Motherhood is a life-altering event. It doesn’t stop after you bring your child into the world—you will care for him, raise him, and make sacrifices, including putting your life on hold to ensure he gets the best care possible. This can include leaving work permanently so you can focus on your little one.
But when your child is old enough and you feel like you're ready to get back into the workforce, would it still be possible even after you’ve taken a long break? Malou Treñas-Del Castillo, a career coach, and licensed psychologist, definitely thinks it’s doable. “Taking a break is not as bad as people think,” she says.
Realistically, however, there are factors that you need to consider when you finally set out and look for a job. Here are some of the things you should think about:
1. Figure out what you want to do and if you want to go back to your old career. The first step is realizing whether you want to go back to your previous career or forge a new path for yourself. Take Malou, for example, who used to be part of the corporate world before shifting gears and pursuing a master’s degree in psychology at 40 years old. “It’s never too late to go back to school,” she says. “Now I’ve transitioned from a marketing person to a licensed psychologist.”
If you still want to pursue the same line of work that you did before having a baby, be prepared to adjust and deal with some changes. “If you were at a certain level when you left, you may have to start a little bit lower than where you were before,” Malou explains. Of course, you may also get the same position, or higher, depending on your skillset, but it would be better to not presume that you would be at the same level as your peers who have been at the job longer than you.
2. Learn how to market yourself well. Anyone can be hired as long as they know how to market their innate abilities and skills, Malou reassures. So, it’s important that you prepare yourself.
The first thing you should do is to fix your resume. If you’re coming from a long break, ask yourself, “what are the skills that I’ve exercised during this time?” Whether it’s managing projects at home or a little business that you used to do on the side, it’s important to include and highlight it in your application.
Malou also mentions a sure-fire way to get your foot in the door—your network. “List down a hundred people that you can connect with and tell them, ‘I am interested in this kind of work. Is there anybody who can help me?” You don’t need your connections to assure you that they’ll get you a job. Rather, the more important thing is they at least get you an interview.
3. Don’t consider being a mom a detriment to getting hired. Some women think that they are at a disadvantage if they’re going up against single women for a job. But it’s important that you approach any opportunity with confidence, says Malou.
Present your skills without thinking that you have lesser value as an employee because the negative aura will come out in your interview. “Everyone has a set of skills—you may not be as good as the person who’s been doing it for six years because you’ve only been doing it for six months, but you have the same skills. You have to present it in a way that you’re selling yourself,” she says.
However, we cannot deny that there are still some companies who have a different way of viewing things. One Smart Parenting reader emailed us an #SPConfession about her experience while being interviewed for a position.
“I’ve been a stay-at-home mom since I got pregnant with my first baby,” the mom, who wishes to remain anonymous, tells us. “I attended a job interview invite and the discussion went well because I was confident with my work experience and credentials--until Mr. Manager told me his assessment. He said, ‘From what I can see your daughter is your priority na ngayon. I can’t tell kung fit ka in my team. Alam mo ‘yung cowboy? ‘Yun kasi ‘yung hanap ko, ‘yung pwedeng pumasok any time needed. Anyway, I’ll just let you know.”
Suffice it to say that the mom didn’t get the job.
If you experience such discrimination, then it’s obvious that company is not the right place for you. “Go to a place where that’s not an issue,” Malou advises. “You are an individual with the right skills and capabilities whether you are a mom or not.”
In a report called “Getting to Equal 2018” published by global professional services company Accenture, it was found that gender equality must be a strategic priority for any company if they want to thrive and rise. In the Philippines, women are more likely to advance to a manager role or above, so it’s critical for companies “to create a truly human environment where people can be successful both professionally and personally,” says Ellyn Shook, the company’s chief leadership and human resources officer.
Thankfully, our reader was able to get another job at a family-oriented company. “They’re all excited to meet my baby on our Family Fun Day,” she writes.
4. Don’t give up. Anyone who has been away from work a long time might find it difficult to land a job at first. But if you’re really determined to work, then you can try other industries that are always looking for new hires. “It might not be what you want to do in the long term, but they will still be willing to get you the work experience that you need,” Malou says.
What are these industries? Malou says there are a lot of positions open in real estate, the automotive, and BPO (business process outsourcing) industry. Start from there.
5. Don’t feel guilty. A lot of moms who put their career on hold to have a baby are afraid to go back because they feel guilty about missing milestones or spending less time with their kids. But a recent study found that you shouldn’t be worried about how your career will affect your child because it can even have long-lasting and positive effects on your kids when they grow up.
Whether you want to be a career mom or a stay-at-home mom, what’s important is your happiness. Ultimately, the choice is yours.
If you’re still unsure, just take a page from Malou’s own experience. She pursued a master’s degree but finished it later than usual (four years instead of two years) because she wanted to fulfill her dream without sacrificing time for her son. And she continues to thrive to this day.
“I’m doing this for myself so my kid can also see that his mom lives a meaningful life because they need to understand that they also need to live full lives as individuals later on,” she says. “As a woman, kung mas buo ka, mas buo yung identity mo, it will help you become a better mom for your kid.”
Malou Treñas-Del Castillo offers one-on-one career coaching consultations. She has also authored the book, The Career Roadmap: Your Personal Guide to Corporate Career Success to help people find work, manage their career, and exit it. It is available at select National Book Store branches (Mall of Asia, Greenbelt, Glorietta, SM Aura, SM Megamall, Trinoma, and Ayala Fairview Terraces) for P350.