Sharpening your professional skills while on maternity leave.

Maternity leave can be an opportunity to take a pause, reflect on your career goals and potentially take some time to learn a new skill.  If you're considering sharpening your professional skills while on leave - consider the following. 

The first part of the process it to set yourself a reasonable goal.  While you may not be able to learn to speak fluent Italian and also teach yourself how to code, you can likely dive into something that’s always been of interest to you that can be tackled while the baby sleeps (which, in the beginning, is a lot).

The next piece is to find a way to access the training you’re looking for in a format that you can work with – likely from home.  There are many open university courses that cover a broad range of subjects from negotiation to psychology to computer sciences.

To name a few:

  • Coursera – offers access to courses from some leading institutions including Stanford, Princeton, HEC, Yale and others across the globe.
  • Udacity –  awards ‘nanodegrees’ in the tech space, enabling students to launch a career in Data Science, Machine Learning, Android, iOS, and more.
  • edX – offers the opportunity to earn university credits from top schools like Harvard, MIT, Berkley, Columbia and others worldwide.
  • In many cases, your local institutions or professional associations may also offer online, flexible courses that can help you to focus and hone a skill.

The benefit of keeping your skills sharp while on leave may be most evident when you are preparing to return to work.  Perhaps you are a more competitive candidate for a career change you’d been considering, or maybe you will be able to negotiate a project or position at your existing workplace that you may not have been able to in the past.  However you choose to apply your newfound knowledge, it is beneficial to have started your brain in “work mode” ahead of time as it can make the transition back easier and more effective.