Restarting My Career: New Career Path Or Comfortable Old One?

A woman who took a break after the birth of her children wants to get back to working. She is confused between a drastic career change or opting for comfort. 

A woman who took a break after the birth of her children wants to get back to working. She is confused between a drastic change of career or opting for comfort. 

Mentor Centre is a Women’s Web initiative where you get to ask your career queries and we get you thoughtful responses from leading women in industry. If you have a question, ask away!

Here is what you asked us:

“Ten years ago, I had a full time job at an architecture firm and I was quite fond of that job. However, in 2011, I got married and had my first child in 2013. I continued working till 2015, when I had my second child. That was when I quit to take care of my children full time.

Now that my kids are grown up, I want to go back to working. I do know that I won’t be able to do the same kind of work I did earlier. However, I was always interested in graphic designing and took an online course for that. I am thinking of venturing into freelance designing but I am not sure if it’d be a good idea.

Do you suggest going back to my old field or trying something new?

Usha Pillai responded:

Dear Smitha,

Welcome to the quintessential dilemma of a returnee/2nd career woman! Firstly, I must congratulate you on keeping yourself up-to-date (getting qualified) in an area of interest. In my experience not many women do that, one of whom is yours truly. This was when I had taken a 5 year break, after a work experience of 21 years, to be with my son as he moved though school, high school.

It took me a good six months to land a job- at a step lower in designation and almost a 40% lower salary. The root cause of this, I discerned, was because I did not do anything relevant to the professional field during the break and of course lack of networking. As you see – this is a common phase of confusion, of acceptability and self confidence which most women go through when we take a break in our career. When I got back to work – it was as though I had not taken a break! I was able to slip back in into the mould of a professional with great ease – as most women will share with you.

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Coming to your query on should you go back to something familiar or a take a chance (most people would call it risk) at something new – this would depend on your personality. Are you risk averse? Does doing something new (which you are not sure of in terms of returns) excite you? Are you sure of yourself? And confident that what you do will yield results sometime or the other? Do you have support from your family members? Whether we like it or not, we are subconsciously influenced by key family members – spouse, parents, etc.

Now that I have put you on a “thinking” mode. Think, if doing something new excites you, and you want to be your own boss and are brimming with confidence- I would suggest you give yourself two years. Take this time to prove that you can become a successful freelance graphic designer.

You must prepare the ground – create a website, be active on the social media, build and leverage your network etc. Don’t just announce to the world that you have arrived and expect the work to pour in. If the results are not what you expected – then consider getting into employment.

However, if you are a risk averse person – then I would suggest – get back into familiar surroundings. Get back to being employed full time or part time. You need to be realistic that you might be offered a lower designation and lower salary. So, build your credibility for a year or two, expand your network, get in touch with graphic designers and then take a decision of going freelance.

Before you plunge in back to work, please ensure you have a well thought out workable support system and a back up support system for your children’s needs. Without this basic plan in place, you will stare at another break from work before you know it.

Picture credits: Pexels

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