“How will having a baby affect my career”, is a lament we often hear, and it is such a difficult question to answer, as each person is different. The answer, though, is largely up to you. Of course when we hear men ask this question, we know that we really will have achieved a level playing field!
Having a baby is a big step in anyone’s life, whether mother or father, and for those with career aspirations, it is important to plan your career around any extended periods of leave you might be taking.
As with all difficult or perceived difficult situations, communication is the golden rule. The following are our suggestions for making sure communication in relation to not just your leave but your return to work remains open and that there are no misunderstandings:
Meet with your supervisor
As soon as possible after you advise of your intention to take parental leave, it is important that you meet with your supervisor to discuss your career intentions and how best to minimise the impact on your career. In the world we live in it is often easy for managers to make assumptions about what people expect or don’t expect from their careers once parenthood hits them. Things you will need to discuss including:
How to stay in touch with the firm – decide how much you want to stay in touch with the firm and what is happening in the firm and your colleagues. You could request that information about your group and the firm be sent to a private email address or you could decide to keep your email operational for you to check emails from time to time. This is entirely up to you but be careful if you keep your operational email open that you don’t get caught up in doing work when you’re on parental leave, unless of course you want to. Make a visit for the usual ‘ baby showing’ and keep up regular visits or contact with colleagues, This can be via email communication, coffee or lunch catch-ups or a drink after work one night, with or without the baby.
Salary – most organisations have a set program for reviewing salaries. If you are taking an extended period of parental leave, it is highly likely that salary reviews will take place while you are away from the office. Make sure that you continue to be on the list of salaries to be reviewed, particularly if your leave commences just prior to the salary review process. If your salary is not reviewed in the normal course of events, then on your return to work, salary bands are likely to have shifted upwards and you will be “behind the eight ball” in terms of your recommencement salary. If your leave starts just before salary review time, then it is imperative that you stay on the list of staff to be reviewed given that most reviews take place on the basis of performance over the last 12 months.
Decide how much you want to know about clients and how much you want to stay in touch with clients – if you are quite senior in your career you have probably established very good client relationships. It is important that you let your supervisor know if you wish to continue to be invited to client social events and be kept up to date with what is happening with the client. Of course you can use your own research to keep an eye on what is happening with your clients in the press and through their website, and other outlets.
Do you want to make yourself available for client work or not – while you are on parental leave, it is assumed that you don’t want to do any work, however if there comes a point where you are happy to be involved in work matters, make sure you let your supervisor know. This is also a good way for a gradual return to work on a limited hour’s basis.
By showing you are committed to continuing your career, your return to work will be a much smoother transition than if you are absent from work for an extended period of time with no contact.