Advice before going on maternity leave (or a career break)

The date gets agreed and marked on the calendar as if in stone.

The days start to blur into handovers and debriefs, trying desperately to keep your focus both on your work and the impending life change of a new baby or a period out of work altogether.

Your career future, in so far as you can see it at all, looks pretty much like a medieval map of the world:a sharp drop off into an invisible unknown. That doesn’t bother you much though; you have more important things to deal with long before you reach the edge.

And then, quicker than you would have believed possible, you’re either:-

  • coming back from maternity leave
  • trying to find another job at the end of maternity leave
  • applying for jobs after a long career break

You will drag out your last CV and you will wish, as I did on all of the above occasions, that before you took the photos off your desk and re-routed your emails, you had done one or more of the following:-

  1. Made a note of what you actually DID on an average day
  2. Listed your main achievements
  3. Summarised the main people you dealt with
  4. Secretly noted the things you didn’t like about your job (and the things you wish it included)

Some of it would be accomplished by refreshing your CV before you leave, of course. If you’re the organised kind of person who keeps their LInkedIn profile up to date, you’ll be in a similar position. Speaking for myself, though, they were the last things I was thinking of doing before I left work.

The trouble is that now, applying and interviewing, I really can’t remember what it was that I actually did during my 9-5 (or 9-7, or 9-midnight). The things that were so mundane, so completely routine, that I would never have believed that they would vanish from my mind, have…vanished from my mind. I can ply prospective employers with dates and names and grades, but I feel completely thrown when asked to evidence a certain kind of behaviour or a particular type of achievement in a competency-based interview. I know that I could have done it, had I interviewed while working, I know that the ability is there, but now? Proving it is hard.

So that’s it. Before you close the laptop for the last time, before you become utterly distracted with domesticity, preserve the work “you” somewhere you’ll be able to find it again when you need it. Who knows? Trotting out the fact you did that in an interview might even help you answer a particularly difficult question.

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One thought on “Advice before going on maternity leave (or a career break)

  1. Eek! I had an interview for a job I was massively over qualified for and was terrible! Takes a while to get your mojo back when you’re trying to get back in…. once you’re in the office though it takes all of 2 days to get back in the swing. It’s all a massive confidence game remember you’re still as qualified as you were before and now stuff that would have stressed you out before will seem easy. So actually you’re an even better prospect. They should be lucky to have you. I recommend getting a friend/ old colleague to remind you how fucking amazing you are just before you have an interview.

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