When women think about taking a maternity break, they may encounter thoughts like, What if my career takes a step back during this phase? Will my employer underestimate my ability to give my best when I have additional responsibilities in my personal life?
What most people fail to realize is that you can prioritize your personal life as much as your professional life.
An inspiring example is CA Swati Bagri. She has had an amazing career with multiple Fortune 500 companies like Amazon, Coca-Cola, and Nestlé. Currently, she works with The Kraft Heinz Company as the Head of Finance Transformation in Dubai.
Surprisingly, she got a promotion during her maternity break in 2022.
Here is how she planned her maternity leave and promotions…
1. Start the maternity leave discussion early on
When Swati found out that she was pregnant, she walked up to her Manager and politely said,
“I am pregnant and I want to have a family, but this should in no way impact my career growth. I am going to give my hundred percent till the day I go on a maternity break.”
In the UAE, the duration of maternity breaks is not adequate. A female worker is entitled to a maternity leave of 60 days, out of which, 45 days will be fully-paid leave and 15 days will be half-paid leave as stated by the government.
However, Swati got 6 months of maternity leave.
2. Don’t lose touch with your colleagues
Keep communicating with your boss, managers, and colleagues during your maternity leave.
Call them up or meet them personally every now and then to keep up with the events in your company.
Let them know that you are just taking a temporary break.
3. Express your intention to return
Every three months after you’ve informed your office about your pregnancy, you should have career-related conversations with HR, your manager, and senior leadership.
Ask what role you can take up when you come back, how your career is going to look like post your maternity leave, or if they will provide you an opportunity if you take a couple of years off work.
Setting expectations for yourself and communicating them to your employer is important.
By doing this, when an opportunity comes up, they will remember.
4. Be confident
Only when you think you are worthy of handling your work, more people will rely on you and provide you with opportunities.
Be confident in your abilities to ask your employer for a promotion whilst on your maternity leave and right after.
“To be honest I wasn’t this confident when I started my corporate career. I didn’t even know how to speak proper English until I turned 15.” Says Swati.
Want to know how she transformed herself?
- She tried to learn new skills that would contribute to her interpersonal and communication capabilities.
- Swati talked to people from different backgrounds.
- She took the initiative to attend networking events or professional meet-ups which made her more confident.
So, keep on working on yourself and obtaining different perspectives.
5. Start afresh
Remember that, the timeframe of your maternity leave is going to be different.
“I gave birth to my first child last year so I understand why it’s important to take an adequate amount of time off work. While I took six months of break, I have seen a lot of women taking one to two years of break to take care of their infants, and that’s okay.” Assures Swati.
But if you take a leave of three to five years, it can be very difficult for a recruiter or an employer to consider you.
You have to be a little flexible in this situation and may have to take a different route in your career.
That’s when your networking skills come into play.
You can do this…
Swati got promoted whilst on her maternity leave, which doesn’t often happen in most established organizations in India.
How was it possible for Swati? By asking questions and trying her best.
Just have this thought process, “What’s the worst that could happen? People will say no, that’s it. But what if they say yes?”
If you don’t try you will not even get that yes, and the best things in life come when you try.
Here’s to you rocking as a professional and as a mother.