Returning to work after having a baby isn’t as simple as swapping sweatpants for actual pants, but there are some things you can do to ease the transition. Beth Yarzab is a career coach for moms, the founder of Career Fit Mom, and a former recruiter and HR professional. Holly Hagan writes LinkedIn profiles and resumes. Both are working moms with solid advice on what to do before, during and after your mat leave.
If that all sounds like a bit much, relax: these tips are all way easier than performing one-handed diaper changes, soothing colicky evenings, or performing any of the other survival tricks you’ll pick up parenting. You’ve got this.
BEFORE YOUR MAT LEAVE
Lay down trusted relationships with colleagues. “A lot can change in that year away,” says Yarzab. Colleagues and supervisors come and go and projects change; be sure to develop relationships with a few close colleagues “who can really give you the straight goods on what the lay of the land is.”
Turn off your LinkedIn activity broadcasts. “This will prevent your network from getting an announcement each and every time you tweak your profile,” says Hagan. (Find your broadcast details under ‘Privacy & Settings.)
DURING YOUR MAT LEAVE
Cut yourself some slack, especially in the beginning. “It’s totally fine to disengage with your professional life as much as you want in that year,” says Yarzab. “You can work forever, but you only get that first year of joyful baby moments for that one year.” She also notes that for first-time moms, the transition from being a professional, competent person, to an exhausted, unsure parenting novice is not exactly confidence inspiring. “It’s crazy hard,” says Yarzab, “[and] it’s maybe not the best time to be communicating with people at work right off the bat.” Send your colleagues an email with the baby’s name and photo, and stick to purely social communications for the first little while.
Once you’re established in your baby routine, get active on LinkedIn. Join groups relevant to your field, and post and comment according to your own schedule, says Yarzab. But whatever you do, “Do not update your profile to say that you are on maternity leave,” cautions Hagan. “Just because you are on leave, [doesn’t] mean you are not employed by your company.”
TOWARDS THE END OF YOUR MAT LEAVE
Let your employer know you’ll be back. About two months before the end of your mat leave, contact HR or your manager and let them know your anticipated return date; book a meeting to discuss the process. Good inquiries will help re-establish your professional status, says Yarzab. She suggests asking questions like, ‘What are the most important things I can accomplish in my first six weeks back?’ The answer will not only help you establish and negotiate expectations, it will also provide opportunities for quick wins. You can also ask about challenges your team faced while you were away, as well as any new employees, initiatives or projects you need to know about.
Stay active on LinkedIn. “Continue with your profile maintenance and building your network,” says Hagan. “Respond promptly to invitations to connect, always personalize your connection requests, and login regularly to like posts, add connections, and share updates. All of these activities help keep your name (and face) top-of-mind in your network. And don’t forget to turn back on your activity broadcasts.”