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Returning to work after a career break, be it six months or a year or two, especially after caring for a newborn, it is hard in terms of managing the balance.
Returning to work after a career break, be it six months or a year or two, especially after caring for a newborn, it is hard. It is hard in terms of managing the balance. It is even harder in terms of making the decision — is it worth it, is it worth it to go back to work.
Society has taught woman to ask a lot of typical — is it worth it? — questions, which are more biased towards not returning to work. Here is a post that will help you with more balanced and relevant “worth it” questions if you are struggling to take the decision.
Say you asked all the relevant questions, and you made the hard decision to getting back to work, managed to get through an interview, and you have an offer, then is it going to be a cakewalk?
If reskilling, preparing and attending interviews, convincing the interviewers that you are equipped for the role even after a career break was a mountain to climb, it is another mountain to survive the first six months of the second phase of your career.
Most organizations have a policy to treat the first six months as a probation period, after which confirmation of the position will be given.
The first few months are critical not only for the above-mentioned reason — the first few months will test your tenacity! As you will confront some uncomfortable situations, tempting you to re-evaluate your decision to come back. And you need to handle it to have a long term career.
Here are a few tips on what to look out for based on my experience mentoring women over the years.
Do expect these feelings. You will feel anxious. You will feel lost or out of place. Not only that, but you will feel inferior. Don’t be surprised.
When you were a fresher coming out of college and landed the first job, you expected the anxiousness, however the excitement of a new job overrode it. This time around, you will have mixed feelings of anxiousness and more anxiousness.
Once you used to be a top performer. Now everyone around you knows a lot, and you don’t know much, and you feel lost.
Colleagues younger to you have progressed because they didn’t have to take any career breaks, however that doesn’t stop you from feeling inferior. Technology and information space has changed around you, it makes you feel out of place.
Acknowledge the fact that you missed some working years, and you have to catch up. It’s only a matter of catching up and not an end of the road. Remind yourself of that.
When you first joined a job you were raw and fresh, you probably have the same feeling now, but you aren’t. You had prior job experience and during the break you have gained more experience on management side of life.
It’s the subject knowledge you need to pick up, so focus on it without getting overwhelmed. Find ways to up-skill, learn, apply and don’t stop until you get your rhythm back.
There is a high chance you might encounter teammates who have a biased view about woman re-entering the workforce after career breaks, especially as an outcome of inclusion week drives or special woman day drives.
Biases stem from various reasons either from the individual’s experience with someone or experiences shared by members of the interview panel, it could be anything.
The most common biased opinion that exists are — first, interview questions are made easy to support woman entering workforce, which in turn means less skilled, less capable women enter workforce. The implication for team members is they have to pick the slack of the work.
Second, women returning after break don’t work hard, they take it light, which again means someone else needs to pick up that extra work. The reason I explained the assumptions that give in to the biases is because it will help you address the situation better.
You will feel the bias in many forms. You may feel unwelcome. Furthermore, you may hear some direct or indirect jibes. You may feel teammates are reluctant to work with you. It all stems from the assumption, as I explained above.
You will have to take the time to show them that your skill has only rusted not eroded, you can surely shine your skill to glory back in no time. And you aren’t going to hide away from hard work, very different from staying late.
It’s a matter of time for you to consistently show you intend to stay long and stay with the team. Unless someone is intentionally overt to insult you about your break and re-entry, it is a matter of time for you to become a welcome part of the team.
If someone is overt and intentional, then you seek your manager’s help to address the same. Having a one on one discussion to tell them it is not OK for them to throw in jibes at you. Understand from them where do they come from? Is there something you need to address, or is it that they are being a bully, and they should stop doing it?
Depending on the duration of your break, the organization’s environment would have changed. Technology would have changed, systems would have changed. Irrespective of whether you enter the same organization which you quit or a new one, a lot of things will be new for you.
From handling stakeholders at home to handling stakeholders at the workplace, it is a considerable shift. You will be overwhelmed, making you question if you made the right choice of getting back to work.
You will be overwhelmed to think if you will ever be fast enough or good enough to catch up on all this changes in workplace. Understand that it is a passing phase. Give yourself leeway the same way you would have given your younger self who came into a new job.
Then you didn’t worry about learning something new because you were new. Now you are conflicted because you have experience, but you feel new.
Like cycling or swimming, which you never forget, you will get into the rhythm of things over months. So do not overanalyse, over evaluate or over criticize yourself in the first few months.
If you need to pick up any new skill, talk with your manager and do so. That will remove the fear of lack of knowledge. Do not be afraid to raise hands to any tasks that will help you learn.
The only way to get into the groove of doing things is to do more, to practice more. I am not recommending over-working, I’m suggesting making effective use of the office hours to gain maximum benefit.
Quitting again isn’t an option, even though you will be mightily tempted to do because the urge to go back to work will never go away.
Image Source: Instaphotos, Icon54, iconsy and Macrovector, free on CanvaPro
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Prathiba Wilson has nearly two decades of experience in IT industry. She is curious about #makeworklifebetter and #lifeasworkingwoman so she explores a lot on those topics in her writings. http://www.quittomorrow.com/second-act/ read more...
Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views, individual posts do not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions at all times.
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