Guest article by Kate Sykes
During parental leave, many parents often experience a lack of self confidence when it comes to their career and the prospect of returning to work. It is so common, and happens simply because you are removed from the workplace for a period of time.
Experience has shown that women who have returned to work are pleasantly surprised at how quickly they fit back in, and how much knowledge they have actually retained and gained.
In order to make the transition back to work as smooth as possible, it’s important to maintain your skills while you’re on leave. Be proactive. Seek out opportunities that enable you to retain and build on your current skills.
While you’re on leave, remember to:
• Keep your computer skills up-to-date. If you can’t access your workplace emails and systems, continue using any form of technology you have access to – email, the internet, various applications on your computer (for example, managing the family budget using Microsoft Excel will keep your Excel skills current), and downloading your photos from your digital camera. Familiarity with technology will help maintain your confidence.
• Keep your name on an email distribution list at work so you are copied in on the progress and updates of different projects.
• If you don’t have a computer at home, and won’t have access to your work laptop, consider purchasing or leasing a computer. Alternatively seek out a computer that you can access regularly.
• Consider attending team meetings at work from time to time, if appropriate. Even dialing in from home to a meeting can help keep you in the loop.
• If you’re planning to return to work in a different role, investigate what skills you will need and if necessary enroll in a part-time course while on leave.
• Subscribe to online newsletters that will keep you up to date with industry news and developments.
• Read relevant articles, newspapers, magazines and surf the internet to keep your knowledge up-to-date.
• Maintain your network of professional contacts. Touch base with your contacts while on parental leave, either by email or telephone.
• Join relevant professional associations and attend networking groups.
• Enroll in an external course or ask human resources about any online courses available to staff.
• Seek out volunteer opportunities while on leave (if you have time!). There may be opportunities that revolve around your children. Use these opportunities to keep your skills current. These types of activities will expand your social and business network, and keep you up-to-date on industry developments. Volunteer work is an ideal way to maintain work experience while on parental leave.
• Talk to your manager about project-based work while you’re on leave. Small projects may fit in with your schedule and will enable you to keep your skills fresh.
Kate Sykes, Founder and Director of www.careermums.com.au
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