, and some much-needed hu­mour. So what re­ally are th­ese truths that a new mum must know about her new baby? We’ve com­piled a list of a few things we hope new mums will find help­ful:

Whoso­ever talks about achiev­ing a work-life bal­ance, has to meet a mother in the throes of rein­vent­ing her ca­reer af­ter a long, post-baby hia­tus. Rein­vent­ing the wheel would pale in com­par­i­son to the tri­als & tribu­la­tions that women face while try­ing to res­ur­rect them­selves af­ter be­com­ing moth­ers. While things are get­ting eas­ier in the pre­sent age of dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion, em­ployer sup­port, and over­all aware­ness about the value-ad­di­tion that th­ese women bring to the ta­ble, there are still a lot of grey ar­eas that women need to grap­ple with be­fore mak­ing a spec­tac­u­lar come­back. M&B helps you nav­i­gate through the maze of the hows’ and whys’:


A ca­reer res­ur­rec­tion should be done with proper plan­ning, with the due time given to think about what re­sources you have at hand, and more im­por­tantly, what is your core rea­son for go­ing back to work? Puneet Dhillon, Ex-Head of Mar­ket­ing at Sheroes says, “While it is im­por­tant for women to not lose their ca­reers af­ter be­com­ing moth­ers, one can­not over­look the fact that you now have a lit­tle child who re­quires a great amount of care, sup­port, and en­gage­ment. Thus, think of a ca­reer that gives due jus­tice to your ex­pe­ri­ence and ed­u­ca­tion, while al­low­ing you to pur­sue it guilt-free. For that, women need to start plan­ning in ad­vance about what kind of help they have at hand; what kind of fi­nan­cial re­sources can they em­ploy; and what type of work do they want to go back to – be it, re­mote work­ing, free­lance, en­trepreneur­ship, or a proper job.”


“We live in a rapidly chang­ing world, where up­grad­ing one’s ed­u­ca­tion and skill-sets has be­come a norm,” says Puneet, adding, “When a per­son is away for two years or so, a lot changes in the in­terim, es­pe­cially in ITre­lated sec­tors. Af­ter etch­ing out what they want to do, women should con­cen­trate on up­grad­ing their skills and cer­ti­fi­ca­tions to bridge the gap.” It bodes well to speak to peo­ple on the field to un­der­stand what upgra­da­tion is re­quired. Dis­tance learn­ing and on­line cour­ses of­fered by plat­forms like Ta­lent­edge and Up­grade have made it eas­ier to up­date one­self in myr­iad sec­tors. At­tend short sem­i­nars or work­shops, or if pos­si­ble, take up week­end cour­ses.


Times are chang­ing for the bet­ter when it comes to wel­com­ing women back to the fold. Or­gan­i­sa­tions are re­al­is­ing the value of the ex­pe­ri­ence, sin­cer­ity, hard work, and mul­ti­task­ing that women bring to the ta­ble. Thus, they are will­ing to in­vest money and faith to re­tain this tal­ent. Re-starters can look at plat­forms like Sheroes and Jobs For Her to keep track of re­turnee pro­grammes of­fered by com­pa­nies like Capgem­ini, CITI, Ac­cen­ture, Axis Bank, Go­drej and more. ICICI bank of­fers a bou­quet of ben­e­fits like flex­i­ble-work­ing and travel ac­com­pa­ni­ment pol­icy. IKEA of­fers day-care ben­e­fits for new moth­ers. Take due ad­van­tage of th­ese poli­cies to put your ca­reer back into gear.


How­ever, there is also a flip­side. Some­times, re­turn­ing af­ter a big break may take time to yield re­sults. Sharmila Kurian, Founder of Alpine Ex­ec­u­tive Search, Mum­bai cau­tions, “Do not ex­pect your phones to start ring­ing off the hook, once you an­nounce the de­ci­sion to be back. While some com­pa­nies are very proac­tive in hir­ing re­turnee women, there are also many oth­ers – es­pe­cially in sec­tors like con­struc­tion, re­tail, and in­fras­truc­ture – that do not hold those kinds of sup­port sys­tems or bud­gets. Also, there is ini­tial scep­ti­cism about hir­ing re­turnee women for on-field jobs or jobs that re­quire long hours and ex­ten­sive travel. Be re­al­is­tic that you are go­ing to face th­ese doubts at the in­ter­views, and be pre­pared with equally re­al­is­tic an­swers about how you will tackle th­ese is­sues while re­main­ing an as­set to the or­gan­i­sa­tion. Do re­alise that it re­mains a long process, so start spread­ing the word well in ad­vance.”


“A gap of 1-2 years is not that

dif­fi­cult to over­come with the right ori­en­ta­tion. How­ever, even if your hia­tus has ex­tended be­yond 4-5 years, un­der­stand that it is okay for your pri­or­i­ties to shift and come back un­apolo­get­i­cally” ad­vises Mahzarine Je­hangirJo­gani, Di­rec­tor – Lead­er­ship Devel­op­ment and Di­ver­sity & In­clu­sion at ProEves. “The com­mon­est mis­take that women make dur­ing in­ter­views, is to sound apolo­getic about tak­ing time off for moth­er­hood. I’d ad­vise to turn it around con­fi­dently and tell your prospec­tive em­ployer that you be­lieve in giv­ing 100 per cent to any­thing you take up. Thus, af­ter hav­ing placed the kids com­fort­ably, you are now ready to give 100 per cent to your work. Do not let the guilt or doubt about the break, lessen your mar­ket value. Ex­ud­ing the right im­age and con­fi­dence can, in fact, boost your pay by 30 per cent at least. Com­pa­nies are keen to hire ex­pe­ri­enced women, pro­vided they dis­play com­mit­ment.”


It is tempt­ing for many women to change tracks from a job to free­lanc­ing or en­trepreneur­ship post-baby, with the thought that it will help them achieve a bal­ance. How­ever, Mahzarine cau­tions against this uni­lat­eral view of think­ing. “En­trepreneur­ship, re­mote-work­ing, and free­lanc­ing are not meant for all. As with a job, there are pros & cons to each of th­ese mod­els. Do not get swayed by com­monly held mis­con­cep­tions that en­trepreneur­ship/flex­i­ble­work­ing is akin to life at a beach. Rather, it re­quires a great deal of com­mit­ment and fo­cuses to work from home. En­trepreneur­ship comes with the added risk of fail­ure, which may not go down well with a wo­man whose self­es­teem is, as it is, not quite stel­lar af­ter the break. Hence, eval­u­ate what model of work suits you best, and then take a de­ci­sion.”


Put in place your prepa­ra­tions well in ad­vance be­fore you start work. Rally around what­ever sup­port you can get, be it from your spouse, par­ents, in-laws, or even neigh­bours and friends. Give them a trans­par­ent idea about the de­mands of your work; as­sign them du­ties ac­cord­ingly; and do dry-runs to let the baby ad­just to your ab­sence, as also, to en­sure that things work smoothly when you are not around. Keep a list of im­por­tant con­tact de­tails (viz. your­self, emer­gency con­tact peo­ple, pae­di­a­tri­cian, school etc.) handy with all your ‘sup­port­ers’. Up­date them about what irks your child, or, if it has any al­ler­gies or health is­sues.


Some­times it be­comes in­evitable to rely on day-cares or nan­nies as your sup­port sys­tem. Give your­self am­ple time to choose a re­li­able and se­cure day-care, or, scout for a rec­om­mended nanny. Equip your­self with tech­nol­ogy like baby­mon­i­tors and apps to keep a hold on things even when you are away. If you choose to work from home, make an of­fice space that will ide­ally be away from the do­mes­tic hub­bub. En­sure that you are not dis­turbed while work­ing from home too. Set some firm rules and bound­aries so that you can give jus­tice to the task at hand.


Quite a few women feel self­con­scious about their changed body shape af­ter de­liv­ery; or, they feel ner­vous about go­ing through the rig­ma­role of an in­ter­view etc. af­ter many years of work­ing. It is per­ti­nent that women take pride in their body, and keep their chin high about their achieve­ments. A meet­ing with an im­age con­sul­tant can help re­vamp the wardrobe to dress you up smartly, as well as, get per­ti­nent hints about pos­tur­ing, tonal­ity, and over­all at­ti­tude so as to snag the per­fect job. Years of ed­u­ca­tion and ex­pe­ri­ence do not be­come redundant by a break of a few months or years. It just re­quires a brush­ing up of skills, shak­ing away the self-doubt, and pro­ject­ing the right at­ti­tude to let the world know that you still have what it takes. So, what are you wait­ing for? Charge on!

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