Returning to work after taking time out to care for a child can be filled with both excitement and anxiety. The journey is unique for each parent and so are the challenges and opportunities. Full-time parenting, while fulfilling and important, can have an impact on one’s sense of identity and value. You may have spent more hours than you care to admit daydreaming about using your “grown-up brain” and having daily adult contact again. On the other hand, your sense of ‘parental guilt’ might be kicking in, and you could be wondering how you’re going to be both a great parent and a high performing employee when you go back to work. Here are tips on improving your prospects, negotiating the best salary and coping with going back to work.

5 Ways To Improve Your Job Prospects

1. Keep Up To Date

Yes, you’re knee-deep in nappies and night feeds, but make the time to peruse the papers, watch the news and keep abreast of what’s happening in the real world and in your workplace. If you’ve taken a year or more off work, chances are, your job role would have changed drastically during this time. 

2. Update Your Resume And Take Advantage Of Networking

Submitting an impressive resume is all it takes to secure an interview with a potential employer. Make the changes you need by including relevant work experience and highlight your achievements that best reflect your talents and skills. Ensure that your resume sells your best professional self. Connecting with people on LinkedIn is more powerful than you think. Take advantage of it and start a conversation with people in your industry.

3. Update Your Skill Set

It is up to you to update your skill set so that you’re not out of your depth once you return to work. Upskilled has a wide variety of online courses ranging from certificates to graduate diplomas so that you have the know-how when it’s time to return to work. If you’re a busy professional that can’t commit to an online qualification, you have the option of doing a short course. Short courses still give you the opportunity to upskill and have you learning and developing your skill set. Here is everything you need to know about upskilling.

4. Do A Trial Run

Yes, you’ve got the all-important spot at daycare, but do you know how long your drop-off will actually take? It’s best to prepare and plan ahead. Do a trial run before you return to work, mimicking exactly what you would do on an actual day – dressing up for work, packing your baby’s things, driving the same route to daycare or the grandparents’ house. This gives you the opportunity to fix foreseeable problems and adjust your routine when D-day rolls by.

5. Prepare For Interviews

Preparation is key when it comes to job interviews. You may have been in the same role for years and are ready to move on. Before applying for a new role, do your research on the company and the people that work there. Memorise key points for questions an employer is likely to ask and don’t hesitate to ask for the salary and work perks you want to best balance motherhood and your professional life. 

10 Smart Tips To Negotiate A Great Salary

It’s important to negotiate the very best return-to-work package you can, either prior to going on parental leave (if you are planning to return to the same position) or when looking for a new job (if you’ve taken an extended career break). Before getting into discussing your salary, it’s important to know your rights as an employee when returning to work. Return to your previous position or, if that role no longer exists, to an available position for which you are qualified. Request flexible working arrangements, if your child is of school-age or younger. Request a shorter leave period. Be protected against discrimination due to pregnancy, breastfeeding, or family responsibilities. Be protected against bullying and harassment.

1. Timing Is Everything

It’s the wisest to keep negotiation-related discussions towards the end of the entire procedure. The idea is to let the employer first believe in your talent and potential. Once they are convinced that you are the ideal candidate for the job, it is always easier to talk about money-related matters. Also note that when you are negotiating your salary, a good idea is to give an amount on the higher end and, mentally, work your way down from there. If the higher offer is accepted, then it is good news for everybody. If it is rejected, adjust accordingly and try again.

2. Know Your Worth

Once you know your rights, the next step is to know your worth so you will have the confidence you need to negotiate effectively. Especially for those of you who have taken a longer career break to care for your family, returning to the workplace can feel daunting. Technology changes and new skills are needed to gain and keep that competitive edge.

A great way to ease into your return-to-work transition is to think about your direct and transferable skills. Engaging a career coach is a great way to work out which skills you have and which skills you need to improve in order to increase your bargaining power at the negotiation table.

3. Do Your Homework On Position And Firm

Thoroughly research the market and the firm. In negotiations, as in war, the better-prepared side wins. Never approach a new employer without finding out the standard market salary for the position offered based on your experience and qualification. Start with online research, and then talk to professionals and recruitment consultants. You can also speak to people in the company to have an idea about the latest state of its business, operations and compensation structure. Use this data to justify your stand.

4. Stay Confident

Once you have done your homework and equipped yourself with the information, you need to be confident about what you are asking for. Until and unless you don’t project yourself to be self-assured and a little assertive, HR would always have an upper hand in the conversation and try to bring down the package you have asked for.

5. Don’t Use Last Salary Or Financial Need As Pegs

Focus on the value you will bring to the company. Most professionals are browbeaten by the firm’s hiring manager, who will peg the new offer to your last drawn salary. This is usually underselling your competence since it does not give you a fair market correction. Similarly, do not negotiate on the grounds of how much money you need. Convey the value addition you will provide to the profile and firm, and why you deserve a better deal.

6. Have A Backup Plan

Know your options if you choose to walk away from the offer. Only if you have a backup plan can you negotiate without fear and take a stand on a fair compensation structure. This is the reason it’s not advisable to quit a job before you find a new one. In today’s challenging job market, a few months of savings or an alternate source of income will do wonders for your confidence during the negotiation process.

7. Let The Employer Start Salary Discussion

Let the employer talk about salary first. Most newcomers make the mistake of initiating the compensation discussion early on in the game. This exposes your inexperience and sends a negative signal that you are concerned only about the salary, not the profile. On the other hand, if the employer makes the first move and quotes a figure, it sets the floor for the negotiation and the final salary can only be negotiated upwards from there.

8. Don’t Be Eager To Share Information

Be miserly about sharing salary details initially. Knowledge is power, more so in a negotiation. So, don’t be in a hurry to pass on information about your past compensation, precise expectations about salary, bonus. Focus on discussing your achievements, proposed job profile, and your fit with the position and the company. The more you delay it, the greater is the time that the firm is investing in your hiring. This usually translates into a better job offer.

9. Avoid Wrong Advisers

Trust either your own research or independent consultants. The hiring manager’s advice to you about the ‘great’ offer is a clear conflict of interest. So is the advice of the recruitment consultant who is dealing with you. The inputs from inexperienced negotiators like your friends often miss the point and focus on power play instead of creating value. So, conduct your own research and seek inputs from consultants not related to the ongoing hiring process.

10. Hope For The Best But Still Be Prepared

At the end of the day, there are no real guarantees in salary negotiations. Beyond the value you can potentially bring to the company, there are many considerations to be had from the employer and HR point of view also, such as tight budgets and even tighter competition. With that said, if you don’t even attempt salary negotiation, then you are doing yourself a great disservice in the long run. So do your research, enter a negotiation and take the conversation on from there.

How To Cope With Going Back To Work After A Baby 

Returning to work after having a baby isn’t easy. In most cases, you’ll struggle during the first week on the job – it’ll be like starting a new role and finding your feet again. Below are some tips that can help you cope with returning to work after maternity leave. 

1. Be Patient

It’s important to give yourself the time to ease into your role and not be so hard on yourself. Be patient when it comes to catching up on your workload. It can feel overwhelming at first but remember it takes a while to get used to settling into a new routine.

2. Make Time For Yourself

It can be a challenging transition to return to work after maternity leave. If you can, plan ahead and catch up on some me-time. Whether that be sitting back and reading a good book, taking a leisurely walk or getting a facial, putting aside time for yourself can be beneficial in helping you recharge your batteries and be better prepared for work. 

3. Find Your Support Network

Leaning on to your friends and family for support can help make the transition back to work much easier. They can provide you with useful advice and be a listening ear if you need to vent about your current work situation. It also helps to connect with other mothers since you’ll relate to them more when it comes to their experience of returning to work after maternity leave.

4. Negotiate For Work From Home Option

Since the start of the COVID-19, many companies have had to make their employees work from home to prevent the virus from spreading. Working from home may be the best option when returning to work after maternity leave, offering many benefits like:

  • Flexibility to choose start and finish times
  • Reducing commute times
  • The ease of tending to your parenting duties

Going back to work is fraught with challenges: the stress of coping with the workload, the fear of not being able to do the job after a long break, the constant juggle of family life with a career. No wonder most new mums feel overwhelmed and anxious. Follow these tips to make the transition back to work after maternity leave as smooth and stress-free as possible.

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