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Since star­ting «Hap­py­Box» I had the chance to speak to so many in­spi­ring wo­men that I wis­hed I spoke to be­fore and du­ring my pregnancy. One of these fa­sci­na­ting la­dies is Ca­the­rine Le­duc. She is a “job se­arch & ca­reer Ma­nage­ment Coach, so sta­tes her Lin­kedIn pro­file, but as you will read, she had many other hats on and some re­ally good ca­reer ad­vice for wo­men du­ring and af­ter pregnancy that I am happy to share with you. Have fun rea­ding & feel free to fol­low Ca­the­rine on Lin­kedIn or join one of the many net­wor­king events she is or­ga­ni­sing to make wo­men stron­ger in the workplace.

Hi Ca­the­rine, thank you so much for ta­king the time to­day to speak about your jour­ney and the les­sons lear­ned you take from the wo­men you have been coa­ching through their ba­lan­cing act of mo­ther­hood. Let’s jump right into it, tell us, is it true what people say, “wo­men are not in­te­res­ted in their ca­reer any­more once they have babies”.

Ca­the­rine Leduc

Maternity is the trigger point to reassess your values and needs

What I ob­serve is that a lot of wo­men come to a ca­reer cross­road during/ af­ter ma­ter­nity leave. Many of us de­cide on a course around our 20s and ne­ver ac­tually re­as­sess and re­di­rect it but just keep drif­ting in that di­rec­tion un­til so­me­thing — like mo­ther­hood or burn out — be­co­mes our wake-up call. For many this cross­road feels over­whel­ming and even scary but it’s ac­tually an ama­zing op­por­tu­nity to re­con­nect and do some self-work to un­der­stand of our va­lues and bounda­ries may have shifted over time. That’s where a lot of wo­men come to the con­clu­sion that their pre­vious work si­tua­tion does not win in the “trade-off” as­sess­ment.  It’s not so much that wo­men are no lon­ger in­te­res­ted in their work or ca­reer but if they are to leave the child­ren with so­meone else in fa­vour of go­ing to work then they will of­ten have hig­her ex­pec­ta­ti­ons towards their work. Na­mely wan­ting more pur­pose, op­por­tu­nities, and re­co­gni­tion or a more fle­xi­ble and un­der­stan­ding cul­ture and en­vi­ron­ment. They just won’t put up with the same stuff if they do so at the cost of mis­sing on their children’s child­hood. There is ac­tually a lot of em­power­ments co­m­ing from this as many wo­men then be­co­m­ing much stron­ger ad­vo­ca­tes for them­sel­ves and that’s ab­so­lutely amazing!

Tip: Take time to as­sess your va­lue and needs prior/ du­ring ma­ter­nity and make sure you set up your sur­roun­dings accordingly

Which in­di­ca­tors do you think wo­men should look for to as­sess whe­ther it is “just the hor­mo­nes” as many people say af­ter birth or whe­ther they ac­tually needs a change?

Most im­port­antly, I think this has to do with being in touch with and lis­tening to on­eself and when you rea­lise that you are not en­joy­ing work nor pa­ren­t­hood de­s­pite re­ally wan­ting it. There are ups and downs but if it is not ba­lan­ced over a lon­ger pe­riod, that is your in­di­ca­tor. For ex­ample, there are al­ways si­tua­tions at work when you need to put in more hours, have an im­portant dead­line, etc. You can reb­a­lance and com­pen­sate that in the right en­vi­ron­ment. If not, you will have a con­stant fee­ling of guilt. Where you will not be able to live up to your own ex­pec­ta­ti­ons towards an­yone, also not yourself. A good test whe­ther you should make chan­ges is to set clear bounda­ries and com­mu­ni­cate those ac­cord­in­gly. If your em­ployer is not able or not wil­ling to sup­port this, then chan­ces that you will be able to find yourself and find your ba­lance bet­ween work and fa­mily is much lower. In the long run, this can be da­ma­ge­able to ever­yone, and this is what I be­lieve is the first red flag that so­me­thing may need to change. 

Tip: As­sess­ment of your cur­rent work/life si­tua­tion. Are you happy (more of­ten than not) at home and at work? If the an­s­wer is no: start thin­king about what needs to change

You men­tion on your web­site that a lot of wo­men go through a “Loss of per­so­nal iden­tity” when be­co­m­ing mo­ther. What does it mean and what can we do about it?

Mo­ther­hood for­ces us to go get ac­quain­ted with our­sel­ves again as it chan­ges so many things. I per­so­nally wan­ted to stay at home lon­ger than three mon­ths and I took that time. And de­s­pite wan­ting that, I found it dif­fi­cult when I rea­li­sed that I mis­sed ha­ving dis­cus­sions, in­ter­ac­tions, and the lear­ning op­por­tu­nities found in the work­place and people in­ter­ac­tions. There I lost a bit the fee­ling for who I was. I think it would have hel­ped tre­men­dously if I knew about it be­fore and could have pre­pa­red for it. Even if you are not em­ployed any­more, it does not mean that this part of you is fully gone. My sug­ges­tion is to make a plan to meet your needs for re­co­gni­tion, being seen, being chal­len­ged. These needs are su­per dif­fe­rent for every per­son, I per­so­nally got in­vol­ved into vol­un­tee­ring du­ring the re­fu­gee cri­sis and got star­ted with stu­dy­ing and pre­pa­ring for my shift towards ha­ving my own con­sul­ting busi­ness. Through my work with many wo­men, I ob­ser­ved that for many, “just” being a mom was not an op­tion as they quickly be­came un­sa­tis­fied. It’s not that they don’t love their child­ren — it’s just not he­althy for an­yone to com­ple­tely dis­re­gard their own needs and for wo­men for whom ca­reer is im­portant or re­mai­ning in­tel­lec­tually ac­tive and en­ga­ged, that needs to re­main a non-nego­tia­ble and then it’s about ba­lan­cing everyone’s needs and this can take a bit of out-of-the-box thin­king and most im­port­antly sup­port from both the spouse and the employer.

Tip: Stay true to yourself and make sure your most im­portant needs re­main sa­tis­fied (e.g. re­co­gni­tion, being seen, being chal­len­ged, lear­ning) and put a sys­tem in place that al­lows you to get those eneeds co­ve­red (e.g. vol­un­teer work, en­tre­pre­neu­rial pro­ject, new hobbies, …)

Branding is key

How are you hel­ping your cli­ents who come back from a lon­ger pe­riod of time at home?

First of all, it is im­portant to keep in mind that wo­men don’t have to brand them­sel­ves so­lely as stay-at-home-mom. Their pro­fes­sio­nal iden­tity from be­fore mo­ther­hood is not lost just be­cause they are not cur­r­ently em­ployed. When people re­tire, we say if they that they are a re­ti­red La­wyer or Den­tist. That’s still part of their iden­tity and skills even if they are not ac­tively prac­ti­cing or using those skills. For moms at home who find it dif­fi­cult to be away from the work­place and from their pro­fes­sio­nal iden­tity, I re­com­mend fin­ding ways to stay in the loop by go­ing to con­fe­ren­ces or net­wor­king events you are in­te­res­ted in. And no, there is no need to pre­sent yourself as “oh I am cur­r­ently not do­ing anything, I am home with the kids”. If you want to pre­sent, yourself as stay-at-home-mom that is to­tally fine. Do it with pride. If you feel like this is only a part of yourself then pre­sent, yourself using both your pro­fes­sio­nal ex­per­tise or title as well as men­tio­ning your cur­rent si­tua­tion as stay at home mom. You are both even if you are not do­ing both at the same time. Part of the new iden­tity as a mom is to learn to be­come both and to ac­cept that one does not need to ex­clude the other.  This brings us back to the per­cei­ved iden­tity loss. In fact, it’s not lost, it’s new and ex­pan­ded! Many wo­men feel they can only be one or the other — but why?

Brin­ging the pro­fes­sio­nal to­pic even when being at home with the child­ren can be a stra­te­gic move. That’s a good way to start the con­ver­sa­tion about your next steps and re­turn to work, espe­cially if people ask you ques­ti­ons about your cur­rent em­ployer. You can even use it as an ope­ner “oh good ques­tion, I am loo­king for my next per­fect fit, have you he­ard of any ope­nings that I should put my name in for?”. Al­ways re­mem­ber that even if you are on sab­ba­ti­cal, at home, or wha­te­ver break you are ta­king from your pro­fes­sio­nal ca­reer, it does not change your skill set. The ex­pe­ri­ence you have, the skills you de­ve­lo­ped and the tool box you ac­qui­red along the way, it is not gone. The first mind­set shift when co­m­ing back from a lon­ger pe­riod off work is to en­sure that we build the con­fi­dence to give our pro­fes­sio­nal skills the re­co­gni­tion they de­serve and that’s bran­ding. There is no need to brand yourself as “stay at home mom”, it might be the cur­rent sche­dule, but it does not de­scribe who you are in the pro­fes­sio­nal world.

Tip: Stay ac­tive du­ring your time at home, eit­her in your cur­rent net­work (con­fe­ren­ces, ape­ros, etc) or wi­t­hin new net­works (play­grounds, kid groups, etc.) and be proud of your cur­rent “work”. You are ad­ding a new hu­man being to our so­ciety and the­re­fore shaping our tomorrow.

Next to bran­ding, what are your tips for job hunting?

Keep in mind that there are two chan­nels for job hun­ting – the jobs that are pu­blis­hed and those that are being fil­led through net­work or so-cal­led hid­den jobs. It is a bit more dif­fi­cult to get ac­cess to the la­ter when you are co­m­ing out of a lon­ger break and were not ac­tively nur­ture or de­ve­lo­ping your net­work. You can re­ac­ti­vate and build it but it re­qui­res ef­forts and also a cer­tain to­le­rance for frus­tra­tion. For the ac­tive job mar­ket, keep in mind that a lot of hi­ring is being done with the help of soft­ware, cal­led ATS – Ap­p­li­cant Tracking Sys­tem which is ba­si­cally con­ver­ting the in­for­ma­tion from your CV into a se­archa­ble da­ta­base. So, when a job is very com­pe­ti­tive anything that standouts from the norm such as lon­ger breaks, ca­reer shifts, dif­fe­rent po­si­ti­ons and in­dus­tries will be con­si­de­red as dis­ad­van­tage in com­pa­ri­son to other ap­p­li­cants. In this con­text, on­line ap­p­li­ca­ti­ons are much less li­kely to work af­ter a ca­reer break and this is why net­wor­king is so im­portant as it al­lows you to en­ter com­pa­nies and ac­cess job leads wi­thout ha­ving to go through a sys­tem that we know will not be friendly to pro­files in­clu­ding a ca­reer break. Also, it’s good to keep in mind what could be an employer’s con­cern with can­di­da­tes re­tur­ning to work — lon­ger lear­ning curve, being with new tech­no­lo­gies and soft­ware, etc.). My ad­vice is to take it on you to an­ti­ci­pate AND dis­arm such con­cerns but dis­cus­sing them openly and showing how you’ve pre­pa­red for it. What’s also very im­portant and ano­t­her key ele­ment of bran­ding is to ar­ti­cu­late what you bring to the ta­ble and how you can add va­lue to a role how. Re­crui­ters and em­ploy­ers are much less li­kely to stumble on a ca­reer break if you clearly con­vince them of your skills and value.

Tip: Check out the free eBook “25 Stra­te­gies to Re­turn to Work af­ter a Ca­reer Break”

What needs to be on the CV to be­come a suc­cess­ful CV?

Most people stick to the “tra­di­tio­nal” CV and do not rea­lise that there is a lot that can be done while re­mai­ning wi­t­hin the ac­cep­ted frame­work. Most im­port­antly, the CV needs to clearly con­vey the brand and for this to hap­pen, the can­di­date for needs to do the self-ex­plo­ra­tory jour­ney to un­der­stand her strengths and skills. For a start, there should al­ways be a po­si­tio­ning line that clearly tells the rea­der what your ex­per­tise is and will make it clear what kind of role you would be a good fit for. This is not an “Ob­jec­tive” sec­tion which is out­da­ted but ra­ther a head­line along the li­nes of what you see on Lin­kedIn just be­low your name. This is cri­ti­cal as it al­lows you to take con­trol over the first im­pres­sion you make and over your bran­ding when it co­mes to the ex­per­tise and po­si­tion you want to be known for — AND gi­ves your net­work the gui­d­ance to con­nect you with the cor­rect job leads. When you do not take con­trol of this first im­pres­sion, you will sim­ply be bo­xed into your last job title and that’s a mis­sed op­por­tu­nity, espe­cially if you are loo­king into a ca­reer tran­si­tion, loo­king at a step up in terms of se­nio­rity or… if your last sta­tus is Mom-at-Home… It’s about gi­ving gui­d­ance in terms of where you see yourself ra­ther than let­ting your last job title de­fine who you are.

The next im­portant block is the sum­mary that should fur­ther sup­port the po­si­tio­ning of your head­line To de­ve­lop a power­ful sum­mary, the best ap­proach is to think of an­s­we­ring the ques­tion “Why do you think you are the best fit for that kind of role while en­su­ring that you clearly high­light what makes you dif­fe­rent (and bet­ter) than other can­di­da­tes and how your spe­ci­fic skills set will de­li­ver ad­ded va­lue for an employer.

Thank you so much Ca­the­rine for these va­lu­able tips.

For more re­sour­ces and sup­port, check out the avail­able on­line course or book a dis­co­very call to ex­plore pri­vate coa­ching options:

You can fol­low + con­nect with Ca­the­rine.

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