If you’ve taken a long-term absence from the paid workforce, it can make getting a job seem all the more daunting. But rest assured you are not alone, and many of my clients are return-to-work mums who have waited until their children are older before taking the plunge.

Recently, I was speaking to Ann, who found herself in just this situation, and has since gone on to reignite her accountancy career. In this week’s blog, we share her story to give you some great ideas and simple steps you can take on your journey back to a satisfying career.

Having taken a ten-year parenting break to raise her two children, Ann initially struggled to find a pathway back into her profession. She had intended to go back to work as soon as the children started school, but for a time they still needed her, and she also needed some time for herself.

When she did decide to go back, like so many mothers, she found herself lacking in confidence. Ann needed to work on her mind-set to get back to her old self, and so she allowed herself some time and space to do this.

Ann made sure she took regular steps towards her goal. Sometimes these were really small, but each one of them helped her to get there. When returning to work after such a long time, the end-goal, and the barriers to reaching it, can seem overwhelming. Ann used mindfulness to quieten her negative inner voice. She started daily meditation, journaling, did a lot of reading on mindfulness, and even took up colouring in. She found this really helped to reduce stress and keep moving forward towards her goal.

The other key factor in her success was the support she received from her husband, family, friends and professional referees. It’s so essential to tap into your network when you embark on your return-to-work journey.

At first Ann found it difficult to approach previous colleagues to be referees on her resume. There were some that she hadn’t spoken to in ten years. LinkedIn proved extremely valuable in re-establishing contact. She even took this one step further by meeting with a past colleague who was able to give her valuable career advice.

Then it came time to search for a job. Some of Ann’s great ideas included approaching recruitment agencies to get interview experience and hone her job application skills. She also spent a day in the city to see what everyone was wearing, and used this information to update her professional image.

In her initial approach to recruiters, she tried to find a part-time job so that she could ease back into working life. This led a number of agencies to immediately decline her application. However, one recruiter suggested she take on a full-time but short-term contract role instead to get some recent experience on her resume. Once she had found the right recruiter, who was unbiased and willing to really try and find a placement for her, the job offers started to flow. She was offered both a part-time role andd a full-time role, both in her accountancy profession. She decided to take on the full-time position because of the organisation’s reputation, and the experience it could offer.

Once AAnn started, she was able to negotiate a flexible working arrangement where she works one day a week from home. Now, Ann is settled in her job, and loves combining a professional career with family life. “The hurdles of finding referees, the recruitment process, and regaining my professional mindset were much harder than the actual return to work. Now I’m back it feels like I barely left.  Combining a job and home-life has also been much easier than I imagined, and working from home one day a week really helps with family-work balance,” Ann says.

Can Ann’s story help you on your road to success? Here’s my key tips:

  1. Make a start. It’s never the wrong time to chase your dream career, and it’s never too late, even if you’ve had an extended break.
  • Don’t be concerned if progress is slow. Taking small steps each day or week towards your goal is enough. Set targets but don’t make them unreachable.
  • Mind your mind-set. Practise self-care and do things that will build your self-confidence. When returning to work after a long time it can be hard to put yourself out there, so use techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, affirmations and positive self-talk to reduce stress and tap into your own powerful positivity.
  • Connect with your network.  Your network is the place to find out about job opportunities, get advice, find out about current industry tips, and source referees. Use technology like LinkedIn, and reach out personally to people you know – they are usually only too happy to help you on your way.

Getting your career mojo back after an extended parenting break can be hard, but inspirational stories like Ann’s are never far away. Check out our client success files to find job search ideas that could work for you.

Donna Thistlethwaite is a professional career coach who provides career help for mums. Donna helps clients develop the practical skills and motivation they need to pursue a career they love. You can sign up to the CareerSmart Mums monthly newsletter for information, resources and inspiration at www.careersmartmums.com.au.