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Returning to work after a career break is not easy given mindsets in India as well as women’s internal conflicts. Return to work tips from a working mother who’s been there, done that.
I was in the midst of a successful career, really busy making it work for me, when suddenly I had to pause unexpectedly; I was pregnant…expecting our first child. Well, that did not bother me and all seemed fine until I noticed things were changing around me.
The meetings were getting fewer and there were not many new projects coming to my kitty. I was still performing like before but my boss’ perception of me and my abilities had changed. Not liking this, I tried to fight but it was a hidden gun pointed at my face; needless to say, I did not survive the bullet.
Does this sound familiar? I think many would relate to my story. We may be creating welfare policies at corporate levels but they will be ineffective useless pieces of paper until we change the mindset.
It is not gender specific either – I have seen many women managers too saying that they would not like to promote or hire somebody who is pregnant. Once your secret is revealed, things begin to change. Plans for bigger roles, promotion, on site visits etc. suddenly disappear.
This is not just us in India – it’s a global phenomenon affecting many women. And it was nice to see so much buzz about it in the virtual world; a hope that may be something would change soon in reality.
I could clearly see that I was being set up for an unsuccessful return after my maternity leave, but fighting was difficult and surprisingly, other women were watching discreetly.
I could clearly see that I was being set up for an unsuccessful return after my maternity leave, but fighting was difficult and surprisingly, other women were watching discreetly. Nobody chose to voice their support with me – probably it worked for them but we failed as a society, I feel.
It did give me a purpose though, I chose to write read and research about my state.
During my time out and a successful return, I realized a few things that we must consider:
Keep in touch with your network of colleagues and friends: This is important as you would not want your image frozen in time, making a comeback difficult for you later. People might be able to help with useful information once you are ready.
Keep polishing your core skills: While planning a comeback this is the most difficult part. Prospective employers would want to know why they should hire you after a break and whether your skills are updated.
Identify creative ventures: I choose to explore my writing skills and started a blog. This helps in two ways – I research so that my knowledge quotient is not degraded and I am creating stuff so my skill quotient is in place. There are other options as well like writing a book in your professional field, doing freelance work, voluntary work etc.
Connect with like-minded people: Believe me, during my research to write about this, I was amazed to find a lot of women who are currently in my boat. This made me feel better and this collaboration helps build a support system, knowledge sharing and at the end, you feel you have support.
Upgrade your skills: Consider further education or certifications. While planning my first career break I was finding it hard to get past the initial resume screening rounds; I was rejected without a second glance. Then I found out that I needed to upgrade, so I did my post-graduation and it helped. Needless to say, I landed a job.
Keep up your confidence: My mind doubted my abilities as being at home had its adverse effects – I had lost my confidence. It might sound silly but this worked for me – I dressed like I was going to work and would hunt for jobs. I imagined myself working, made my friends take mock interviews and perhaps fooled my brain, but I gained confidence!
I imagined myself working, made my friends take mock interviews and perhaps fooled my brain, but I gained confidence!
Seek support when you need it: Once I decided to get back, it was difficult to get a break. After struggling alone for a few months, I connected with friends and asked them to help. It worked. Now that being said, we need to be judicious about whom you seek help from, as it will work negatively on your self-esteem if you face rejection or no support from friends.
Here is a little more about me to douse your curiosity, I am a mother to two, a HR professional turned poet-writer-blogger. I took a career break in 2008 after my first child. I am proud to say that I successfully broke the edge of unemployment and returned to work but then had to take another break after just 10 months of being employed. Want to know why? Read my next post!
There is one more aspect worth mentioning. While planning to bounce back I am sure many, like I did, wonder if they are neglecting their responsibilities, is it worth it and if the time is right or when should we plan a return. I realized after much introspection that the answer to all these is a simple no!
We are not neglecting anything and the time is right when you are ready. Children go to school; does that mean they are neglecting you? The husband goes to work and so should you if you want to – we all have dreams and we should go after them freely.
In my quest to share and support other women in my boat, here are my top return to work support resources and some interesting posts from around the globe.
May be this can pep you up, help you gear for the fight to land a great job! Browse through the list and click on whatever works for you to read, learn and win.
A slightly longer version of this post was originally published at the author’s blog.
Pic credit: GSCSNJ (Used under a CC license)
I am a poet, writer, book reviewer, book cover designer, active blogger addicted to writing-
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