Returning to work after being home with a baby can be intimidating, scary, exhilarating and sad. When I was laid off from my marketing position in the summer of 2017, I was given an amazing severance and knew that I wanted to make the most of it and spend time at home with my girls. I also knew it wasn’t a long term arrangement. Fast forward to the fall of this year and I realized it was time to start looking for my next career move.
Here is my complete guide to land the job you want and how to prepare to make the complicated transition of returning to work easier.
Envision what you want
The first step I did was to reflect and write down what I wanted in my next job. I envisioned the role. The office. The people. The work. I knew the two most important things for me this time around were flexibility and stability. It really helped me prioritize opportunities.
Take out a piece of paper and write down where you want to work next. What does your day to day look like? Where is the office located? What kind of office is it? Open concept and modern? Or traditional?
I’ve been laid off quite a bit in my career, it’s the nature of being in marketing departments, so I’ve gotten pretty good at finding a new job. I’ve used all the big job boards and have gotten limited traction there. Where I’ve found the last few opportunities is through my network. I told everyone that I knew that might have a lead on a new position that returning to work was a priority for me. Ultimately, my new role came from responding to a post from the CEO of the agency I’m joining on LinkedIn. He mentioned they were looking for someone and I emailed him to get the ball rolling.
If returning to work is something that you want to happen in the next six months, go make sure that your LinkedIn profile is current. Then tell the world what you are looking for! Write an article about your job search. Post an update with what you are looking for. Interact with people that might be helpful in getting you in the door for your dream job.
I had quite a few interviews before I had the ones that ultimately led me to my new job. I’m incredibly thankful those opportunities didn’t work out. I needed the practice. I was so far removed from tapping into that side of my brain that it took awhile for me to feel “back”. After each interview, I would write down what their questions where and formulate better answers so that the next time, I would be a little more on my A game. It was such a great exercise for me.
If you are starting to apply and interview for roles, I encourage you to practice answering some sample questions. Here are the ones that I used:
- What are your top 3 strengths?
- What are your top 3 weaknesses?
- Top 3 professional accomplishments?
- What are you looking for in your next company/role?
- What makes you unique? (Read my answer here)
- If you were going to drop the ball on something, what would that ball be?
Returning to work emotions
Once you find that role and know that it’s going to fall into place, allow yourself to start to grieve. I had a really hard time with this because the emotions that came up were big and raw. I left my new office after my final interview, job offer in hand, and I sobbed.
One weight was lifted and another immediately took its place. There was immense relief that I found the right role and the right company and that I could start contributing again to our family’s finances. It was quickly replaced with the gravity of managing this transition of returning to work, finding someone to take care of my girls, and dealing with the emotions of not being with them all the time. Sure there were days when I couldn’t wait for this to happen but even in those rough moments, I knew I would miss it.
I keep trying to keep the big picture in mind, returning to work is not the end of the world, just a change in seasons. There are plenty of season changes in motherhood, this was just one of them and we are all going to be just fine.
Now that the start date is set and returning to work is a reality, it’s time to GET to work. Literally.
First things first, figure out your childcare situation. Whatever the right choice is for your family – nanny or daycare – getting that in place will allow you to take a big deep breath. Help to prepare your kids for any changes in their schedule by talking about it with them, even if they are toddlers. Little Nugget is in a phase where she likes to run through everyone in our family and tell me where they are. “Dadda at work. Sister at school. Mama, home” So I’ve started to tell her that soon I’m going to go to work also and that she was going to be just fine. I also took the girls with me when I dropped off my signed offer letter. It gave them a chance to get a visual of where Mommy is when she goes to work.
Second thing is your wardrobe. I found myself scrambling to pull together outfits just for the interviews. Now I’m going to need a few new pieces because I highly doubt yoga pants and a hoodie will be acceptable. I’ve relied on my trusty friend Ebates to make sure I’m getting the best deals. Most of my shopping has been online cause trying on clothes with a toddler in tow is one of the levels of hell.
Third essential item you need is a family planner. Life just got a little more complicated and having a system to keep everyone on the same page is crucial. I’ve been using these Erin Condren planners for the last four years. They work so well for our family and I love having a book of activities and milestones to look back on.
Fourth item is to start to meal planning NOW. I think there is a common misconception that meal planning is this arduous process that takes forever but it’s so not the case. Meal planning can be as simple as jotting down what you are going to have for dinner and making sure that you have the ingredients you need. I used to use my Erin Condren planner to track all of our meals for the week – and that system worked great. Then my friend Erin developed this meal planner and I love it. It keeps the whole year together so you can easily reference back to previous weeks for ideas AND it has tear out grocery lists. I also keep a master list with our favorite dinner ideas and a handful of my favorite cookbooks so that I can plan quickly.
This is probably going to be the hardest part for us Mom’s – setting aside the guilt and the to do lists and be proud of what you accomplished. Being a stay at home mom was never on my radar, never something I thought I would want to do when we started our family. However, I was given this unexpected gift of time with them and I will forever be grateful for that. We’ve all grown in so many ways and quite frankly, the fact that we all survived is a damn miracle.
I’m also proud to be returning to work and to model some new behavior for them – one of a woman who loves her family and puts them first but has ambitions and a career. That’s always been important to me and I’m proud of myself for putting that on the back burner for awhile and equally as proud to be taking this leap back into the workforce.
Make sure to take care of yourself throughout this process. I started work on Monday and by Tuesday afternoon, my body started to wave the white flag. I was exhausted and achy. The stress, anxiety and emotions had all caught up to me once the first day was done and I knew everything was going to be ok. I got through it enough to get dinner made and the kids bathed. Once I put Little Nugget down for the night, I walked straight into my room and got under my weighted blanket and slept. I woke up Wednesday morning and felt human. Ready to tackle this next chapter.