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I chose to go against the tide, secretly hoping that someday I would change the narrative with my own ‘story of return.’ Here’s how I did it!
Most of us will remember 2020 as the year of the pandemic and the impact it created. But I will remember it for a very important milestone in my life. It was the year I kickstarted Career 2.0 or rather, the year I returned to work.
It was 2017 when I finally did what I felt was the right thing to do. I decided to take a quit my job and take a break. The sabbatical was a welcome break after having juggled work and daycare routine for years.
For the first few months, I just soaked in the feeling of the guilt-free motherhood. I even spent a whole month at my parents’ place after a whole decade. Then it was time to move to revive old hobbies and find new ones – writing and blogging being one of them.
Soon, we touched the two-year mark and my son and I both were ready for me to get back. As expected it was a roller-coaster ride for the next 5-6 months and finally, in Jan 2020, I was back to work, in a role that I loved.
The question that I have been often asked is – how easy was it? And how did you do it?
Well, the answer is not really straight and simple. However, in hindsight, I think there were a few things that made the difference. And these could be of help for those who are planning to embark on this journey.
I owned my choice to first take a break and return. And I only did it because I wanted to, not because someone else wanted me to. It was a decision I was very sure of because I had lived with it my head long enough before taking the plunge.
As it happens with most choices, there was a give and take. I was stepping away at a time when I was doing really well professionally and the future looked promising. And I was leaving it all when the voices around me were all warning me that I would never be able to return.
But in my head, I knew that what I stood to gain outweighed all other concerns. I knew I owed these two years to the mother in me and my decision was aligned to my core values.
The sanest advice came from my younger sibling, who said: ‘No decision is right or wrong, it’s all in your hands ultimately. What and how you do during your break and post it will define whether it was good or bad.’
Clarity of what I could live with it and without- My expectations for my new job were realistic and practical. Yes, my son had grown up. But he still needed me around so when I had to let go of an opportunity that did not fit in with my idea of work-life balance, I did not hesitate.
Giving it a try, is advice many may give but making a commitment and then backing off is not the kind is work ethic I would choose or recommend.
Passion for my work and willingness to keeping learning – I always loved my profession at it was more than a job for me, it was my passion. So all through I was in touch with industry trends and also did some freelance (mostly pro bono) work in my field.
It not only kept in me connected to the field but was also very satisfying for the career woman in me. Given my experience, I can say that continuous learning is the one thing that can make or mar your prospects for return.
Once I decided to return, this was my strongest armour. Never did I allow my own self to believe that it was difficult/impossible. I also consciously stayed away from people who would make me believe otherwise.
There were acquaintances and some ex-colleagues who had already written me off, even before I took my first step towards return. This was based on their own experiences. To keep all the negativity at bay, I invested my time in learning and reading inspiring books. This was of great help!
My family stood by me like a rock when I decided to leave against all negative advice and also when I decided to return. And my parents, who have always been the real inspiration behind my career, supported my decision to return too. My siblings were there with me holding my hand at every step, so much so that I realised, I couldn’t have done it without them.
And now for some bitter pills – As I mentioned earlier, it was a roller-coaster ride with is share of bumps. So on the way, I realised that there are organisations who will want you for your skills but not hire you for that break in a career.
Then again you will realise you really can’t count on everyone in your professional network. Often, people who have always leveraged your support in the past may now become elusive.
Some personal equations also undergo a change. People don’t see you at the same person once your corporate title and the associated frills are gone. But the silver lining was the support coming from unexpected quarters. And these bumps only made me stronger and wiser.
My spiritual journey and professional training as a life coach have always propelled me to be there for people. But with these experiences behind me, I was more sure than ever before of my commitment to be there for other women who were trying to take a break or planning to return
The day I took a break and resolved to return, I realised I did not have many examples to refer to. All I heard were those voices reminding me that not many have been able to return back, especially those who left at a leadership position.
After all, weren’t leaders supposed to be role models – women managing it all seamlessly. Rather than revealing their vulnerabilities by raising their hands and saying, “I need help. A break, because something other than my career is more important for me, at this time.”
But, once again I chose to go against the tide, secretly hoping that someday I would change the narrative with my own ‘story of return.’ So here I am sharing my story. This is my humble attempt to let you all know it’s possible and you can do it too!
A version of this was earlier published here.
Picture credits: Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels
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