I spend a bit of time speaking with job-seekers, many of those are parents looking to return to work after a period of parental leave. Before kids our lives and our choices are pretty much our own. Once that first (or subsequent) little bundle of joy arrives our priorities may change. Not only do we have to consider how the pieces or our new life will fit together, but we need to gain an understanding of of the values and boundaries we need to protect. What used to be important may be less so.
There are many people I know who no longer want a role that requires extensive travel, long days and an extremely challenging workplace environment. But of course, there are those that do want all that and more!
What’s important in preparing for the return to work is a clear understanding of your personal values and career goals. Whether you are returning to your previous role or seeking a new position, it’s important to know what is important to you. It may be that you have negotiated flexible working arrangements for your role prior to taking parental leave, but does your previous role still fit with what you want now? If you start looking for something new what are the criteria you will use to assess each opportunity?
Self-awareness is simply being aware of who we are; knowing our own values, beliefs, personal preferences and tendencies.
To build greater self-awareness around your career you should spend time reflecting on the previous roles you have had. Do your personal values fit with the industries and type of work you are now seeking? For instance, you may have a passion for giving back to the community and therefore not-for-profit may be a more aligned choice than a construction company. Of the managers you have had in the past, which one did you most enjoy working for and why?
The same goes for the type of work you have done in previous roles, and the industries or markets in which you have experience. What’s been missing from your previous experiences or is on your career ‘wish list’? In addition to reflecting on your own experiences, what do you know about the challenges and opportunities in the markets or roles you are drawn to. If technology is likely to replace a job, or if there are tough market conditions in a sector, this may not be the best opportunity for you.
Through this process, you are building a comprehensive list of your ‘wants’ and ‘don’t wants’.
The other piece of the puzzle is getting a role that fits with your lifestyle.
Really consider the hours you can and want to work, and also consider location. If you fit this filter over the information you have gathered in the process above, you will start to get a clearer picture of the ideal role and employer for you. Of course, you may need to give a little to find a new role but it’s important to know what are your non-negotiables and where you can flex.
This process is similar to how a business would identify its target market. You carefully consider and scope out all of the elements of the ideal customer so you can position yourself to be attractive to that market. Of course, a business may still choose to work with clients slightly outside its ideal client brief as long as they match all the essential values and attributes.
So, my advice to those struggling with the choices around returning to work are to spend some time considering your non-negotiables, your needs, your wants and your dreams. It you carefully line up the dart it is far more likely you’ll hit the right target!
About Caroline McGuire
With a broad background across industries and organisations, Caroline is able to help individuals seeking clarity in their personal and/or professional life, and provide specific support to emerging and existing leaders aiming to improve self-awareness, communication and leadership skills. You can connect with Caroline and browse coaching services available through FlexCareers here.