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.
Author: 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.