Working Transitions

From Baby to Boardroom - Supporting Maternity Returners

Women make up circa 50% of the workforce in the UK.  Of these, 80% will become mothers during their working life. Statistically, therefore, most working women will personally experience maternity leave at least once in their career.

Returning to work after having a baby represents a significant transition – individuals returning to their role after any period of absence can feel anxious about the prospect of returning to work - this is often associated with decreased confidence from lack of skill usage coupled with lack of contact with the organisation.

Maternity returners may experience a mixture of positive and negative feelings, including a growing sense of anxiety about re-joining the business. Individuals who are supported before and during their return to work have a positive experience, are more engaged and become fully effective more quickly.

Research has also shown that a high number of mothers who return to work leave the organisation within one year. Specialist maternity coaching provides an important and effective intervention at this critical time. It enables women to make the right choices to suit their situation and aspirations and enables organisations to retain talent. An external coach has no fixed agenda or pre-conceived ideas of the returners career and is able to provide confidential and objective advice.

We spoke to expert Career Coach – Josie Hai Diep – about the support she provides to women returning to the workplace:

From Mum Mindset to Manager

“One of my recent clients, Sara, used to work as a Manager for a Digital Marketing firm. During her 30’s, she took a career break to raise her two children. When she was ready to go back to work, it was over 3 years since her last job.

When I first engaged with Sara, she told me that she felt ready to return to work but also felt anxious about getting back into the job market after so long. This is a common fear shared by many female professionals. I gave her some advice to help her through the transition back into work:

Review your skills

Sara felt that she had spent so long in her ‘Mum’ mindset she was doubtful that she was capable of returning to work at a managerial level. It can be useful to take some time to reflect on your past experience and the skills you have gained from previous job roles. If you have an old CV, dig it out and then create 3 columns as below with the following headings:

Job title: Digital Manager

What I did What skills I used What are my strengths?
Managing Teams Leading, Coaching, delegating Effective listening and coaching skills, good communicator, management skills
Project Management

Technical skills in project planning and organisation, assessing business needs, co-ordinating teams

Organisational and planning skills, ability to work under pressure, problem solving


List as much as you can for your most recent jobs - it is likely you will be surprised at just how many skills you have. A note of caution here, sometimes people get ‘brain freeze’ when they have to talk about - or write about - what they are good at – most of us are simply no good at ‘blowing our own trumpet’. Get a friend or career coach to help you if you struggle with this.

Remind yourself that being a Mum, or working at home, involves skills. For example:

  • Teaching children social and academic skills

  • Managing the family budget

  • Ensuring the home environment is safe for children

  • Cooking, cleaning, DIY and much more!


Decide how much time you want to spend on working. You might look for work that offers flexi-time, part-time, job share, zero hours or compressed. Here are a few websites advertising more flexible work:

Find Support

Some women may lack confidence in themselves and start wondering if they will ever be hired because of the career break. To help build your confidence and to ease yourself back into work, you might consider training or volunteering to refresh your skills. There are return to work programmes for women

Also, seek out people who can help to support you back into work. Contact your local council to see if they know of any support groups, or websites such as Netmums feature advice and opportunities to connect with other mums and local meet up groups can be useful to build connections and find activities of interest

Whilst an ideal CV might be one where your employment history is consistent with no gaps, life doesn’t always work this way. You might consider including a brief explanation in the cover letter regarding your career break and your motivation to return to work.

So what happened to Sara? She contacted someone she knew and they were able to secure her a month’s work shadowing at their workplace. This gave her the confidence to send off applications and she is now working in a managerial position.

Remind yourself what you are capable of, reflect on what you have done and achieved to date, including your positive personal attributes, and let yourself shine.”

Working Transitions Maternity Returner Service is flexible and can be readily tailored to meet individuals needs and desired outcomes. We support individuals to make an effective personal transition and manage the emotional and psychological aspects of this important stage of their life and career. Visit our website for more information


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Image of a pregnant woman stood by her work desk holding her sides for support.
Working Transitions
14 February 2018
Supporting effective and successful organisational change


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