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Managing your career throughout Maternity

Although some might think that career development isn’t exactly at the top of the list of a pregnant woman’s priorities, it’s only natural for you to be concerned with the security and quality of your role before, during, and after maternity leave. Once you’ve given birth, you may be depending on your career for financial stability. Ideally, you will also continue to have-or develop for the first time-job and career satisfaction and a workable balance between work, your child and other aspects of your life.

How can you successfully manage your career during maternity in order to achieve these objectives? Before we can answer this, it is first important to break down what success looks like in this context. Success covers:

  • * Being confident and happy about the pregnancy throughout
  • * Staying fit and healthy
  • * Not being unduly stressed by your job/boss/organisational requirements
  • * Leaving for maternity well; e.g. effecting a smooth handover to your stand-in
  • * Staying in touch throughout maternity leave at the level you wish
  • * Having discussions about work options in a spirit of flexibility and sensitivity
  • * Returning to work willingly and looking forward to re-entry
  • There is a very clear three stage process involved here:
  • 1. Preparing for leaving
  • 2. Holding onto options
  • 3. Re-entry

Preparing for leaving -

Each person’s situation on the eve of their maternity leave will be different and may hold a variety of complications. Ask your organisation if it has access to an external career guide who would be suited to working one-to-one with you in this stage of transition. Alternatively contact a good careers advisory service that can provide you with your own guide. A good career guide will seek to support you in your unique situation by understanding you through spending significant time talking and working with you.

Whether or not you use professional guidance, aim to prepare for maternity leave with a long-term view. What are your future work plans? If you wish for the area of the business you cover to really flourish in your absence, be sure to equip your stand-in with all the information, tools and advice possible. If you’re considering shifting to a different business area within the company upon your return, it’s not too early to mention this to your boss.

Similarly, if you think you may decide to leave the organisation or role upon your return to work, indicate to your employer that this might be a possibility, as it could make things easier later on.

Holding onto Options -

Whilst on maternity leave, check-in with your organisation to the level of frequency that you wish. If you’re working with a career guide, they’ll also be checking in with you periodically.

So much depends on the birth of your child and how things pan out for you, the baby and the family. These things are impossible to predict and it is even harder to know how you’re going to feel as your new role as a parent emerges.

Having either a professional guide, or someone else who knows you and your attitude to your career well, to talk to will mean that the work issue is kept on the radar, but also in the appropriate perspective.

As it gets closer to decision time, you can move onto the third stage of the process.

Re-entry -

There is an assumption that people on maternity leave will return to their previous role and slot right in. The law underpins that position. Therefore, this is where the work you undertook in Stage 1 comes into its own. If you indicated to your employer that you might not be returning to their company, they will be more prepared for confirmation of this. If you’ve been using a guide, they will by now have a great understanding of all elements of your capabilities and values. This can be particularly useful if you wish to continue to work with your guide in order to find a new job or even a new career.

There will be a lot of options you may want to evaluate, as well as different elements of family life and career objectives that you’ll want to balance. Therefore, in order to supplement your work with a career guide-or if you’re not working with a guide-reading can be very valuable. It’s becoming increasingly easier to source and read good value material. For example, eBooks such as Position Ignition’s ‘How to Get the Job You Want’ and ’100 Essential Career Change Tips’ contain practical advice, easy-to-follow steps, takeaway tips, and inspiration for all types of job searchers and career changers, including new mothers.

By following this three-stage process, you are more likely to feel in control throughout, have the opportunity to think through your work and career thoroughly, and successfully negotiate this difficult and emotional period of transition.

By Nisa Chitakasem -Founder of Position Ignition, a modern day careers advisory firm for professionals offering help around careers, transition and personal & professional development

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