Top Tips for Getting Smarter on Parental Leave

Getting Smarter on Parental LeaveIs anyone in doubt as to the changed nature of the world of work? Frequent career transitions are now a way of life, some driven by us whilst others initiated by employers responding to changed economic conditions. I strongly believe that the only job security that exists now is what we provide ourselves by maintaining and enhancing our employability.

Continuing to develop is a key input to our employability but it can be difficult to find the time when you are a busy parent. It is critical that we do though. I have seen way too many people unexpectedly in career transition who have let this element of their career management slide and it can make the situation much more challenging.

Even a period of parental leave can be an excellent opportunity to upskill and here’s my top five tips on how one might do it:

  1. Enrol in a MOOC (massive open online course). These free courses offered by universities can be fantastic for learning something new, exploring a topic, assessing your aptitude for a subject, and may even constitute professional development time within your industry. Refer for a list of course providers. My favourites include and
  2. Be active in a professional association. There is a natural tendency to give up your membership when on parental leave, especially because there is a cost involved in maintaining it. Many associations are now offering a reduced rate for parental periods (put some pressure on them if they’re not). Amongst other things, your involvement provides access to professional development through events and industry magazines as well as networking (an important tool in your career management). Why not put yourself out there and write an article for the magazine?
  3. Get involved in the community. From helping out at your child’s kindy to supporting a local issue, community involvement is rich with development opportunities.
  4. Start a tertiary course. Most institutions now offer the flexibility of online education which you can access when it suits you, and your family. If it’s one of your longer term goals, maybe you can get a head start on it while on leave.
  5. Jump onto YouTube. Don’t underestimate the potential of this platform. We now live in a knowledge economy where you have access to unparalleled amounts of information and education with an internet connection. I once learned how to change the battery in my iPhone with YouTube and an $8 kit I purchased on EBay (getting another two years out of the phone).

Finally, don’t forget to capture what you’re doing somewhere because these strategies can position you well for a performance review or job interview as long as you tell them about it! Why not share these ideas with someone in your network embarking on parental leave?

Donna Thistlewaite

Director at Career Vitality
Donna is a mum, career coach, and lifelong learner. She has enjoyed a career spanning 30 years inspired by her passion for people. With a human resources background she transitioned into career consulting to help people revitalise their careers. Donna has a particular interest in supporting return to work and working parents and is an advocate for gender diversity and workplace flexibility.She has achieved a number of university qualifications and is a professional member of the Career Development Association of Australia (CDAA).
Donna’s business, Career Vitality, supports women considering returning to work through CareerSmart Mums, a workshop currently running quarterly in North West Brisbane.