Is It Time to Return to Work? Get Ready With These Simple Tips

If your house has been quieter during the day lately, you’re not alone. Back-to-school season is winding down, and as parents leave behind busy summer days and the rush of preparing for a new school year, the days settle into a more predictable routine. You may find yourself wondering if now might be the right time to return to paid work.

It can feel daunting to rejoin the paid workforce after time away. You may wonder if your skills are still relevant or how your pause will look to prospective employers. You may have lost touch with old colleagues and feel as if your professional network has dwindled. These are all valid — and common — concerns. Let us reassure you, however, that a career pause is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, you have likely gained invaluable experience that you can apply to your next role. With the help of advice from return-to-work coach Anna McKay of Parents Pivot, we’ll break down how you can prepare for a return to work for a successful and fulfilling comeback experience.

Identify your transferable skills

In today’s job market, it’s important to be able to define your skills and outline how they can be helpful for your next role. Skills can be categorized into hard and soft skills. Hard skills are specific functional skills that are needed to perform a job: things like typing abilities, knowledge of software, and being adept at languages or math. Soft skills, on the other hand, are attributes that make you a good employee, such as patience, time management, communication, and listening. Showcasing your transferable skills can help you secure the job you want.

Anna McKay suggests considering how your unpaid work has made you more valuable as an employee: “Shift your thinking by creating a list of all the skills that you have developed in your unpaid work. These could be skills like empathy in caring for others, maintaining records and budgets as the treasurer for your daughter’s girl scout troop, or building community as the new parent liaison at school. All of these skills are transferable to the workplace.”

To understand the unique attributes you can bring to an organization, you must be able to qualify your professional value. Consider all the work you put into time management as a mom. You juggle playdates, classes, family obligations, bedtime, household chores…the list goes on. Being able to prioritize tasks in the workplace can save businesses time and money, making you an incredible asset.

You can apply this logic to any skills you’ve honed in your time away. The key is learning to articulate how they can apply to the role you’re pursuing.


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Make your pause work for you 

Deciding whether to take a pause after having a baby is a huge decision. The important thing to remember is that each family must make the best choice for their own situation. That said, you shouldn’t feel bad or guilty about your time away. You also shouldn’t sell yourself short or settle for something that’s not quite right because you’re desperate for a chance.

“I can’t tell you how many people come to me in a rush to get back to paid work and say they need a resume but they are not clear about what they want to do in their return. This lack of clarity shows up in the resume and in interviews in an ‘I can do anything, just give me a chance’ kind of way,” Anna points out.

She suggests that if you have a pause, you should use that as a catalyst to be intentional about your next role. Your life is different now, and your priorities might have changed…and that’s okay. Define your work non-negotiables so you are prepared to look for and accept a job that will be the right fit. 

Network to grow your community 

Never underestimate the power of community. A supportive network can provide advice, lift you up when you’re feeling discouraged or uncertain, or even connect you to a great opportunity. However, you may have lost touch with old colleagues during your pause. If you’re transitioning into a new industry, you may be interested in expanding your network to get relevant support and information. One of the best ways to connect with others in your industry is by joining a professional community. Aside from providing career growth, a professional community is a group of people who understand you in some unique way that others just can’t — and this can be invaluable when you embark on your return journey.

You can find community and peers in various ways. It can come in the form of mentorship, such as our RALLY program, designed to pair mentors and mentees to provide support and growth just the way participants need. Or you can seek out industry-specific associations, which often have local chapters for meet-and-greets and plenty of online programming and opportunities.

At The Mom Project, we host regular online classes and events to educate, inspire, and show moms and parents they are not alone. You can explore past events here and stay informed about upcoming events here.

Anna McKay points out that networking may be as simple as reaching out to those in your day-to-day community: “My reluctant-to-network coaching clients are often surprised when they reach out to a friend they play pickleball with, a neighbor, or chat up a new parent at the playground and share how they are looking to get back to paid work, how their circle grows and connections are made. People can surprise you with who they know and how they want to help.”

Put yourself out there

You’ve done the prep work, outlined your strategy, and curated your community. The only thing left now is to get started. Starting any new chapter is scary, but take it from us — you’ve got this. Above all else, while you may have been away from the paid workforce, remember that you never stopped working. Being a stay-at-home parent is a demanding job, and those who sacrifice career-building time for raising children deserve respect and admiration.

Ready to jump back in? Join our community of like-minded job seekers!

Anna McKay is a Return to Work and Leadership Development Coach and Founder of Parents Pivot. Through 1:1 and the THRIVE Like a Mother group coaching program she and her team of coaches help parents return to and navigate through paid work successfully. If you are looking for a coach and community to support you in your return to paid work or career transition then reach out through LinkedIn or Instagram @parentspivot.


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