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Have a break. Have a baby

During the summer holidays, PM Theresa May, announced a government initiative, pledging a £5 million fund to help people return to work after a career break, especially in industries where women are under-represented.

The money will be available for men and women, but as May said to Mumsnet: “More often than not, it is women who give up their careers to devote themselves to motherhood, only to find the route back into employment closed off, the doors shut to them. This isn’t right, it isn’t fair, and it doesn’t make economic sense. So I want to see this scheme extended to all levels of management and into industries where women are under-represented.”

The schemes aim to give those who have taken long career breaks the opportunity to refresh their skills and build professional networks. Mumsnet chief executive, Justine Roberts, said women faced a “motherhood penalty” after having children. “Whether £5m will be enough to tackle the discrimination returning mothers face is moot,” she said.

“What’s crucial is that workplaces embrace flexible working, which is what many parents tell us they most need.”

With around 750,000 births per year, Robert’s point about £5 million being sufficient or not depends on how far just over £5 per mother can stretch.

Many mothers do take time off from work (maybe a year, maybe 18) to bring up their children and if they decide to return to the workplace after a break, it can be difficult to get a foot back in the door.      

This has led to people increasingly attempting to make their parenting experience sound more relevant to work.

One employer wrote recently on Mumsnet, that a Mrs Jones wrote on her CV that she’d been employed by the “Jones family” and that her work involved “organising international travel for the family.”

The intention was that this would make the woman more suited to an office-based role, but the employer disagreed.

“More galling are the claims that women make about the critical role they played – with my favourite being the one who ‘spent seven years looking after my two children who needed and deserved my attention,’” she wrote.

The employer made clear that she thought being a stay-at-home-mum is incredibly valuable, but you should not “put this kind of waffle on your CV.”

Most people agreed that such remarks were a bit “naff”, but others explained that many careers advisors wrongly recommend it.

According to CV and interview expert, Duncan Watt, if you’ve done something that’s relevant to your career (an accountant who becomes treasurer of a local charity while out of work, for example), you should include it on your CV.

But otherwise, simply say you’re a stay-at-home-mum, because there’s no shame in that.

“Equally any courses that have been taken to keep technical skills relevant are good,” Watt said. “Running websites or blogging, for example, might also be relevant but shoehorning day to day activities into your CV is not a good idea.”

Of course, as a parent you do develop many skills which are useful at work, such as communication, time management, negotiation and organisation, but it’s important to present them in the right way.

“Where maternity stretches to a career break, it is important to emphasise skills maintained and developed though any volunteer work such as school PTAs or parkrun,” Yvonne Smyth, Group Head of Diversity at Hays said.

“You can also include any voluntary activity such as raising money, negotiating prizes or sponsorship which demonstrates a number of skills including project management, people co-ordination, communication skills, PR, marketing or even IT skills.”

But the key is to think about your experience in a less literal way.

If you’re on a work break but think you may want to resume your career, Smyth recommends “keeping an estimate on your eventual return and actively seeking out opportunities to use your skills.”

That way you can remain confident in your abilities when it comes to applying for jobs again.

It will be interesting to see which consultancy firm the government allows to hoover up the £5 million fund.


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