Rachel Wright is a Career Coach and HR professional at WrightCareer who specialises in helping women to achieve a successful return to work following a career break. In this article, Rachel shares tips on how to take control of 5 key areas essential for a smooth return to work. These are based on her experience of coaching women returners and setting up her career coaching business after a career break. Rachel will cover what inspired and enabled her to succeed including building confidence and self-belief, breaking down internal barriers and regaining a professional identity.
For myself and many other women, we spend years building our careers and professional identities until the time comes when some of us have children. In many cases, including my own, we make a conscious decision to take some time out of work to bring up our children. As I emerged from the haze of the sleep deprived early years, I started to listen to other mums say that they wanted to return to work but felt that they had lost their confidence, didn’t know what they wanted to do and often didn’t know where to start. This sparked an idea and a passion in me that I couldn’t let go of and which eventually led to me making my own return to work, transitioning from HR into the field of career coaching. Through my experience of working with returners I have identified 5 key areas essential to be aware of, and take action on, to ensure a successful return to work.
Break Down Your Internal Barriers
The main barriers to getting started on your return to work journey often begin with what is going on inside your own head more than what is going on in the working world.
“I feel rusty and out of date and employers aren’t going to be interested in me when they see that I have taken a career break.”
No doubt, you have had years of experience prior to your career break and have gained a multitude of transferable skills during this time. You are likely to have developed your ability to multi-task, adapt to change, deal with difficult situations and organise events. These are all skills which are transferable to the workplace. Through reading up on the latest trends and challenges in your profession and speaking to old work colleagues you can identify what areas of your knowledge, skills and expertise you want to develop and refresh to ensure you are up to date.
“I won’t be able to get the flexibility that I need to meet my family commitments.”
Talk things through and get buy in from your family at an early stage about practical arrangements for when you return to work as it will be a change for everyone. Can older children take on more responsibility? Can your partner share some of the home responsibilities? What do you want to outsource and pay someone else to do?
It is also important to understand what motivates and interests you because, if you discover this, then it will be the driver for you to start breaking down those barriers.
Build Your Self-Belief and Confidence
Seek out some 360 degree feedback from past work colleagues, family and friends. Ask them to tell you what they believe to be your top skills and strengths. What words would they use to describe your personal qualities? Make sure you also come up with your own list, and then compare your list to what others are saying. We can often be very critical on ourselves and it helps to get perspectives from others. Also take some time to make a list of your satisfying achievements and think about what skills and strengths you were using at the time.
Reconnect With Your Professional Self
Start attending work related events, join professional networks and reconnect with former colleagues. When I started back, it helped me to find out what was going on in the working world in my previous profession as well as in the field I was looking to move into. I immediately started to make new contacts, rekindle existing relationships and join in with work related discussions. It also provides the opportunity to practise verbalising your career story, starting with your work background, to what you have achieved in your career break and what you are now looking to do. By saying it out loud it can help you to refine your story and encourage self-belief. It will also mean that you are in control of the story you are telling.
Start To Network
Draw out a personal network map so that you can identify all the people you know from different parts of your life who could be useful contacts in connection with your return to work. Think about whether they can share information with you, act as a mentor, support you in some way or connect you to other useful contacts? Then start to reach out to them, whether it’s through LinkedIn, catching up for a coffee or meeting with them to find out more about the organisation they work in.
If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile then put one together, and include a professional photo. If you do have a profile, then make sure it is up-to-date and relevant to the kind of role you want now.
Be Creative with Your Job Search Strategy
Strategic volunteering can be a great way to gain experience and build confidence back in a work setting. Many charities offer internships and are happy to take on volunteers to support their work.
A growing number of organisations are now running Returnship programmes where you can secure a paid internship for 3 to 6 months and receive coaching, training and mentoring support, with a high chance of you securing a permanent role at the end of the programme.
87% of recruiters are now using LinkedIn to look for candidates. Manage your LinkedIn activity and connect with relevant people in your profession. You can then search the name of an organisation you may be interested in working for to find out if you have any connections there. Get yourself noticed by joining in with relevant online conversations to demonstrate your expertise and interest in a particular field.
To conclude, make sure you take the time to really understand who you are, what you want, what is stopping you and what can help you. Then put in place a realistic action plan so that you take control of your return to work.
Rachel’s article appeared in the December 2017 edition of Women in Leadership Newsletter – published monthly by Christine Griffin – Executive Coach – firstname.lastname@example.org – +44 (0)7796 147127 – www.griffinity.co.uk.