According to a 2022 survey carried out by ‘That Works for Me’, 98% of mothers want to work, and we would agree with this statistic. One thing we hear regularly is that our clients feel more ambitious and driven after having their children, rather than the common assumption that women don’t want to return to work after becoming a parent.
“I’d been struggling to make a case for flexible working, whilst showing that I was still committed to growing my career. I returned to work after being at home, raising my boys and realised that I still had ambition to progress my career path.” – Director of Communications and previous client.
Of course, everyone’s different and you may feel that being with your children is your number one priority now, there is no one rule for everyone and listening to what YOU want, is a great first step towards living a rewarding and fulfilled life.
This article outlines some ways to stay visible at work after becoming a parent if you are still excited by the idea of progressing.
1. Remind yourself of who you were before you had children and consider who are you now
A common coaching activity for those about to embark on maternity leave is to write a letter to yourself highlighting strengths and achievements. (For some prompts to help you do this, see our previous blog post.)
Just before you return to work, is a great time to bring this letter out, and remind yourself of all the things you enjoy about work, and who you are when you’re there. It’s also a good way to start thinking about who you are now. What’s different, what strengths do you have that you can lean into? What areas for development can you highlight?
2. Don’t buy into the assumptions of others – get clear on what YOU want and why
Be honest with yourself, what do you want from your career now? Common answers include financial security, recognition, belonging to something, being part of a bigger purpose, intellectual stimulation, status, routine – what rings true for you?
When you’re considering career progression, what does that look like? Promotion, different job title, higher earnings, different remit? Why are those things important to you now?
Be practical and consider how this will look now.
3. Keep up to date
Use KIT days if possible to attend conferences or networking events to keep you in the loop with industry and company news. If the organisation won’t fund this, could you afford the time and investment yourself?
4. Stay connected
Keep in contact with colleagues both while on maternity leave and as you’re returning, to stay involved with company changes and internal information.
Unfortunately, it’s all to common for Line Managers to be unsure of what they can or can’t say to new parents, so they err on the side of caution and say nothing at all. If you haven’t agreed a communication plan and your Line Manager isn’t in touch while you’re on leave, take the initiative and approach them. Let them know how you’d like to be contacted while you’re on maternity leave, is it ok for them to phone or e-mail you with company updates?
On your return, schedule a ‘career goals conversation’ with your line manager. Be explicit about what you want now. When you’ve done number 1 and 2 in this list, share it with them so there’s no room for them to assume you don’t want to progress.
5. Volunteer for cross company projects
Literally be visible, be aware of new initiatives or groups that you can add something to. Show an interest and let it be known that you are back and wanting to take up where you left off. Take caution with this however. It will depend on your workload and capacity. The last thing you want is to be signed off with stress in your first month back, so make sure it’s achievable before you put your hand up.
6. Ask for professional development and support
Send the message that you are committed to your career by asking for training, mentoring or coaching to support you.
Please get in touch if you’d like to find out more about how parental coaching can make a difference in your organisation. My colleague Sarah Turner and I have been busy creating content highlighting the importance of organisations providing support for working parents. As part of this, we created this video series exploring the entire journey of maternity leave, from before the leave starts, through to preparing to return and then the first few months back at work. If you or your organisation would like to understand more about how to support your employees as they take parental leave, please get in touch. This blog post is a collaboration between Maternity Coaches Laura Duggal and Sarah Turner. They are working together, sharing their experiences and bringing the best of their joint advice and knowledge to you.