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Making your mark after maternity leave

By Becky Postlethwaite on 19.07.16 in Career

Before going on maternity leave, you were probably working every hour possible and were willing to compromise your home life to make your mark. You went on maternity leave with a certain amount of trepidation, thinking that your career would dip and you would be kissing goodbye to a seat on the board and perhaps your boss was dubious about whether you would come back at all. 

Well, the time has come and back to work you have decided to go. It will be a challenge, but there is no reason why you can't be a great mum and have a fantastic career at the same time. It's about being organized and learning to prioritise. Our top tips will help you make your mark after maternity leave. 

Meet your boss 

You will have probably been into the office for some KIT days (keep in touch days). However, it is a good idea to schedule a quick meeting with your boss away from the office over a coffee. Here are some points you might want to cover off during the meeting: 

• Have there been any changes you need to be aware of while you were on maternity leave?
• Has there been a shift in priorities in your department?
• What are your boss's top priorities for when you start? This will help you focus and be more likely to hit the ground running when you do return.
• Flexible working - is there any flexibility for you to do some work from home or have a slightly later start time etc?

 Set your boundaries 

It's essential that you set out your boundaries quickly once you re-join the workforce. As with starting a new job, you have a limited period where people will forgive your mistakes while you settle in. During this time, make it clear to colleagues and your boss how you are going to manage your workload and childcare, what hours you can do as well as outlining a back-up plan incase your child falls ill - something that is very likely if they're just starting nursery. Reassure them you will make up extra hours at home if needs be. 

Expectations of yourself 

It is really important that you return to work with some realistic ideas about what you hope to achieve in your first months in the role. By having clear goals you will find it easier to focus your energy on those aspects of your working life which will have the biggest positive impact.

The greatest pitfalls for working mums occur when they become caught up in the need to prove themselves - to their employer or colleagues - or to please everyone, which can quickly lead to exhaustion and resentment. A realistic assessment of what is possible to achieve can help to minimise the risk of falling into these traps. 

Achievement 

Think about the tangible and measurable business requirements that you will be working on. Draw on your experiences prior to maternity leave should give you a clear idea of what the organisation expects of you. You will need to shape these expectations into specific and tangible results that will demonstrate your competence to your colleagues and in doing so will help you to build your confidence and credibility in your role.

Very early on, you will need to check your view of what goals are important with your manager's expectations, to ensure that you are aligned with each other. You will also want to build in to your goals, opportunities for quick wins that will enhance your reputation as someone who delivers. 

Ease your way in gently 

If at all possible, schedule your return date for the middle of the week. That way it's not such a shock to your system or your baby's. Jumping straight back into a forty-hour week will take its toll on you and your baby. By starting on a Wednesday or Thursday, you can get a couple of days under your belt and then have the weekend to recover and re-connect with your baby. It might even be worth seeing if you can do some half days to start with.

 Returning to work after a period of absence is never easy - especially if you are leaving a child for the first time, but remember, things will get easier, especially if you keep the lines of communication open with your boss and colleagues. Show them you are still the same reliable, trustworthy co-worker, even if you might sometimes have to leave early or start a bit later. Good luck!