Check out the ultimate guide to 16 return-to-work programs in India for women
Are you going back to work? Check out these tips that would help you smoothen out the creases of worry and have a pleasant experience.
Women pause their careers for multiple reasons. Many of the reasons attributed would be personal – marriage, childbirth, raising a child, and other household commitments, apart from professional reasons like exploring different options or domains etc. Going back to work is a difficult thing to do.
Resuming work after an extended time gap is a challenge, and is fraught with many difficulties. Even women who had lucrative careers face breakdowns and depression while planning to resume work.
The reason is that the break in the career automatically makes you fall off the grid, giving you low or no opportunities when you want to come back.
To fall off the corporate ladder is as painful as when you are starting again; it will not seat you on the same rung from where you had fallen off. Move your feet, miss your seat- it is the phrase that sums up the situation.
Moreover, the competitive marketplace fuels the scalding inner turmoil, making you lose faith in yourself.
S, a creative director who put her career on hold after her daughter was born, said:
“I was happy at first, looking after my kid and being at home. I loved being part of my child’s precious milestone moments, but after a few years, I was suffering from anxiety and depression, which caused me to break down even on the sunniest of days.”
She had it tough, though, when she planned to join the workforce. Even though she had ten plus years of experience, she had to go through a rigorous grind to get a job.
But if you think that was hard, ask R, who was an experienced HR professional. She said:
“I left my job after marriage as my husband travelled a lot, so, to support him, I quit. Initially, I thought it is going to be for a short while, but months became years, leading to a big gap in my career. Joining after a break is traumatic as you suffer from lots of self-doubts and apprehension. I lost my confidence and felt helpless, even though I was a star performer in my earlier job.”
These two women, who wore their accomplishments on their sleeves and had taken numerous noteworthy decisions in their earlier careers, were not the only ones who faced a lot of self-doubt and harassment, along with depression. Most women returning to work face this, but stay silent.
These are a handful of tips that will help you smoothen out the creases while you are planning to get back on your feet to climb the steps of your office space:
First and foremost, the challenge is to break the mental block that stops you from re-entering the job market. If you have decided to join the workplace or restart your career, holding your head high is necessary.
Working on body language is mandatory to hail confidence with open arms. Positive self-talk goes a long way in building shattered confidence. Don’t be harsh on yourself; instead be kind, which will help you pick the thread from where you had dropped it earlier.
“I am capable enough,” should be your mantra. Re-energise yourself with this mantra. A break does not mean you lack skills and a prowess in your profession, but it is just an event in the network of events. Revisit all your past achievements and power up your mind.
A job resume is a first-hand information about yourself to a potential employer. It does not matter if you have nothing to show in the years you were on a break, but there is always a crisp way to put out your past achievements and experiences.
Spend time with your resume, rephrase your job descriptions, weed out the unnecessary stuff, and improve the language. Make your resume stand out in a precise way.
Try getting help from a professional if necessary, or ask your circle to have a look at it. A second pair of eyes is always helpful to proofread and build a robust document.
In this time and age, your network is important to stay relevant and coherent with the changing times. Moreover, the more the qualitative connections, the more your chances of getting good opportunities.
Have a long chat with your ex-colleagues or people in the same line of profession as yours. Get insights on changing scenarios and market trends.
Be the ladle, and stir up the insights shared by your connections. Then scoop out the areas that are hot in your domain and build/train yourself to suit the requirements that envelope those domains.
Once you have identified the areas that are trending, the next step is attaining and equipping yourself with the knowledge of those areas. You might be good at content writing, and even though you are a seasoned writer and gathered a good amount of experience, the market is evolving, and technological advancements are plenty.
Now that visual content speaks volumes, you may consider pushing the pen to the other side, as video content is the new trend that most companies prefer.
So, introspect and learn the skills that will hold water in current times. There are numerous courses available, and specialised certification courses are aplenty.
You can seek guidance from the people who use these skills in their job. Courses will give you bookish or theoretical knowledge, but learning from professionals will hone your theory by providing you with application around it, making you a much-sought-after candidate in the job market.
Once you are mentally prepared to resume, you need to have a deep conversation with your family. They are the prime stakeholders who would be affected by this new change.
So, include your spouse, children and extended family. Let them understand your schedule so that they are aware of your routine, work demands, and free time.
Your family is the biggest support system, so let them handhold you and walk you through it.
When the support system is ready, half the battle is won. Especially if you have a child and they are dependent on you, you might have to work around their school timings, class timings, and work slots.
Trust me, it would not be easy, and everything may not fall in place at the very instant, but gradually, the creases will smoothen. It is where family plays an important role in the net when you are close to a fall.
Other than the family, you need to arrange a secondary support system, given that your partner may have their work demands, travel plans and ad hoc requirements to fulfil.
Your secondary support system could be a maid, housekeeper, daycare centres for your child, etc. Get them in place if the situation demands them.
Your initial months after resuming will be frantic, and you would feel like giving up, but hold on. Anxiety pangs and meltdowns are part and parcel of this stage, so do not fret- instead, take one day at a time.
Once your support system has warmed up to your schedule and vice versa, things will be in a better state.
We want to do everything and are very reluctant to delegate tasks. Balancing the act is never easy, and in that process, we lose our calm and inner tranquillity.
When we lose our act, we burst into rage, causing distress not only to ourselves, but also to people around us. So, swallow the guilt and delegate the tasks to your partners, children and people staying with you.
Don’t shy away from help but eagerly accept it, because you cannot do it all. Guilt is a part of the conditioning that will always stay irrespective of the situation.
Society would want to inject a pang of guilt into women’s lives, but do not lose your peace in nursing every guilt. The context is different everywhere, so accept whatever help springs up in your way, and stay in peace.
It is a crucial part of the game. You cannot wake up the next day without planning your routine. Take time the previous night and set the calendar for the next day, marking and listing your priorities.
Once you have listed the actionable items, set a time for each item and make sure you follow and maintain your schedule. Without planning and organising, it would lead to chaos.
You cannot work peacefully and mindfully without a proper plan for the next day. If it involves your family members, tell them before how and in what part of the day you would need them.
There will be tasks which are very urgent and crucial that you cannot shift or move to the next day, so list out the priorities meticulously.
Planning is an ongoing task, but if you are resuming after a break, it is an essential part that you should certainly not miss.
There are good days and bad days. If you are planning to resume work, then better watch out for bad days as well. If not planned effectively, you will get caught in its web.
Think about various scenarios that could lead your plan A to not function. Instead of getting into last-minute planning, think ahead of what methods you need to employ or help you may have to seek in such times.
Your child’s nanny might go under the weather all of a sudden, school may hold PTMs on short notice, and umpteen things could go wrong, so plan for these unexpected events so that you have a system in place, and do not have to scout for something at the eleventh hour.
Do not pressurise a woman unnecessarily or send a guilt trip down her way. Do not give labels like ‘superwoman’ or ‘super mom’ when it is not her responsibility to be competent in everything; instead, regard her efforts by sharing the responsibilities and being available when she needs help.
Resuming work after a break is hard, and she does not have to do it alone, so sit with her and comfort her by saying that you are always there, and that together you will welcome this change.
Do not burden her with lofty tags making her think that she is not enough if she is not marking all the items on the checklist. Instead, treat her with respect for what she is.
When she is back at work, she needs to focus on a domain role and her tasks. As much as men need space and time to engage, connect, and excel in any activity, women too require them. So do not tell her that as a woman she can multitask.
She might not display her emotions and may look calm, but she must be paddling her feet furiously underwater, struggling to keep them in place. Ask her if she needs help with kitchen tasks, childcare, or house chores.
Walking on the career path after a break takes its course to settle, and when she has made a decision, you need to pitch together to make her dream come alive.
If you offer her full support, she will let go of her fears. It will make her confidence skyrocket. Remember, empowering your women will create a ripple effect which will only work for the better.
You are not alone in this path. Shut down the voice in your head that screams: you are not enough, and you will fail. Figure out your skills and layer them with new and improved advancement courses around those skills.
Upskill with new and emerging trends. Communicate your challenges to your family, who is always there to support you. Do not ever hide your struggles to shield and appease others, but show your feelings and let the world know about your bad days.
Have some me time in all this and do not overwhelm yourself, so that you can hit back again with a composed state.
And lastly, don’t compare your career progress with that of people who never had to take a break. They do not fall under the same category, and it will be an apple to orange comparison. You might not get on a similar footing with them, but you are rising against the odds. All you need is to compete with yourself and keep moving, onwards and upwards, but slowly one day at a time.
Image source: a still from the Marathi series Ani Kay Hava
A writer/Educator and Spanish Language trainer. Loves Reading, Music and Art. Favorite Author is Jane Austen who inspired me throughout my writing journey. I mainly write on Drama fiction, social issues, relationships and parenting. read more...
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