9 Ways to Advance Your Career During an Extended Maternity Leave

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Making the decision to stay at home beyond the 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave provided for by the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 can be quite a challenge. While there are some states like California and Rhode Island that provide for a paid leave, not all states have that on the books. Even so, that is quite temporary and usually not extended past the 12 weeks stated in Federal Law.

These are especially important months in the development of a baby in terms of bonding with mom and so many moms choose to stay at home as long as possible. In fact, currently, there is a shortage of formula, so it can actually be necessary for nursing moms to be there for their infants. Nonetheless, it is a hard choice to make for professional women who want to stay active in their careers.

Perhaps you could use this time to advance your career so that stepping back into the workforce could potentially lead you to a higher position with greater earning potential. Let’s look at some of the ways you can use this time to advance your professional career.

1. Study Online for the Next Level Degree

One of the things you can do to advance your career is to get the next level degree in your field. For example, let’s say you are an RN with a master’s degree and would like to eventually become a DNP, Doctor of Nursing Practice. You want to eventually become a nurse practitioner with your own private practice.

You can study in an online DNP program with that master’s degree that qualifies you for admission into most programs. Even with a newborn baby that wakes every few hours during the day and night, you can study at your own pace and, of course, as you have the energy to do so.

No one ever said raising kids was easy and it certainly isn’t when you are lacking sleep! Even so, there is no reason why you can’t set your own hours and study as you can. Imagine walking back into the hospital where you are/were employed as a DNP! Get the experience you need and that dream of having your own practice is just around the corner.

2. Change Your Professional Profile

Here’s another tip that just might help you transition back into the workforce. While you don’t exactly want to say you are on maternity leave, you might want to state that you are now a consultant. This is especially important on sites like LinkedIn where professionals meet other professionals. You never know who might be out there following your career path. Jobs are found this way every day of the week. The key is to ‘appear’ active, and you just might get a few consulting referrals while you are at it. It doesn’t hurt to try.

3. Stay Active on Social Media

Speaking of LinkedIn, that’s just one of several social platforms out there. Remember to update your profile on all your social sites and by all means, stay active! Bear in mind that if you are a consultant you don’t want to appear as though you dropped off the face of the earth for extended periods of time. If there is an employer within your industry that is looking for an outsourced consultant and they like what they see on social media, you just might be the first call they make!

4. Take on Remote Work

Just because you are, for all intents and purposes, a stay-at-home mom doesn’t mean that you can’t take on a bit of remote work. Let’s refer back to that nurse mentioned above. There are hospitals around the country crying out for nurses to work their “dial-a-nurse” service because all hands are already on deck.

Don’t forget that there was already a critical shortage of nurses prior to the recent pandemic. With the huge number of nurses that lost their own battle against covid or left the workforce for personal reasons, there are very few hospitals working at capacity. This leaves vacancies in their telehealth services, so you just might be able to take on a bit of remote work during your time as a SAHM.

Nursing, however, is just one profession you could work remotely from home. Almost all industries have positions that can be worked from home, and this is evidenced by the sheer number of outsourced customer service departments. If you already have a computer online and set up to take advanced degree classes, why not do a bit of paid remote work while you are at it?

5. Keep up With Professional Contacts

Even though you may not be active within your profession, it never hurts to keep up with professional contacts. When it’s time to step back into your field of work, there is always a chance that one of your contacts has a lead on a job that might be right up your alley. Maybe it’s better hours and/or benefits, and maybe the pay grade is much higher.

Networking is always recommended among professionals, and this is one of the reasons why. It isn’t always because someone is on an extended maternity leave but when an opportunity for advancement presents itself, it often comes through a professional contact you’ve made along the way.

6. Volunteer

Once again, let’s refer back to that nurse who is on maternity leave. At various times throughout the year, there is a call for volunteer nurses. Sometimes it’s at the beginning of school years when vaccinations are being administered through public health, for example. In some rural communities, there simply aren’t enough nurses to go around and that’s why volunteers are always a welcome commodity.

Some SAHM nurses also stepped up to the plate during the crunch of the Covid pandemic. The administered tests and then later as vaccines became available, they volunteered their time there as well. As long as personal protective gear was available, they felt safe ministering to a population in need of testing and/or vaccinations.

Most professions can find something within their industries in which they can volunteer. Schools are always looking for professionals to come in for career days or to teach random lessons within their field. Not only does it keep you active within your field but volunteering with kids is one of the most satisfying ways to spend a few hours a week. Some schools even let you bring baby along!

7. Attend Industry Workshops

Even though you have committed to staying at home with your little one, that doesn’t mean you can’t get away for a day or an afternoon from time to time. Not only is it good professionally, but it is healthy personally as well. Everyone needs a break from time to time, so why not use that ‘break’ to attend an industry workshop?

Sometimes industry workshops and events are out of town, so you’d need to bring a baby with you. However, maybe your husband would like to come along, and you could call it a mini honeymoon with the exception being the baby who is naturally there with you.

Some professional moms on leave have teens who babysit from time to time while they go shopping or running a few errands. If that teen is a close friend of the family, their parents just might let them come along to watch the baby while you are in a session or two.

With or without help, you can always walk around with your baby in a carrier to meet up with other professionals you have met along the way or to see new industry ‘tools’ laid out on exhibit tables. The one thing to be extremely careful of during this time of a pandemic not yet retreated into the shadows is that you keep the baby at a distance from anyone and everyone. You never know who is a carrier!

8. Build a Public Brand

Not only should you stay active on social media, but it may be time to consider building an online presence to establish your personal brand. You may not realize it now but when it comes time to begin thinking about where you want to work when you are ready, having that online presence may open doors for you that you never knew existed.

Some SAHMs start a blog within their field. With great marketing strategies you just might make it to the top of organic searches. This is another way in which professionals are found during major recruitment periods for large corporations or other types of organizations.

If you start your own blog, you might want to check out WordPress, which is known to be the easiest CMS, Content Management System, out there. It’s user-friendly and can be quickly learned by the newest amateur out there. SEO (Search Engine Optimization), on the other hand, is not quite as easy to learn. With that being said, you can have a site up and running in a single afternoon. Although it would be a bare-bones website, you can add to it over time, which also helps to keep you current and active.

Don’t forget that YouTube is both a social platform as well as a search enginein which you can add or delete content as you see fit. YouTube is a great way to build a brand because it only takes a couple of “how to” videos to attract a major audience. There’s your brand right there!

9. Publish a PDF for Download

There are very few people, if any, who like to get something for nothing. While you might be tempted to charge for a publication that took you more than a little time to compose, that might not be in your best interest. The whole point of writing a PDF is to get it downloaded to the largest audience possible and passed around so that you are solidifying your brand and your knowledge within your industry.

For example, you are an RN but also a SAHM who begins to learn some of the things about being a first-time parent they weren’t prepared for. A helpful PDF guide on the first few months of being mom to a newborn might help new mothers to get through this time sane and whole. It will help countless others who don’t have the background in medicine and health that you do.

On the flip side, that PDF just might gain you recognition within your profession that you might otherwise never have achieved. You gain much more respect when operating from a position of authority and that’s something a ‘how to’ guide will give you. In fact, if you’ve created your own YouTube Channel, you can always link to your PDF there and vice versa. You can link to your YouTube Channel from your PDF, which will be read online 99.999% of the time. Few people print out those PDFs, but if they do? All the better! That makes it much easier for them to share as the opportunity presents itself.


Even though you’ve taken extended maternity leave to be there during these early months of a child’s development, you can use the time to advance your career. Baby will not demand every minute of every hour, even though you are tempted to do nothing other than gaze lovingly down at that miraculous bundle of joy.

Use this time to grow your knowledge within your field and to promote yourself as well. You may have originally thought to go back to your ‘old’ employer but if you’ve used these months to expand your own personal knowledge while building your own brand, you would be amazed at just how many opportunities await you out there.

No one ever said you can’t use this time to work toward advancing your career. If you want to grow alongside a baby, this is how it’s done. What an interesting concept that is, but perhaps one that’s better left for another day! In the meantime, congratulations on the birth of your baby, and good luck going forward with your career. That day will come sooner than you think, so enjoy this time while you have it. Your career can wait a little longer.