Re-entering the Workplace? Here’s What You Need to Know

Siobhain Whitty, Executive Coach

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Re-entering the workplace?

For whatever reason, you’ve decided it’s time to end the career break and return to work. The initial thrill of re-entering the workplace, exploring opportunities and finding a suitable job gets tempered with everyday considerations. Usually, the first priority is the chaotic juggle to re-establish a routine that works for the entire household (not excluding the family pet).

There’s a check-list of tasks to think through. These range from childminding support and figuring out your daily logistics to getting the family used to a new regime. The experience of re-entering the workplace is daunting for many when it’s coupled with feelings of anxiety and small twinges of guilt.

As a returner, it’s easy to get so caught up with mundane issues that you fail to consider other significant aspects of re-entering the workplace. Let’s explore some likely eventualities.

Returning post-maternity leave.

Same job, but different you? What happens when you return post-maternity leave, and the job is just not the right fit anymore? Business practices have evolved, or your interests have changed. You may need some flexibility that isn’t available in your current position, or you’ve become interested in a totally different career path.

Every instinct screams for a do-over, but you start double guessing yourself when faced with the practical side of things. This is further highlighted in comments from friends and family with phrases such as “You’re crazy for thinking about bailing out on a good job” or “In the current economic climate you should consider yourself lucky to be employed!”. However, before being swayed by the naysayers, take a moment to reflect.

Go ahead and ask yourself:

What are the opportunity costs of staying or leaving?

Identify and evaluate all the pros and cons of key factors impacted by your end decision:  

  • income
  • status (in your current role)
  • family life
  • career

How hard/easy is it to find another position?

What reasons do you have for quitting a perfectly tolerable job?  Think about the talk track that might play out with a new manager/employer and be clear about your reasons for needing a change. Life is not a straight line, and most people get that.

You’re not alone; people leave jobs they don’t like or find unfulfilling all the time.

When re-entering the workplace, there is a sense of obligation, particularly for maternity returners, that dictates they pick up where they left off. But more than that, to maintain an attitude of gratitude for having a job to come back to. The truth is a huge amount of people at some point in their working lives either feel dissatisfied in their current employment situation or grow passionate about going down an entirely different direction which causes them to change jobs.

Coming back from a sabbatical or an even longer career break?

When re-entering the workplace, your job competency level and/or skill sets is a little or a lot out of date depending on the number of years you have out of the workplace. The rapid pace of technological change coupled with new workplace policies and demands take a huge hit on your professional confidence. 

Again, you’re not alone here. The Social Market Foundation assessed the impacts of career breaks on women in their 2018 Back on Track report and found that:

  • There are approximately 96m skilled women aged between 30 and 54 years on career breaks worldwide; of these, 55m have experience in middle/senior management.
  • 94% of women on maternity leave reported intending to re-enter the workplace in the future. On average, expecting to return 12 months after birth, but 20% did not return within the stated 12 months.
  • 64% of mothers would like to retrain before re-entering the workplace while 71% said they would be more likely to retrain if courses were more flexible.

What to do next?

Identify any new skills you have acquired over your career break. Are they transferable?

  • Update your online profile.
  • Get connected on social media.
  • Update your CV.
  • Put out some feelers and tap into your current network.
  • Explore available Returners programs.
  • Contact a life coach or a career coach to help you when re-entering the workplace.
  • Check out and sign up for mentoring programs designed to assist job seekers or those interested in a change of career.

What do I want to do now?

Define what is working for you. Simon Sinek and co-authors talk about “Finding Your Why”. There is no point in pursuing anything which lacks a strong answer to why you see yourself in a particular job. In Sinek’s “Golden Circle”, the WHY is at the centre of the circle, enclosed within the HOW and the WHAT. Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “He who has a why can bear almost any how.” Such leaders of thought guide us into examining and determining how our “why”‘ is intrinsically linked to our goals and values in life.

Can’t find your “why”? Don’t be afraid to seek advice.

If you’re returning to a previous job, talk to your current employer about your concerns. Maybe there are other roles within the company that is a better fit. Maybe more flexibility is added to your job description. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.  Talk to friends, family and trusted colleagues, they know you and discussing it with someone means putting it into words and being specific about what you want. 

Psychologists caution on impartiality when seeking advice from those who know us, maybe too well. Ben C. Fletcher and Dr Phil Oxon of Psychology Today propose that when you “ask a friend for advice, they will give you the advice from their perspective, from the world as they see it.”

Career coaching is a great resource for getting a fresh, unbiased perspective. A recent (2018) survey by Upskill Coach revealed that 47% of respondents used coaching services to progress their careers, while 28% used coaching services to get guidance in making career changes.

What next?

If you’re considering a career change or not sure how you feel about returning to a job that possibly no longer holds the appeal it once did,  coaching may be a great option for you. Get guidance advice from our expert coaches to get you off to a right start on your return journey. Good luck!

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Siobhain Whitty Executive Coach

Siobhain Whitty, Executive Coach

I coach people through transition and change in both their professional and personal lives. I have spent the majority of my career in International HR Operations, working in the global oil and gas ind...

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