Two recent conversations with returners have reminded me how difficult it can be for women to focus on their return to work activity: there always seems to be something more important or time-consuming for them to do.
As former professionals used to managing busy careers, women on career break often fill their lives with activities that keep them busy, engaged and feeling productive. As well as looking after family and home, they frequently take on voluntary roles or small paid projects, develop new hobbies and simply ‘help others out’.
The difficulty comes when trying to return to work: how do you fit a job search into an already busy life? The truth is that finding a new role, especially when you have left the workforce, is a job in itself. Your return to work will only happen with dedicated time, energy and commitment.
Carving out this space is hard for returners for a number of reasons:
- you might not be sure whether you are ready to return, so you don’t give it your attention to avoid having to make a decision
- you don’t know how to get started on your return to work, so you procrastinate
- you’ve made some small efforts and have been deterred by the response (or lack of) you’ve received
- it’s the wrong time of year (eg pre-Christmas/Easter/summer holiday)
- it feels selfish to be focusing on yourself after so many years of putting others first
- you don’t know which of the other activities to cut out, in order to make space for your return to work plans
- Start small – make a date with yourself! It could be sitting in a coffee shop for half an hour after school drop off, on your own with the purpose of doing your own thinking and planning. If you can do this once, you can start to make it a regular habit and then expand the time you devote to it
- Enlist a buddy – this could either be someone in the same position as you with whom you can meet regularly and share experiences and ideas. Or it could be someone who is simply there to support, encourage and celebrate with you and keep you on track
- Give your search a project name – to give it focus and make it more like a work project
- Sign up for a relevant course – this will enable to you dedicate time to your new direction, introduce you to others who might be helpful to you and signify that you are taking positive steps for yourself
- Address your reluctance to put yourself first – by trying it out! This post on Banning Selfish may be useful
- Delegate – perhaps you don’t have to keep doing all the things you currently do whether at home or elsewhere
- Work with a coach – this will commit you to spending time (and money) on your return to work in a structured way and get you into the habit of giving time to this activity.