10 tips for back-to-work confidence
Worried about returning to work after taking time out for your children? Read this guide for help
After maternity leave, I wanted to get back to work but I had very little confidence.
I knew I could feed a small crowd of kids, sing a few lullabies and get to school on time. But I wasn’t so sure I could write and research any more or hold a coherent phone conversation, let alone do my accounts.
And then there was the childcare issue. Finding someone lovely who I trusted to look after my brood seemed such an insurmountable hurdle, I didn’t know where to start.
Getting back out there
Then one day I stumbled across Stephen Covey’s theory of ‘Circles of Concern and Influence’ from his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Simon and Schuster).
This is the idea that highly effective people only focus on the parts of their lives that they can control, for example health, children or problems at work (the Circle of Concern).
They don’t spend time worrying about things that they can’t control, which lie in their ‘Circle of Influence’ – like the weather, wars, the economy and the train timetable.
‘Your life doesn’t just happen,’ wrote Stephen. ‘Whether you know it or not, it is carefully designed by you.’
Getting back into control
Later, I couldn’t stop thinking about Stephen’s theory. I thought about it on the way to school, while cooking the kids’ dinner and after I’d finally got them down for the night.
And it hit me that with concerns about work at the forefront of my mind, I hadn’t given much thought to the steps I could take to recover my confidence.
After researching different options, I decided to sign up for a course to brush up on some IT skills. I also took a more business-like and professional approach to getting my childcare options sorted out.
These two things immediately made me feel ready to return to work and more sure in my abilities. So whatever happened after that, at least I knew I’d tried.
More ways to boost your work confidence:
Remember your finest hour
‘Remind yourself of how you looked one day when you performed your best at work,’ says career coach Helen Slingsby of Career Breakthrough. ‘The next time you feel a bit wobbly, conjure up this image. Remember, you’re still that same person who chaired that meeting at work.’
Don’t wait for the perfect job
‘Don’t wait for the perfect part-time 9 to 3 role (term-time only) to fall into your lap,’ says Helen. ‘It won’t. You need to go out and find it and sell yourself accordingly.’ So think about how you can market yourself into the world of work. Talk to smaller companies about your skills and offer to take on projects from home.’
Tap the sisterhood
‘Connect with other women who have successfully re-entered the workplace,’ says Amanda Sasada, maternity coach at My Family Care. ‘Ask them how they did it and go out and re-invent yourself too.’
Ask for help on any work question, no matter how small. ‘I remember asking for advice on what to wear, and even which type of laptop and smartphone to buy before returning to work,’ says Amanda.
‘Keep poking your head above the baby fog parapet,’ says Helen. ‘Listen to the radio, keep up with the news and stay in touch with former colleagues.’
Brush up on skills
Research the night classes at your local college. Think about upgrading your IT and social media skills if it’s been a while since you were in the workplace.
Take baby steps
Don’t be daunted, but break down what you need to do into manageable chunks. A career or life coach can help you further.
Be prepared to drop down a level for a short while
‘This is very common in the current economic climate given the high level of unemployment,’ says Helen.
On maternity leave? Do use your Keeping in Touch days
‘Arrange to meet up with key people who are supportive, influential and interested in your transition back to work,’ says Amanda.
Network. A lot.
‘Network with everyone you meet, including friends and family, in case there’s any part-time work on offer,’ says Helen.
Parents have special skills
If you’re still not convinced, here are some of the transferable work skills that you develop while raising children:
Anyone who’s dealt with a ratty toddler knows what this one’s all about.
– Time management
Mothers tend to work extremely efficiently to squeeze in their workload before having to rush off to pick up the kids.
– Being able to see the bigger picture
‘At work, mothers are less likely to get bogged down in the small details than women who haven’t had children,’ says Amanda.
– Key organisational skills
Looking after a family involves a lot of scheduling and organisation. But you’ll also develop extra skills if you take on a role in your PTA, playgroup or another local group.
‘If you can battle in the PTA, you can battle in the boardroom,’ says Amanda. ‘The school playground is much scarier than any boardroom I have been in.’
Booking swimming classes while simultaneously preparing dinner and checking homework really is quite a feat, but just an average day for any mum.
– Understanding personality
You learn rather a lot about dealing with different personality types when raising kids. Sometimes a bit too much.
‘Be courageous, remember your former self and remind yourself that there’s a skills deficit in the world, which sassy women can fill,’ says Helen.