Life coaching expert Tal Fagin responds to a reader’s request
for advice in getting back to work after taking time off from her career to raise her children. Find out what she has to say about it.
Dear Life Coach,
Do you have any advice on how to get back into the work force after being out of it for some time? I took 10 years off from my career to be home to raise our two children and now that they are in high school I would like to go back to work. As I look for a job in my field, I am finding that the skills needed are different than those I have because of new technologies that are now in place.
Dear Outdated Mom,
Please take a moment to congratulate yourself on beginning this process. I know from personal experience that the decision to return to work can be fraught with uncertainty and about as daunting as conquering Mt. Everest. I also know it can be done, beautifully and with great success.
Before I answer your direct question, I wonder if you will indulge me in playing a little game? I call it Getting Ready to Rev! and it entails only three painless steps:
• Clarify your motivations and goals
• Own your experience
• Proceed with confidence
In order to clarify your motivations and goals, please take a moment to answer the following questions for yourself:
Why do you want to reenter the workforce? Are your reasons strictly financial, or is there more to it than that?
Are you longing for a greater sense of purpose, or have you simply always assumed you would go back to work when the time was right?
Are you certain you want to return to your previous field, or might there be other careers you wish to consider or pursue?
In my experience, clarifying your true motivations and goals will not only help you identify exactly which next path to pursue, but will allow you to do so with energy, enthusiasm and confidence.
And speaking of confidence …
What is the story you are telling yourself about your time “off” and what it means about you and your job prospects? What are the ideas swirling in your head, those pesky negative thoughts and unhappy notions, about how potential employees will perceive and value you?
My hunch is you are feeling insecure about having spent a decade at home. Despite the fact that you have probably used more creativity, ingenuity and pluck – not to mention managerial and multi-tasking prowess – in your years “off” than you ever did at work, you are discounting this experience.
If so, you are far from alone.
The women I know who have taken breaks from their careers are among the brightest, most capable and hard-working people around. The focus, determination and productivity once applied to their careers were never abandoned, but rather put to great use in their new roles as mothers, wives, volunteers and all-around goddesses. They are resourceful and generous, team-players who are infinitely reliable and not-at-all out for glory. They are the unsung heroes of our society, the GO-TO, GET-THE-JOB-DONE, MASTERS-OF-THE-UNPAID-UNIVERSE!
These same women, when the time comes to dust off the resume and return to paid work, struggle with any number of conflicting thoughts, weighty emotions and self-doubt.
This is why I suggest to them, and to you, to own your experience. Take a long hard look at your years “off” and identify all of the skills – from budgeting to negotiation to project and personnel management – you have developed during this time. Rather than apologizing for this experience, tout it. Believing you’ve got the right stuff is an essential pre-requisite to truly leaning in and snagging that ideal job. (Consider this a good time to drop the whole “Outdated” thing!)
You are now ready to proceed with confidence. This will involve networking (which it sounds like you are already doing), shoring up your personal brand (use sites like Linked-In and Facebook to present a professional demeanor), highlight your community involvement, consider joining one of the many communities aimed at helping women just like you get back to work (Après, Optin or iRelaunch, to name a few) and finally, get up to speed on whatever skills you may need in your next job.
Which brings us, as promised, to your specific question.
If you are finding that the skills needed to return to work in your previous field are now different, and if you truly wish to return to work in said field, I would suggest acquiring them. Whether this involves reading a few books, taking a course or buddying up with an old colleague who might be willing to give you a few tutorials – whatever the most practical, efficient and effective path for you – I would pursue it. Post haste.
I hope this helps. Please drop me a line when you get settled in your new gig. I can’t wait to hear all about it!