< Go Back

Back to work: Transferring skills from motherhood to the workplace

If you’ve taken a career break for children, you may feel that returning to work after time out can be an uphill struggle. This can be the case whether you’re returning to your previous place of work, embarking upon a whole new career, or anything in between. Whatever your situation, your role as a mother can actually help make the transition a smoother one than you’re anticipating.

The transferable skills you develop as a mother are no different in variety or value to the type of skills that can be acquired during other key milestones in your life and career, such as marriage or your first full-time job. Being a stay at home parent is, after all, absolutely one of the greatest challenges there is.

Like any form of care, childcare takes it out of you emotionally, physically and mentally-especially when the children are your own! Successfully looking after your children involves continuous multi-tasking, managing your energy levels and maintaining a laser focus, not to mention clear goal setting, calmness in the face of emergencies and the ability to think outside the box.

It’s really not a stretch to see how all of these skills are vital in a busy, pressurised workplace-be it your previous one or a brand new one.

In an ideal world, you would be equally adept at all the above competencies. In reality, the skills that can be acquired during motherhood are so innumerable that no one will have them all. Even if you did, not all of these aptitudes will be appropriate or necessary to your particular line of work. So how do you identify which skills you’ve picked up and assess whether or not they’ll be useful in your work life? Here are a few tips:

  • * Get feedback from others around you as they will see how you’ve developed.
  • * Take time to think about which new skills you’ve developed. Try making a list of actions you take during the week and then listing the skills they deploy. Consider the settings, pressures and essential outcomes. What did you do, why did you do it and what was the result? Where else could these actions be valued?
  • * Think about which skills you’re using whilst you’re actually using them, then consider how they could be used elsewhere. For example, the next time you’re making up a bedtime story with your child, acknowledge the fact that this takes imagination and communication skills, which can be converted into workplace creativity and efficient teamwork.

This is all fine and dandy if you already know which workplace-old or new-you’ll be going to when you return to work, but what if you’re still at the stage of looking for a new job post-career break? Creatively use your parenting experiences to sell yourself to prospective employers. Consider seeking out voluntary opportunities where you can use your newfound skills in the wider world as well as build up experience relevant to your desired career path. Get involved in voluntary work for a charity or another type of not-for-profit organisation. Offer to do pro bono or consultancy work for those you know. Training and professional development are also options which can be seriously considered; it’s worth investing in yourself.

If you don’t know even which career direction you want to go in then making a career plan by yourself might seem like an overwhelming challenge. This is where an external opinion can be useful. High quality career guidance from an experienced professional will give you the benefit of an objective and informed viewpoint, allowing you to make decisions from a much stronger platform.

Whether or not you seek professional guidance, there are plenty of ways to prepare and equip yourself for transferring your skills to a new career:

  • * Review past achievements and the especial skills demonstrated in effecting those successes.
  • * Ask yourself what your passion is, then consider how to get paid for what you love!
  • * Get hold of tools such as Tom Rath’s StrengthsFinder; the book is available online and in good bookshops. eBooks such as Position Ignition’s ‘How to Get the Job You Want’ and ’100 Essential Career Change Tips’ can also be a valuable source of information, tips and advice.
  • * Gather more information about your specific career interests by networking and making contacts. Don’t be afraid to ask plenty of questions. If you decide to set up your own business, take huge confidence from the fact that parenthood has definitely taught you how to juggle tasks and seize opportunities!
  • * To brush up on specific skills before returning to work:
  • * Take advantage of the many adult learning opportunities there are at local further education colleges. A directory such as Hotcourses gives you an idea of the variety of classes, subjects, timeframes and price ranges.
  • * Get a friend to train you in a specific skill in exchange for you doing something to help them. Practice at home and go to the library to get the relevant books out if necessary. The Dummies series covers almost everything.
  • * Still not confident that your parenting skills are going to help you back at work? Don’t expect too much of yourself-take everything one step at a time, in bite-sized chunks. Recognise that some goals need to be worked towards and will not be arrived at with one leap. It doesn’t matter how slowly you go as long as you don’t stop. In the words of the late American football coach Vincent Lombardi, “Winners never quit, quitters never win”.

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

< Go Back