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Re-connecting with your professional self

Re-connecting with your professional self

One of our top tips for women returners is to remember that you are the same professional person you always were, you are just out of practice. But why is it that you need reminding, and how do you gain back that easy confidence that you used to have in the past? Let’s have a look.

Why do we need to be reminded of this?

There are many reasons why, when we take a break from our career, we can develop a diminished view of ourselves from the one we held when we were working. In the mix are:

  • a change in priorities (our career is no longer our sole focus and might not be as important as it once was)
  • a shift in identity (taking a long break, especially when it involves taking on new responsibilities, changes our daily activities, what we think about and talk about)
  • refocusing of values (where we once valued position, responsibility and status, for example, we might now be more concerned with creating strong family relationships or working for a purpose).

All these changes can mean that we no longer recognise the previous professional version of our self, or doubt whether we can be like her again.

Remind yourself of the professional you were

Even if your perspective and priorities have changed in the years you’ve been away from your career, the things you accomplished during your career and the skills you gained have not. You are still the person who built strong client relationships, managed a team, delivered complex projects, won sales pitches and gained qualifications. These experiences are still part of you and you still have those skills and abilities even if you haven’t used them (professionally) for a while.

You may find it hard to recognise and value your former self because the work you did before didn’t fully fit you at the time. Maybe that professional identity felt false. Even so, you still achieved and gained experiences which you can take forward into a new role that will feel more authentic.

 

Regain your professional self

This is a really important step to take as you plan for your return to work. It will help with developing your self-belief (if you need it) and will provide content for your CV, LinkedIn profile and your interview answers.

  • Reflect on what you consider your career highlights and think about what qualities you exhibited. Are those qualities still part of who you are today?
  • Talk to former work colleagues, who remember you as the professional you were, and ask them for some feedback on what they saw you doing well or admired about you.
  • Practice your career story, starting with your professional background and expertise rather than your career break
  • Find a project or volunteer position which allows you to refresh your skills (Read more on Strategic Volunteering)
  • Subscribe to the industry journals you used to read and join on-line forums which are relevant.
  • (Re)join professional networks and attend relevant conferences. You can find a good list of events, many of which are free on the Mum & Career event-listing.
  • Take refresher courses in your area of interest or expertise.

If you are still finding it difficult to re-connect with your professional self, then you might like to consider working with another returner or a career coach to give you the boost you need.

 

julianne&katerinaAuthor: Katerina Gould, from the blog Women Returners: Back to Your Future aka Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, an occupational psychologist and an executive coach who support professional women to return to work after a long career break.

How to make time for your return to work job search

How to make time for your return to work job search

Two recent conversations with returners have reminded me how difficult it can be for women to focus on their return to work activity: there always seems to be something more important or time-consuming for them to do.

As former professionals used to managing busy careers, women on career break often fill their lives with activities that keep them busy, engaged and feeling productive. As well as looking after family and home, they frequently take on voluntary roles or small paid projects, develop new hobbies and simply ‘help others out’.

The difficulty comes when trying to return to work: how do you fit a job search into an already busy life? The truth is that finding a new role, especially when you have left the workforce, is a job in itself. Your return to work will only happen with dedicated time, energy and commitment.

Why it’s hard to find space

Somehow, it’s especially hard for mother and this is why:

  • you might not be sure whether you are ready to return, so you don’t give it your attention to avoid having to make a decision
  • you don’t know how to get started on your return to work, so you procrastinate
  • you’ve made some small efforts and have been deterred by the response (or lack of) you’ve received
  • it’s the wrong time of year (eg pre-Christmas/Easter/summer holiday)
  • it feels selfish to be focusing on yourself after so many years of putting others first
    you don’t know which of the other activities to cut out, in order to make space for your return to work plans

 

How to create space

Here are some ideas on how you can start to create time for yourself, so you can address some of these barriers, both practical and psychological:

  • start small – make a date with yourself! It could be sitting in a coffee shop for half an hour after school drop off, on your own with the purpose of doing your own thinking and planning. If you can do this once, you can start to make it a regular habit and then expand the time you devote to it
  • enlist a buddy – this could either be someone in the same position as you with whom you can meet regularly and share experiences and ideas. Or it could be someone who is simply there to support, encourage and celebrate with you and keep you on track
  • give your search a project name – to give it focus and make it more like a work project
  • sign up for a relevant course – this will enable to you dedicate time to your new direction, introduce you to others who might be helpful to you and signify that you are taking positive steps for yourself
  • address your reluctance to put yourself first – by trying it out! This post on Banning Selfish may be useful
  • delegate – perhaps you don’t have to keep doing all the things you currently do whether at home or elsewhere
    work with a coach – this will commit you to spending time (and money) on your return to work in a structured way and get you into the habit of giving time to this activity.

Remember that no-one else can do the work required for you, so your return to work will only happen if you give it – and yourself – the time and attention you deserve.

 

julianne&katerinaAuthor: Katerina Gould, from the blog Women Returners: Back to Your Future aka Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, an occupational psychologist and an executive coach who support professional women to return to work after a long career break.

Writing Tips For Mums Returning To School

Writing Tips For Mums Returning To School

Between all the work that goes into being a mum and balancing your career, chances are you haven’t written something, even just for yourself, in quite a while. That is, of course, unless you’re a writer by trade, be it freelance or full-time. Even so, the kind of work you’re doing probably isn’t in line with what’s required in a truly remarkable MBA or university essay. That’s where this article can help.

If you’re a mum returning to school for an MBA or similar degree, it’s very likely that you will have to write an essay explaining why you should be accepted. And with these tips, I’m hopeful that you can win over the board while maintaining what is surely a hectic every-day schedule.

Know Your Audience

This can vary for each individual, so I’m not going to narrow down exactly who you should be writing for. Why? Because that’s up to you! If you’re returning to school for a business-related degree, then you will need to write for that particular audience. As noted here by Business Insider, keep your audience’s demographic in mind by doing the following: “Identify the purpose of your communication, consider the context of the situation, and then select the message accordingly.” This may sound obvious, but it cannot be stressed enough, hence its position in this very article.

Be Forthright

If an MBA is your goal, it’s rather likely that you’ll be asked to address weaknesses and failures from your past. While that may seem difficult at first, there’s actually a way you can do this while greatly impressing your audience. Basically, don’t go for something cliche, meaning don’t try to mask a success as a failure because the reader will see right through it. Instead, search through your work and education history to find a flaw or weakness and then describe how you learned from it. Alice van Harten of Menlo Coaching addresses that upfront in a blog post on this very topic, noting that you need to have “the courage to write honestly and directly about your failures, and then [show] how you have put your learnings into action after the failure.”

Get To The Point

This is a tip I had to learn the hard way in writing my own MBA essay. Basically, I struggling with finding a balance between writing too much and too little, as I either got longwinded with my prose or summed things up too quickly. While you want to be brief, don’t sell yourself short. The easy way to do this is as follows: Let’s say you have to give examples of your best accomplishments. Figure out five to seven of them, write about them, and then cut it back after figuring out which several are most indicative of your talents. To that point…

Edit, Edit, Edit

A.B.E.—always be editing. Never, ever write on a whim, even if that’s your style. Believe me, I have done so in the past, too, and I know it can work for certain assignments. But this is not your typical project. A great way to edit yourself is to take the following bit of advice from this U.S. News article: “[T]ake a pen and check off “all-star sentences” that are necessary for the essay. Anything without a check mark can go.” While they also say that you should be your own editor—and that’s definitely true!—you should reach out to friends and family to give your work a read. They’ll catch things your eye may miss while perhaps offering suggestions on where to whittle down or beef up your essay.

Author: Patti Conner is a freelance writer and mother of two from Seattle, Wash. In her time away from writing about higher education, she tries to hit the famous Puget Sound.