May 19, 2007

A Worried Mother

Another email from a reader:
" .... I have yet to read your opinion on stay-at-home mums who are aspiring to return to career later. This is exactly my situation. My husband and I migrated to Singapore and now are PRs. After working for a couple of years as professional officer in a stat board, I decided to quit to take care my son full time, since we do not have relatives to help us take care of the baby. We're also hesitant to rely on maids or childcare, and intend to provide the best conditions for breastfeeding and care, with me staying at home.

However I felt that it may be difficult for me to return to workforce when my son is 3 years old. Employers would question the gap in my resume, and "taking a break for family" is just not acceptable here in Singapore.

What are your thoughts about that?"
Personally I wouldn't be too worried.

When you take an extended break from work and then try to get a job again, the difficulty is that your skills may be a little out-of-date. You may be somewhat out of touch with industry trends and developments.

However this is a challenge faced by anyone who has taken an extended break from work. For that matter, similar challenges face those people who are crossing from one industry to another.

So the problem is not unique to women who have taken some time off to be full-time mothers. It may simply mean that you have to accept a lower salary than if you had not stopped work at all (which is fair, because if you had not stopped work at all, you would be more experienced and have more up-to-date skills).

In fact, if a job candidate had a gap in her resume, one of the best explanations reasons would be "I decided to stop work for two years, to look after my little baby." Everyone was a kid, and everyone has a mother, so at some level, we can all relate to that.

What really frightens employers are candidates who can't or won't disclose any reason for a protracted gap in their resume. Were they in prison? Did they have some mental breakdown or illness? Etc.

Incidentally, some employers are definitely more family-friendly than others. So it is good to do your homework. UBS, for example, is well-known for its flexible HR policies. Employees are welcome to propose their own working arrangements, to best accommodate their family needs. For example, you can propose to work a 4-day week; or to work 2 days from home; or whatever else.


Anonymous said...

"My husband and I migrated to Singapore and now are PRs."

Not happy can always go back to wherever you are from.
- Uncaring Singaporean who do NS

Anonymous said...

Even IBM has some really good women friendly working environment. flexi working policies.

though am not sure if IBM's singaporean mgmt has made it like any other singaporean company ;)

Anonymous said...

Overheard a conversation on detailing a job description in a Singapore MNC

'Let's look for someone who is single, not married and without kids. Doesn't have to be smart, just have to be willing to work hard and do overtime regularly.'

Mind boggling stuff.

Anonymous said...

Well, if you have the guts to pull it off (especially if you're testing waters initially), you could put being a mother as a full time job and then some and describe the "transferable" experiences with raising a kid. Put a positive spin on being a mum e.g. long hours, etc ;) I'm sure they'd like to hear that!

Who knows, that may break the ice! And I thought I saw some report that the "value" of stay home mums was USD 130,000 soooo....

Anonymous said...

I am aspiring to become a part-time sahm , next month actually..and a FT is taking over my job.

If you'd noticed, our gahmen don't give recognition to sahm..why? the more sahm means lesser maids needed hence..err...u know lah..Levy!
If she is worried having problem to return to workforce later, i think she can do some free-lancing or part-time job...or like first anon said, go back to wherever she is from lor...

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

1. People, I don't think hostility towards foreigners, for no other reason than that they are foreigners, is fair or justifiable. They, like us, just do the best they can for themselves and their families. Don't confuse them with the system & policies that brought them here.

2. Consider that the average career span of an employee is probably 40 years or more. If you look at it in that way, taking two or three years off for Baby is really not such a big deal for your career.

Anonymous said...

I really envy those people born in big countries so kind of unable to comprehend why there are people who go to tiny places to live and work for long term> Give me nature anytime and I sure feel blessed!

Anonymous said...

Well, even if some of the comments are hostile to immigrants, do remember that the issue facing Worried Mum is the same for anyone who is thinking of taking a break from work, FT or no FT.

I will speak as an employer and from what I learnt through many interviews with many come-back-to-work-mums and also people who have stopped work for one reason or another, eg look after dying parents etc (which also tends to be women.....).

If you really really really want to come back to work after a few years of looking after kids, the short answer is: you will likely face difficulty in finding a job.

The long answer is: you will face problem, but this depends on what is your targeted field, your actual experiences and qualification and also the current and future job market for that particular field. Sounds simple, but a lot of people do not find out enough before they decide to stop work for a while.

A good example of a profession where women can quit for a while and return to work is the medical profession. Doctors, pharmacists and nurses can quit work for a while and probably still can find work in their field when they return after a few years. There is always something in the government polyclinics and hospitals since there is a chronic shortage of manpower like since the dinosaur ages. Or simply work as a locum, which pays quite well. Of course, be prepared to be passed over for senior or specialists positions in the near future since you will be starting again.

If we are talking about an office worker, say an admin officer or a clerk, the situation is not so rosy. Unless you have some really special skills or experience, the truth is you will face difficulty in reentering the job market. There are plenty of people who do office admin work, so employers tend to choose people who are constantly working, and, dare I say it, younger clerks etc. And if you are able to find a job, it is probably at a lower starting pay. Or worse, as a no-benefit contract worker.

Your expectations need to be "realistic". This is a code for many women who has to re-enter the job market at a lower position or salary, or maybe even lower chances for promotion etc, despite being qualified for something better.

At this moment, the job market is supposedly good. The key word is "supposedly"..... the benefits of our booming economy is not shared evenly across all job sectors. More importantly, who knows what is the job market in a few years time at the actual moment you want to reenter the market? You may be facing a recession then. Or your field is "obsolete" or considered a sunset industry.

In summary, you need a little bit of luck:

(1) to find an enlightened employer who is willing to accept your reason for stopping work and will not be prejudiced against you,

(2) to be able to find a job at the same position and salary and benefits where you left off,

(3) to reenter the job market at the right time when the economy and your chosen field is booming, and,

(4) to have specific qualifications and skills and experiences in a chosen field which will continue to be in demand in a few years time and whose market value will not lessen over time (eg doctor).

These may sound very common-sense..... trust me, many people when they leave the job market to look after kids did not consider all these points. My experience is that many women do face some issues or another.

To Worried Mum, I have some suggestions on how to increase your chances (since I hear the same problems everytime I meet someone who has difficulty finding work). However, this comment is going a bit too long and if you want leave a contact email in the comment, I will get back to you.

Anonymous said...

Lau Min-Tsek, What's your email address or blog? I'd like to write you a love letter. Your comment is SPOT ON.

Anonymous said...

*gasp* I missed Hsien Lei's last comment until now. How can I not take up this offer!!??

Love letters are certainly welcomed!

I prefer the low cholesterol type and slightly burnt -- crunchier.

When can I expect them?