smile, breathe, smile, breathe

S**t, there is snot on my jacket. Do I look like I’m trying too hard to not have baby fat? Will she go to sleep at daycare? Am I actually going to remember anything? So many new faces. What if she hates it and cries all day and they call me and I need to leave? Oh god, I hope no one asks me anything. Don’t talk too much about the baby - you don’t want to come across like one of those mums...”

That was literally what was going on in my head in the 30 second lift ride up to my office on my first day back at work after eight months off.

Having my first baby changed something in me. So many things that are better, but one big difference has been my confidence.

I had read research and reports that upon returning to work after extended leave, some people experienced a lack of confidence. I remember thinking that wouldn’t be me, but even now after six months back at work I still sometimes feel that nervous knot in my stomach. 

I have worked for Randstad for 11 years and made my way through the business in many different roles. I love working at Randstad and my new role (GM of Diversity and Inclusion) is something I have been passionate about for a long time. I was incredibly excited about returning so there was no logical reason as to why I doubted myself. I have friends, colleagues and clients who have all commented the same. I however have a supportive husband and company that see my little wobbles, and don’t judge me, allowing me to embrace them. I also made sure I followed some of these return to work tips:

actively plan your return

I made sure I arranged a time to catch up with my manager before I returned, away from the office. This meant I didn’t run into people who would start asking questions or email me all the tasks they needed help with. I asked if there where any changes I needed to be aware of and what my manager’s top priorities were for me for when I returned so I could be prepared. This helped me organise my week and know what my “wins & outcomes” were which resulted in me feeling I had achieved something which helped develop my confidence.


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be prepared to ask for help

Knowing who’s who in the zoo after being away for an extended period of time really helped me. Speaking to people who were still in the business and I knew I could go to, and making new connections with people who had started while I was away. I wrote little reminders of who was subject matter experts in particular areas so I didn’t ask the same person a thousand times a day.

embrace change

Businesses develop and change,  your company and colleagues probably won’t be the same.  Let go of “this is what I used to do” and start looking at what is happening now. I looked at the new technology Randstad was using and projects that are being worked on, to see if I could get involved. The more informed I was, the more confident I felt in putting forward my ideas.

I know now that having a lack of confidence at times, will make me work harder to deliver the best results for my clients and that even if I second guess my choices and ask for advice, that will just open up more conversations and the ability to embrace change and ideas.

I will still come to work with snot on my jacket, unfortunately that won’t change for a while...

Looking to return to work after extended leave, part-time positions and job share opportunities?

See our latest job openings here or contact Kerry McQuillan at

about the author

Kerry McQuillan

state director qld & national lead d&i at randstad australia

Kerry is responsible for Randstad’s QLD business. She worked in the HR and Recruitment industry, both in the UK and Australia for 17 years. Her focus is to support and encourage my teams to be successful, help grow their drive and ambition and to foster inclusion, promote broader perspectives and drive diverse thinking and business results which will help Randstad deliver a distinctive experience for our clients, candidates and for our employees.

Kerry is passionate about inclusion and supporting people in obtaining meaningful employment and reducing as many barriers as possible.