by Juliet Rogers
It was a bright but slightly chilly Autumn morning when I stepped off the bus into the hustle and bustle of the city. People were pushing and bumping to be the first on to the pavement but that didn’t bother me. Nor did the couple of times I had my toes squished by the foot of a passer-by in a hurry to get on to their destination.
It was almost six years to the day since I last had a ‘proper’ work. I mean ‘proper’ in the sense of paid work; specified hours; agreed salary; approved benefits; and a decent hour-long lunch break. In the interim I was ‘just a mum’!
So the reason I was happy? Today was a new start for me; a new chapter in my life, a chance for me to be recognised for me, not be defined as ‘just a mum’, in fact I didn’t even need to talk about my kids if I didn’t want to!
Whilst we all know employers are not legally permitted to pass a job applicant over because they are pregnant (nor are they permitted to ask personal questions during an interview regarding your family situation), I was fully aware that other reasons could easily be used to explain away an unsuccessful application.
My daughter, Emily, was born at the end of October 2010 and I did pursue part time opportunities in the UK. However the market wasn’t great at that time and I’m not too sure how committed I really was to the reality of returning to work; I had discovered a love of sewing and so had decided to start making baby blankets and taggies etc.
The months passed through to a couple of years and I became pregnant again. My family life took a more dramatic change of direction as a job opportunity for my husband to work over here came to fruition. We grabbed it with both hands (we had travelled here together in 2008/2009 and I fell in love with Sydney – we got engaged outside the Opera House on our final night in Sydney and vowed to return one day) – and some 9 months later we – me, Rich my husband, Emily (2 years) and Stan (13 weeks) – travelled as a family to start the next adventure.
Now motherhood isn’t easy. My view is that some seem to adapt to it better or quicker than others. I would NOT consider myself one of those people. Holding a tiny baby would bring me out with cold sweats!
Prior to getting pregnant, rightly or wrongly, my career was more or less my life. I worked long hours, brought stuff home with me, was extremely conscientious and a total perfectionist. Long hours and bringing work home with you certainly sits well with being a mum…..the perfectionist bit? Forget it!
Once my son turned one I started the process of looking for work over here. I wanted to work part time, 3 days a week (the ‘ideal’ for most I guess?) and thought it would be ‘easy’ in a large city like Sydney. Unfortunately I was wrong. Aside from having the ‘no local experience’ or ‘no Australian experience’ card being used by so many companies I wrote to, emailed or called (if indeed they responded at all), part time work just didn’t seem to exist anywhere! It seemed apparent that unless I was on maternity leave from a full time role it was unlikely I would be able to get a part time role (and even then employers can decline your application to reduced hours), certainly in my field at any rate.
As you have probably already figured, this story does have a happy ending but it took some three years in the making. I am also sure that there are plenty of you reading this having had similar issues or perhaps experiencing it at the moment. So I’m going to share all the things I did to get me in to my first contract role which I’m now pleased to say has been made permanent!
- Revisit your CV. Then do it again. Then get a partner or friend to read through it. Leave it a week and reread it. Make sure it’s honest and clearly highlights your skills and personality. Sell yourself!
- Register on job seeking sites. SEEK is definitely a good one but there may be others out there more suited to your field of work. Get your profile on there looking great – think of it as an online CV. You never know, people may come looking for you?!
- Get on LinkedIn. Many recruiters look through the profiles on LinkedIn so it’s worth getting your profile on there. Again treat it like an online CV.
- Make every application personal. Research the company or organisation you are sending it to and tailor what you say to demonstrate how you would ‘fit in’ with the company or be of benefit.
- Get a name. Find out the name of the person you would be working for and google them! Find their email or postal address.
- Give them a call. Don’t be afraid to pick up your mobile and chat to the recruiter to get more information about the role or other potential roles. You may get some insider knowledge that might help you tailor your application?
- Write a covering letter for each application. Use some standard introductions to yourself but tailor the letter at every opportunity to the role, company and person you are writing to.
- Dare to be different! Recruiters must see hundreds of the same covering letters and CVs – it must be sooooo boring! Add your personality to them, use colours, images, whatever you feel will grab the attention and make your name memorable to the individual reading it.
- Find and register with recruitment agencies in your field. This is how I was successful. I found a specialist agency and then went to meet a couple of the consultants. They put me forward for a couple of roles – these weren’t advertised as yet so this is definitely a benefit of registering with an agency – and was offered both!
- Be prepared to compromise. This isn’t an easy one. When you’re a mum and you have other priorities and responsibilities to consider you can’t always be flexible on days or hours. There may be some things you aren’t willing or able to change but there might be aspects you can.
- Apply for full time even if you want part time. If you impress them then you could try to negotiate at a later date. Some employers may not have considered part time employees, or potentially job sharing, until the options are presented to them or they find the ideal candidates. You may want to be open in your covering letter or during an interview that you are seeking part time work – if that’s the case, outline how you feel you could make it work and how it wouldn’t have a negative impact on the role.
- Send speculative emails or letters. Research some of the companies and organisations you might like to work for and approach them even if they haven’t advertised. There might be a role coming up in the pipeline and you could catch it ahead of the start of the recruitment process.
- Be interview ready. Be prepared for any interview you may be asked to attend. Dress appropriately, make sure you arrive in plenty of time, read back through your application and any job description, take a deep breath and be confident in yourself. You may find you have a shocking first few interviews. Don’t worry – you can put them down as practice. It’s not easily returning to work and getting the baby brain working again!
- Be brave. If you do get offered a role make sure you consider all the aspects and know all the implications on your family like. Be brave and negotiate if you feel something isn’t quite right.
Finally, good luck and happy job hunting!
Do you have any tips you’d like to share with Ryde District Mums? Or perhaps you have a slightly different story that you think others would find interesting or could relate to? Either way please get in touch.