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And the new decade has begun. Do you plan to restart your career this year? Well, fret not, for we have a step-by-step guide on how to do that!
“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” — Martin Luther King Jr.
Exactly 13 months ago, I was experiencing the struggles of a woman trying hard to get back to work. Applying to a 100+ jobs, answering interviews, it seemed like getting back was tougher than I thought.
I had people ask me a myriad set of questions. ‘Why the five year break? What did you do all that time?’ I answered all these questions and wore my break on my sleeve. Even when the interviewers asked me these questions, I told that that now that I was here and willing to start all over again. I asked them to take me for the value I brought to the organisation.
So, here I am recounting my comeback journey, the roadmap I followed. Hoping that it helps someone out there who’s looking to restart, or just to back themselves up.
The first and most fundamental question here, is ‘Why do you want to come back? In what ways will you contribute to an organisation?’ Please write this down and keep it in a journal. On rough days, you can revisit this and use it as motivation to propel yourself forward.
An analogy to help you sketch this out will be, to write your own value hypothesis. ‘I want to get back to work as (x) because I am passionate about (y) so that I can contribute to (z)’ You may have to keep revisiting your value hypothesis as your comeback journey pans out.
There will be lots of questions. Many, you won’t have answers for. It’s bound to happen. Just trust yourself, you will handle all that comes along as time unfolds. For the need of having a roadmap in place, see if timelines work for you. They worked well for me and gave me a sense of direction.
For reference have a Day Zero (the day you decide to make a comeback) and track each day or week till the day of reckoning, Day Career 2.0 comes. For me, after almost 5 years, it was 3rd August 2018. It took 20 weeks to come.
To me, that means taking efforts, having self belief and grit.
You need all of these depending on how your day has transpired. To keep learning, up-skill, building your profile online and offline, you need concerted effort.
There are multiple channels where you need to keep refurbishing your profile, LinkedIn being an important one. To apply for roles, go to interviews- day in and day out.
You will need to have a strong sense of self-belief. For recovering after every interview that did not go well or convert, you will need to fall back on grit.
On days that your ideas get struck down, or you don’t hear back, you will have to fall back on one of these to help you cope. It does hurt when you pin your hopes on something and don’t get it. And it definitely is not a nice feeling, but in the long run, it does help you gain perspective
Assess why you didn’t make it, collect yourself, get up and try again. It’s like saying, go test that code you developed, there will be some bias, but an assessment helps get some closure to move forward. Framing your conversations, listening to what you say to yourself is essential, especially to avoid going into a downward spiral of self-doubt.
Here, I’d also like to add one more aspect. Please try to understand the dynamics from a recruiter’s point of view too. I used to wonder, why is it they don’t get back sometimes, while others promptly do?
Empathise with them and accept the fact that they go through 100’s of resumes on a daily. It is a mammoth task to sift through all of them and select the candidate who is the right fit. Put effort in doing up your resume, in a way that it gives them some incentive to pick yours. Make it visual, crisp and succinct, choose your style.
My first resume ran up to 4 pages, where I almost wrote my life story. No doubt, there were hardly any calls! It was then I realised that a resume is just a summary of your work. Two pages of an outline of professional work suffice. It acts like a catalyst that helps you go the next level- interview, it does not help you get the profile right way.
In line with your interests, attend meet-ups, events- it can be technical, creative, domain-related but do put yourself out there. The question arises, “How do I talk to strangers?”
Allow me to frame this for you. Until the first conversation, the person is a stranger, the moment you initiate a conversation and lead them into your life a bit, they cease to be one. Once you communicate who you are, why you are there and what is that you are looking to learn from that event, they will respond accordingly.
Networking is not asking how the other person can help you. Networking (to me) is communicating value. It is telling the other person, what is that you know and how you can help them.
Let me be upfront about this, it’s not all rosy out there. Some may snub, there are a few cynics out there who will ask you, ‘Why now? Why do you even want to get back? It is going to be a futile effort.’
That’s when you step in and put things in context. Take charge of the narrative and tell them what is that you bring. People will always have opinions, that need not affect your mindset.
Choose your inner circle well. Coming after a 5-year gap, it took me a little while to understand the dynamics of group behaviour. After being limited to interacting with a small group at home, when you interact with fifty-sixty odd people, it takes a while to understand who means good and who comes with an agenda. I learnt this the hard way.
You will figure it out eventually but be compassionate with yourself. Focus on those who give you positivity. Keep them close and nurture your relationship with them.
To begin your restarting journey, leverage various platforms available. JobsForHer, Avtaar, Her-SecondInnings, Women’s Web, Sheroes and many more. There are many corporate organisations who are looking to hire women coming back from a break, but I’ll need another article for them! One very important aspect before restarting is to try to get a support system in place. I know this is easier said than done.
The first 3–4 months of work post-gap will take some time getting used to, so have mechanisms in place to manage things at the home front. For me, my husband and my 5-year-old daughter have been a big support. In fact, in the first 3–4 months when I was struggling to settle down at my new workplace, my daughter helped me stay positive.
After settling down in the new workplace, if time permits, try volunteering with focus groups, attend events based on your preferences and your area of strength. A few that I am familiar with are WIP (Women in Product), Lean-In Women in Tech India (Lean In WiTI), WiMLDS (Women in machine learning and data science), SWE (Society of women engineers), WWCode (WomenWhoCode), WomenTechMakers, Anitab.org, etc. These community-based platforms are advocates of knowledge sharing, so actively participate whenever possible. It has done me a world of good.
The reality is that we have missed out on a few things during the break. For me, it was social interaction and need to contribute to an organisation. But for you, it may something else you are looking for. Leverage all available community-based platforms, listen to other’s stories- both successful and not so successful ones. Learn, unlearn, relearn. I’m trying to do this a every day.
Remember, you decide your sense of self-worth. But the onus lies on you to communicate your value effectively.
A couple of days ago, while finishing dinner I asked my daughter “What time is it”? She said “Mama, it’s story time!”.
So, now let me ask you “What’s your STORY?”
This is your moment. Own it!
Picture credits: Pexels
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Ruby Mathew is currently a Product Owner, an aspiring storyteller and a proud re-starter.
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