Back to work tips for Mums

July 2, 2007

by Deborah Barit

Whether you always intended to go back, or you find you have to because of changed circumstances – even the most confident high flyer finds it hard to make that transition from productive full time mum to focused employee in the competitive business environment.

Where to start? Well here are some tips:

Know that you are talented, skilled and experienced.
As a mother, you multi-task, meet deadlines, are organised, plan ahead and meet diverse stakeholder needs – and that’s just for starters. Doing the weekly shop with one or more young children requires strategic thinking and forward planning. Negotiating child care arrangements to meet individual needs would drive a seasoned negotiator to scream ‘I GIVE UP’. So hold your head high and know that you are going back into the workforce with valuable and marketable project management skills.

Decide on your next career move.
This is a major decision. Take time to consider thoroughly your options – you don’t want to change jobs for at least 12 months. Give yourself some head space when the kids aren’t around so you can think clearly – for example you could get a 5 am start; or wait until everyone is in bed. Or send the children to play with friends or family for a couple of hours. Now turn off the phone and use this time to focus clearly on you – list your strengths, likes and dislikes – and make that decision.

Update your CV.
Highlight the responsibilities and achievements in your previous roles. Include your computer skills. Don’t forget your voluntary work. Whether you have supervised sport, been secretary/treasurer of a P&C club or childcare centre, organised fundraising activities, run the school book club or assisted with reading programs at school – these are all valuable, work-related skills.

Check your referees.
Make sure your referees from previous employment are still usable and available. You could also get some personal references, such as the principal of your children’s school.

Check out job opportunities.
Thousands of mums from around the country are using to locate flexible and family friendly jobs. Search newspapers and employment websites such as or etc. Also, let your friends, family and networks know you are job hunting and the sort of work you want to do. Remember lots of jobs are never advertised – often it is about who you know.  

Send out a well presented application package – i.e. a covering letter and current CV.
Ensure your letter and CV complement each other and address the skills the employer seeks. Another option is, if you know who you want to work for, to write a canvass letter saying why you want to work for them, highlighting the qualifications, skills and experience you bring – and of course include a copy of your CV.

When you are called for interview, get ready by thinking like an employer.
As a mum – CEO of your household – you anticipate your family’s needs wants and expectations. Use the same skill to think like an employer. Imagine that you are on the interview panel. Ask what skills, knowledge and experience should the candidate have for you to say ‘Yes!”? Put yourself in the employer’s shoes, and compare your skills and experience to what you think the employer expects.

Match your experience to employers’ specifications.
It’s like playing ‘Perfect Match’. Use your experience from both paid and voluntary work to demonstrate your suitability. It is all about packaging and marketing your skills and experience from the perspective of what the employer wants to buy.

Research the company.
The web is a great place to start. Read the company website. Search newspaper articles and professional journals for any articles about the company. Learn about their products and/or services, current issues and future directions. BE INFORMED

Think about questions they are likely to ask.
If you were the employer, what sort of questions would you ask? Practice your answers, focusing on your key points. Rehearse with a friend but DON’T MEMORISE ANSWERS. Be concise and use positive language – eg “I was responsible for doing this…” rather than, “my duties included….” Video yourself answering interview questions, or simply sit in front of the mirror, listen carefully to your answers and observe your body language.

Prepare your interview outfits.
Make sure you have two outfits that make you feel great. Dress for the job. Finally, before walking into an interview, forget the kids, re-read your application and the job description.

Switch your attitude to ‘CAN DO’.
Take three deep breaths, smile – then, GO FOR IT. Good luck!

‘Impressive Interviews – your pocket sized personal interview trainer’ is available in bookshops now. Enquiries at

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