Getting your confidence back after a career break

 

What do you do when you want or need to go back to work, but your confidence is at rock bottom? Confidence can be one of the key barriers to stopping women getting back into the workplace. Coach Susie Kendall looks at how to overcome it.

What do you do when you want or need to go back to work, but your confidence is at rock bottom? Confidence can be one of the key barriers to stopping women getting back into the workplace. Coach Susie Kendall looks at how to overcome it.

The first thing to do before you even think about going back to work is to be sure that whatever work you are going back to, it is work that really appeals to you. If you have passion in your belly, you can’t go wrong. If you are a bit nervous about the job, and you’re not really that into it either, it will be much harder to muster the confidence you need.

If you have been really enjoying your break, and are returning now because you have to, for example, for financial reasons, it is even more important to enjoy what you do. You don’t want to be feeling resentful of how you are spending your day at work compared with what you were doing before. Find purpose in your role at work, as you do in your role as a mum at home.

Be proud of what you achieved during your break

Don’t view it as ‘wasted time’ or meaning that you have fallen behind on the career ladder. Life is not just about work. What we do to earn money is not the whole person. Whatever you experienced during your career break – it was just that – an experience. Make sure you value and appreciate it.

Any potential employer who asks the question ‘I see a gap in your CV – tell me what you’ve been doing’ will be attracted to someone who can respond confidently and enthusiastically about how they have spent the time, and how they have benefited personally. There is no need to assume that you are being tested and need to defend yourself in terms of why you have been out of the work-place.  Make sure you rehearse your response – “Raising the next generation” is a great one!

Make a list of all the things you did for the first time during your break. Include everything.  Coping with a new baby, caring for someone, taking up a new form of exercise, organising social events, dealing with redundancy, or just simply filling a day with no plans at the outset – that is very hard in itself for a lot of busy people!

Then highlight the things that were scary or difficult at the time and the skills you used. Think about how you went about getting over your fear, and achieving what you achieved, however insignificant you think it might be. What skills did you need  – courage, empathy, perseverance, resilience, optimism, good organisation, physical endurance, diplomacy?  And what was the outcome? How did it feel?  This will really highlight how you’ve grown during the break and the personal benefits to you.

Think of this next move as a stepping stone

If you really can’t face going back to a role as stressful and ‘high-powered’ as the one you were doing before your break, don’t. No longer do we embark on ‘a job for life’. It is more like ‘a life of jobs’. Depending no how long your break was, and how you are feeling about your return, think seriously about the kind of life-style that you want in the short term.

If you want to ease yourself back into the world of work gently, with regular hours and less responsibility, then make sure you choose a role that will allow you to do that. Once you are back on your feet, wait for the time to feel right to think about the next move.

Remember – it’s all about

Confidence comes from knowing yourself and making good decisions based on that knowledge. Think about what you really want at this stage in your life and forget about what everyone else might think. I always admire people who appear to be happy in their jobs a lot more than those who have an impressive business card but who are clearly miserable.

Susie Kendall is a former sollicitor who retrained as a coach three years ago.





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