A significant number of professional women experience the anxious phase of returning to the workplace after a career break. Many of them, in the Pakistani context, are women who suspend work to start a family and raise children. If you are one of them and feel that the time off from work has left you miles behind your colleagues and that reentering the workplace will never be the same, you are certainly not alone.
Before you take a break or soon after it, establish a time-frame for return. Decide whether you would want to return to a full-time job, look for a part-time or freelancing arrangement, or start your own home-based business. These two decisions can help you plan and utilise your career break and make the most of it. It will also save you from getting into the rut of things without a plan in mind, and make you feel more confident and in greater control of the situation.
When Maham Khan, a bright, young intern who recently joined Minerva, brought up the topic, we decided to reach out to women for stories of successful career relaunches. We identified 10 important ways of ensuring a smooth and successful comeback.
Invest in your family
Reasonably enough, full-time stay-at-home moms often find it daunting to manage their current responsibilities with those of a job. Managing a household and raising a family is no easy task. Without domestic help or the support of their husbands, the idea seems pretty far-fetched. It is therefore important to invest in your family before the transition so that everyone is prepared for the change and you don’t make the switch with a guilt.
We reached out to Business Executive Officer at Nestle, Pakistan, Nadia Omer, who is a mother to two daughters and had to take a break from her career back in 2000. She describes the extensive amount of preparation she undertook as a mother and wife before resuming work. Omer says, “The work environment equips you with great coaching skills to develop others and that is what I employed on the kids. The years I took a break, I invested heavily in my relationship with my husband, and our kids and parents,” she explained. This meant training her domestic help, and teaching her daughters to be self-reliant and independent.
Work on your personal brand
This needs to be prioritised from the very beginning of your career break because it will not happen overnight. Your personal brand is what people say about you in your absence; the few words they immediately associate with your name [we have a course coming up on this soon!].
While your personal brand is all encompassing, a few important things can include developing a work-out routine to stay in shape. Depending on the time and resources at hand, this could mean joining the gym, going for a walk or maybe just scrubbing the floor. Whether you do it once a week or a few minutes every day can also depend on how it fits into the rest of your routine.
You can also spend some time improving your digital footprint and social media presence. There is a high possibility employers will do a quick search to see what you have been doing during your career break and what you care about to evaluate your suitability to the job.
If you have an ‘activist’ in you, you may also want to associate yourself with a cause you genuinely feel about, and be vocal about it. Not only does this give you something to keep your social media presence meaningful, you are also creating awareness on the subject.
Volunteer a few hours each week somewhere, if possible. It could be at the school or at an old home [that’s something I do]. It makes me feel useful and keeps my confidence and sense of self alive. My social media presence helps me raise funds for the old home and gives me a sense of accomplishment that motivates me to devote more time to activities like these. Not to forget, fundraising is a valuable skill to mention on your CV.
Need inspiration? Reach out to personal branding expert, Salma Jafri, or simply follow her on facebook and you will never run out of inspiration and reasons to believe.
Keep your ambitions alive – rekindle a passion
Housewives and stay-at-home moms have a hectic job and need something to rewire themselves. Don’t do so by endlessly watching dramas [and definitely not the pathetic morning shows]. Start painting, writing, sewing, photographing – anything to keep your ambitions alive [who knows, you might just find a new career option for yourself].
Figure out what you want to do
Frequently reevaluate your priorities and ambitions. You don’t want to make all the effort to go back to a career choice you no longer enjoy or feel passionate about.
With extra responsibility on your shoulders, it is important that the work you do is something you truly enjoy [unless of course you have no preferences and a salary is your only motivation to work through financial difficulties]. Make a career choice that you will be able to manage with your responsibilities as a mother.
Build your confidence (and your CV)
Being a full-time mother of one or more children is one of the toughest jobs in the world. If doubts about your ability to pick up your career from where you left it weakens your resolve to get out there again, it is important to remind yourself that raising children and looking after a house have helped you develop invaluable, transferable skills like multitasking, time management, negotiation, dealing with difficult people and situations, and more.
If you really translate the skills you exercise and develop at home and word them into appropriate professional language, it is amazing what you will notice. A stay-at-home mom develops greater social perceptiveness. She understands human behavior better and is involved in the learning and development of an impressionable but curious mind. At home, she’s the mentor to her child(ren) and learns to experiment with methods of education and instruction. She applies critical thinking, and spends a significant portion of her time coordinating, monitoring and evaluating. And these are just some of the skills, abilities and experiences.
Add them all to your CV.
Stop worrying about what others think of you and reach out