Are you thinking about re-entering the workplace? If so you’re not alone. In the last few months, I’ve been approached by more and more female coaching clients who have been out of the workplace for a long time, and who are seeking a return to paid employment. Two of these clients have been out of the workplace for over 10 years; and all of them were struggling to make the transition.
Often these clients had successful careers at the most senior levels in business, and left work to care for their children. As their children grow up and become more independent, their mothers look to re-enter work – but not necessarily following the same career path that they left all those years ago.
This can be difficult. For starters, we’ve just been through Britain’s worst double-dip recession since the second World War, and the job market has changed beyond recognition. And on a practical level, technical job skills and current market knowledge may need a significant brush-up in order to be up-to-scratch again. But the barrier that seems to have the biggest impact is an internal one; namely, a loss of self-confidence.
Why does this happen? Well it seems to arise where, during the years of home-making and child-caring, the individual’s sense of identity becomes dominated by the roles of “mother” and “partner”, and she can begin to lose a wider sense of who she really is. A number of my clients have been in this very position: they find themselves considered simply as “mum”, “wife”, or even “carer”; and wonder what became of the whole person they once were. It’s not unusual for this to bring a sense of loss for the ‘whole’ person, and even mild depression. For some this need to re-assert themselves can bring a sense of guilt, as in “am I letting the family down?” These guilty thoughts battle, in the unconscious, with their real need to fulfil themselves in every way – professionally and personally – again.
But with a bit of careful planning and support it is possible to make the return to paid employment, in a way that balances these apparently conflicting positions. When I coach these clients, here are some of the factors we think about and work on together:
What’s important to me? Each of us is driven by a set of personal values; a list of things that are important to us, and which shape our choices (often unconscious) about how we live our lives. I run a short exercise which helps a client to establish which values are really important to them. Understanding these drivers can be an important first step in thinking about where to go next in your life.
What skills can I bring? I encourage clients to think about the balance of skills they can bring to a new role. Think broadly here – it’s not just about the technical stuff, and neither is it just about “what I used to do”. If you volunteer (PTA, working in a charity shop etc), what gives you a buzz in that work? Are there any fresh skills that you would particularly like to develop?
Learning from the past. I often encourage clients to think about their career so far, to step back from the detail of what they did and when, and to look for patterns in their career path. When were you happiest? What was it about those times and roles that fulfilled you? Likewise, when were you least happy, and why? This can help to frame your thinking about what you might want to do next.
Imagining the future. Having thought about the past, allow yourself to imagine the future! What would your ideal role look like? How would it feel to be successful in the role? Your ultimate picture of success might feel a long way off right now, but visualising what it looks like is an important and helpful part of the journey.
It’s who you know. Now is probably a good time to start updating – or setting up – a LinkedIn account. Get connected to people you have worked with in the past, and current contacts, irrespective of their field. You never know who they might know. Don’t be afraid of suggesting a catch-up coffee with any of your contacts – ‘exploratory’ discussions can occasionally reap rewards!
Getting ready. You’ll know when you’re feeling confident enough to ‘get out there’; but it may take a while for your sense of readiness to build. In the meantime, use the time to think about some of the issues I’ve mentioned. If you’re looking for employment (as opposed to setting up on your own), you might also want to think about developing a fresh skills-based CV.
I use a series of exercises and techniques to support my clients as they explore the practical and emotional issues linked to re-entering the workplace. To find out how I can help you, give me a call today on 07961 363621, or take a look at my website.