REINVENT YOUR CAREER!
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’:
START PLANNING IN ADVANCE
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.
KEEP TRACK OF RETURNEE PROGRAMMES
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.
GIVE IT TIME
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.”
BE UNAPOLOGETIC ABOUT THE BREAK
“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.”
SELECT THE RIGHT MODEL OF WORK
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.”
ASK FOR HELP
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.
VISIT AN IMAGE CONSULTANT
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!