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Returning to the Workforce after Children can be a Daunting Task

by ​Carolyn Leighton-Hilborn

As the mother of three young children, I can empathize with any parent striving to step back into the workforce after taking time off work to look after children. It can be difficult for many reasons including the challenge of finding suitable and affordable daycare, helping your children overcome that initial separation anxiety (not to mention a bit of your own) and managing a transition to daycare providers - all while you are trying to find job vacancies, research employers and perhaps upgrade your skills.

Many mothers, who have been out of the workforce for several years, struggle at the prospect of going back to work and how to best go about it. As an employment advisor, I hear questions such as is it the right time to go back to work, should I look for part-time or full-time work, where do I start, how can I update my skills when I don’t have the time or money to retrain and how can anyone understand the struggles I face. Sound familiar? These are all valid questions and it is amazing how assessing your situation and creating a plan can answer some of those questions, start to remove barriers and put you on the path to a rewarding career.

To find a job you “love” doesn’t usually happen overnight. Like all truly rewarding experiences, you will need to dedicate time and effort (just like being a successful parent). You will need to develop career goals, identify and address gaps in skills or training and consider options that will help you obtain your “dream job.” Options could include volunteering to gain specific skills, conducting informational interviews to learn more about a company or sector, accepting a short-term contract to gain experience and get your foot in the door with a company, and job shadowing or job trials to make sure the work is right for you. These are a few of the many opportunities you might consider to develop skills and experiences you can include on your resume and make yourself more marketable to employers.

There are many tools available to help with a job search. When used properly, the internet is a very effective, cost-free tool for job searching. If you don’t have a computer with access to the internet at home, you can find them at libraries and government-funded employment service agencies. In fact, these agencies can help you with your job search or just augment your efforts. They have staff and resources to help with things such as determining what work opportunities best fit your situation, identifying your transferable skills and skill gaps, accessing training grants, building a strong resume, expanding your network, connecting you with job leads and, ultimately, helping you find a suitable work situation. Employment specialists can assist with all of these tasks, and after a good conversation and assessment, may help you recognize skills and abilities that you hadn’t even considered.

A successful return to work doesn’t need to be daunting and doesn’t need to be done on your own. Like parenting, it will take time, effort, patience and at times a bit of help just to ensure you are on the right track. And, the results can be very rewarding.