How to Get a Job After Maternity Leave

Click here if you already have a job and are returning to it after maternity leave.

get a job after maternity leave

Be Realistic

Understand that although you have been busy while you've been at home looking after your family, your core career skills have not been developing, and infarct may have become a bit rusty. Depending upon the amount of time you have been away from the workplace, you may not be successful in obtaining a job at the same level you were at when you left the workforce. Keep this in mind when looking at vacancies, and if you have a few rejections before the interview stage, you may need to look at jobs at a salary level a little lower.

Don't Be Ashamed

The immediate feeling is shame or self-disappointment for women returning to the workforce and having to start at a level or salary point lower than when they left. Don't be ashamed of yourself or put yourself down. There is nothing wrong with taking time out of the workforce to take care of your family. You have been putting your family first and that is an admirable trait. With time, you will return to the career level you were once at.

Update Your Skills

As with anyone looking for a new job, before you apply you should make sure you have the skills to do the job you're applying for. For women returning to the workforce, this might mean returning to study or doing a short course to update your skills, or at least be able to show a potential employer that your skills are up to date.

Which brings me to the next point...

Employers / Hiring Managers Want Proof

The employer or hiring manager selecting the person for the job wants proof that they are able to do it. Telling someone in a resume or interview "five years ago I did it" or "I'm sure I'd be able to pick it up quickly again" is not going to cut it. Particularly if the employer has another candidate who has current skills that they can prove in their recent or current employment.

The same rules apply for skills that you may have used at home during your time off work.

For example:

  • Using an accounting package to manage your families finances is a great skill to have, but it is not the same as using an accounting package in a workplace environment. 
  • Writing personal emails is not the same as writing business emails in a workplace environment.

The employer is going to want to see well developed skills used in a workplace environment. As much as career counsellors and websites might tell you that you have a vast array of skills that you have used to manage your household that are transferable to your new job (and even if this is true)... your potential future employer will in most cases not want to know about it.

The Best Way to Prove That You Have Current & Relevant Skills

The best ways to get proof that your skills are valuable in the workplace is to do a course, or do some volunteer work.  This should start well in advance of your first job application!

How you frame your experience will also make a big impact on your application. Take the below example from a resume of someone who has worked on a fundraising committee.

St. Francis Primary School     2012-2014
Organised fundraising activities for the school

This description doesn't tell the hiring manager anything. It doesn't offer any skills or relevant information. Let's re-frame it to highlight the responsibility level and achievements.

St. Francis Primary School     2012-2014
Fundraising Coordinator
- Coordinated the annual fundraising ball, school fair and school open days
- Introduced two new fundraising events to profit from non-engaged income streams
- Increased fundraising revenue by 17% in the first year
- Increased fundraising revenue by 62% to date
- Fundraising revenue during my tenure at approximately $82,000.

Get Others to Vouch for You

Having current referees is really important. Before you plunge into submitting your first job application you should make contact with previous managers, touch base, and ask then if they would be happy to be a referee. You can then add their details to your resume. It can also be a good idea to mention in a cover letter that you have kept in touch with your previous workplace and they are happy to give a verbal reference. This demonstrates that you are proactive, and a good enough employee to have someone vouch for you.

How the Job Application Process Has Changed Since You've Been Gone

It hasn't really. Resumes are still used (remember to highlight achievements over duties) and the do's and don't of interviews are still the same. 

Warning Bells for Recruiters

If you are submitting your application to a recruitment agency or recruitment department of a large organisation, there are a few things that ring warning bells for recruiters. When they hear bells ringing they're more likely to put your application in the 'no' or 'maybe' pile. They will not contact you to ask questions, unless you are an incredibly strong applicant. I've listed them below so you can make sure they don't appear in your job application!

  1. Gaps in employment history. If you have been away from the workforce on maternity leave or caring for your family, you should state this. 
  2. Not providing referees. Recruiters (in recruitment agencies) are usually the ones responsible for completing reference checks on behalf of the hiring organisation. If it looks like your referees are going to be hard to get hold of, or are non-existent, they may not waste any time with your application.
  3. Not customising your resume for the job. Stock standard resumes are a put off for recruiters. They want to know that you are invested in your application and truly interested in the job you are applying for.
  4. Not including a personalised cover letter. Again, taking time to personally address the recruiter and including information that is specific to the job will show the recruiter that you have invested time and effort into your application and you are very interested in the position.
  5. Lack of current skills. If you left the workforce 10 years ago and haven't done anything since (including no training or volunteer work) the recruiter is going to wonder how much effort you're going to put into the job and what kind of training liability you are going to be.

Image © / Evgenyataman

More Help With Your Job Application:

How to write better selection criteria

How to research an organisation

Dealing with selection criteria that you don't meet