I have recently met a middle-aged woman who has been out for work for the last three years. She told me that before she had her two daughters, she had worked in a large international FMCG company and was responsible for marketing of one of the world’s famous brands. When she decided to try and get back into employment after her maternity leave, she received rejection after rejection and as a result, lost her confidence and inspiration to look for more jobs. She confided in me that at one of her interviews, a sympathetic hiring manager openly told her that it would be much harder for her to demonstrate her skills and abilities after such a long ‘break’, even though she had completely dedicated her time to caring for her children and hadn’t had a free moment to herself for a very long time.
This story has inspired me to write this post. I believe that being a mother teaches a woman a number of invaluable skills that can be easily transferred and add value in the world of work. We can call it ‘a competitive advantage’ of motherhood.
The first one of these transferable skills is efficiency. Being a mother forces a woman to learn to juggle a few tasks at the same time. Motherhood is a challenging, high-paced job and you don’t just stop because it is time for lunch or Friday 5pm has struck. There is an endless list of things that need to be completed with the baby being a demanding ‘manager’, continuously assessing your efforts and evaluating your progress. This ability to multi-task is invaluable in a workplace where you may, for instance, be required to prepare a presentation while answering client calls and contacting the technical team for assistance – all at the same time. And on top of this, you are subjected to tremendous time pressure to accomplish all of these tasks.
This brings me to the next crucial transferrable skill – effective time management. Being a mother, you normally don’t get a chance to read, relax, and listen to music in the privacy of your own company unless a baby is napping or is in bed for the night. So you learn to use these precious couple of hours to catch up on the latest news, answer long-neglected emails, return phone calls and maybe if lucky, do a spot of shopping online. You become a ‘master’ of time management, taking seconds to skim through interesting articles, book pages, long emails, listen to the news while preparing the next batch of pureed food for your constantly hungry baby. Let me tell you – the modern workplace ‘screams’ for employees who can plan and execute an important project in the matter of hours and while at it, do it to the highest standard of quality. And then keep taking on more tasks and assignments not to waste the remaining time. Mothers do appreciate the value of time and how best to use it!
The third transferable skill I would like to emphasise is the ability to regroup fast after numerous setbacks. Mothers face many frustrating rejections and challenges on an almost every day basis – the baby may refuse a bottle or his vegetables for lunch, or suddenly change his mind about the time of his nap. The woman needs to be able to adjust fast and find an alternative course of action to achieve the result. Thick-skinned employees who can pull themselves together after a failure or any kind of setback are respected and in high demand. Say, for instance, the client is not satisfied with the final report you have produced on the back of a long and difficult project. It is easy to get de-motivated and start blaming your colleagues who have also contributed to the report. Alternatively, you can just pull yourself together and spend some time re-writing and perfecting the parts of the report your client is not happy about. Being a mother teaches you to choose the latter path.
I believe that being a mother equips you with an arsenal of many highly-transferable skills that employers seek out in their candidates. It is a matter of believing in yourself, emphasising these abilities and the ways they can be of use in a workplace. For some, it may take years to develop and perfect these skills so take advantage of this other gift the motherhood has given you!