The longer you’ve been away, the harder it will feel. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Many moons ago, I was quoted in a New York Post article “Back in Business: How to Bounce Back Into the Workforce Post-baby” alongside other experts, Vivian Steir Rabin, Tory Johnson, and Monica Burton.
In the article, I talk about starting small and getting your feet wet, something I’ve written about before. I’d like to elaborate a bit here and share additional suggestions that can be helpful to anyone wanting to start something new or restart something paused.
Beyond starting small: Other tips for moms returning to work
First, don’t rank yourself at the starting line
Whether you’re starting something new or trying to restart, you need a bit of courage. Yet, making any change is when confidence wanes. Making snap judgments doesn’t help.
Moreover, self-criticism at such an early juncture is likely to be inaccurate. You may be telling yourself the following:
“I’m rusty. I’ve been out of the game too long.”
“The rest of the world has advanced, but I’ve stood still.”
“So many other people out there could do this better than I can.”
“Everyone seems to belong here except me.”
These are common fears, but they haven’t been tested or proven true.
And, because we are our harshest critics, such negative judgements are likely to be exaggerated.
Most importantly, our early and warped pronouncements can feed self-doubt which makes it even harder to feel energized and motivated.
So, rather than assuming such doubts are justified, pretend you’re talking to a friend, and say, “Yeah, I get you’re feeling that way, but until other people give us that feedback, let’s assume it’s not an issue.”
Second, focus on what you can learn
Other forms of self-criticism take the shape of labels. For example, you might say…
“I never liked science.”
“I’m bad with directions.”
“I panic under pressure.”
While you may never become a scientist, be great with directions, or be able to avoid all pressure, you limit yourself when you label. yourself.
Instead try to be curious and open. You may not like physics, but you may appreciation microbiology. You may not be good with driving directions, but you might be good at providing steps to create a spreadsheet.
No one doesn’t feel pressure, but maybe you can learn techniques to calm yourself or take a break.
Thus, adopting the attitude that you can learn is far more useful. It also can change your outlook and inspire creativity, and that can be energizing. For example, instead of saying, “The market is too tight; I’ll never find a job,” try, “I wonder what employers need most now and what new opportunities there are in a slower economy?”
Third, when you network don’t ask for advice, ask for stories.
People are too close to their own experiences to suss out good lessons.
Moreover, what’s relevant to them, may not be relevant to you. Those who want to help may urge you to do what they did because it worked for them. For example, while going back to school to earn an MBA helped your mentor, it may be neither relevant nor feasible for you.
Others may steer you away from jobs that didn’t work out for them or ignited their own fears. For example, a client of mine who wanted to leave the “safe” profession she shared with her father met with a lot of resistance from him for wanting to try something “too risky.” Another client was haunted by her parents’ insistence that jumping from firm to firm showed disloyalty. She had to assert that in her industry her firm-specific skills were becoming obsolete and that in this day and age — as opposed to her parents’ — she needed to switch jobs in order to advance.
If you ask for stories or ask open-ended questions, like “How did you stumble upon your job?” “How did. you get over working with that tough boss?” You’re likely to get information from which you can glean relevant advice.
Making a change requires effort. The more it matters to you, the more vulnerable you may feel. So, start small. Assess yourself later. Focus on learning. Ask for stories.
For more customized tips for moms returning to work, contact me.
This is a revised version of an article that was first published in July 2013.