The greatest challenge in returning to work after a maternity break, is not layering in the kids. It’s the levelling up, not dumbing down. It’s finding the power to believe in yourself, your relevance!
I’m extremely lucky (these days) to work within industries that are mostly female led. And believe me I know the privilege. Having worked in Retail for more than a decade, it was hugely refreshing this week to attend the Veterinary Women In Leadership event hosted by XL Vets and sponsored by amazing advocates like PetsApp, Elanco and Boehringer Ingelheim.
In fact over recent years I’ve been on an epic journey of career transition, self discovery and acceptance. This latest Female Led event framed perfectly everything I’ve learnt so far.
Know Your Worth
It’s so easy just to do. To get on and graft and never actually acknowledge the work we do, the skills we have and the assets we can bring to a company. This is especially so after any kind of career break.
Working or not all parents discover that once a baby is born you have to learn how to spin multiple plates on the spot. What most often fail to realise is that’s a skill set-Light bulb! Without even knowing it you’ve been prioritising tasks and triaging life admin for multiple human beings. Translate this into your CV and give value to what you do naturally/automatically, without even a thought!
Redefine The Stereotype
All too often I hear phrases like “women make good leaders because they are empathetic, caring, natural nurturers…” And you know what there is some truth in that, but reality is we make good leaders because we’re human! By default our species likes to lead the way. It makes no difference if you are male, female, trans or any of the other 55 (currently known) genders, if you want to then you can!
I am a woman and because of what this gene package tends to afford you, I am also resilient and tenacious. Periods, pregnancy, baby loss, have all taught me the importance of keeping on. To holding tight, even when it would be so much easier to just let go.
Stereotypes aside, manage you’re own expectations. Don’t be fooled you are not playing on an even pitch and the game does change. But don’t fear that, embrace it. Don’t just layer up, speak up! All too often as women, amongst an average week we quietly layer in periods, menopause, pregnancy, giving birth, breastfeeding, weaning infants, suffering unseen losses, postpartum anxiety/depression, dealing with various strains of plague/infestations inflicted upon our households by nursery/school aged offspring, coordinating smears, mammograms, surgery and all the rest. Acknowledge it! None of the above are dirty words and they are valid challenges and hardships. Never hide your human side.
Ask for help Don’t Keep Mum! Seek guidance from family and friends, co-workers, and past/current employers. Book a session with a careers coach, look into help with the costs and logistics of child care. Ask if a job can be done remotely or as a job share. If the ‘Rona has taught us anything it is that most work to a great extent can be done anywhere!
It used to really piss me off as a kid when my mum would say “you’re not the first, you’ll not be the last”. But Goddamnit, it’s so true! There are so many other people just like you, just like me. And some of those kindred spirits have already begun to form groups of like minded people. And most brilliantly networking is free and can even be done from the comfort of your home.
If you need help returning to work why not try free career guidance blogs seek out female equal opportunity campaigns like FlexAppeal or attend digital business events tailored to women. And if you still can’t find something that inspires you, why not set up your own.
And yes that’s me at an event for Lenovo, with a Pussy Cat Doll, having just had my face drawn all over by a disgruntled toddler. Like I said; Resilient!
Whatever work you’re returning to know you can and you are good enough!
Be kind to yourself,