How to restart your career after a sabbatical

29th Jun 2016
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Taking a break can be extremely taxing since our attention and priorities shifts from data-sheets and tax returns to cooking recipes and baby-care tips. While quitting work after marriage or a baby is considered common in India, it is a major source of concern for women because getting back becomes practically impossible.

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Addressing the challenges that women face after a sabbatical, Sheetal Arora, Founder of Women Restart, an organisation helping women after their career break, said,

“I’ve spoken to hundreds of women so far and realised that there are challenges that they face when returning to work force – be it confidence or connections. A break in a women’s career results in a personal identity loss along with under confidence. The employers want you back but you need to take that extra step to restart your journey.”

She was speaking at meetup organised by HerStory in partnership with Women Restart.

Listed below are a few self-help tips for women to restart their career after a sabbatical:

Start by testing the waters

Fix a target, goal, and timeline for yourself. While you do so, be flexible and open minded in eliminating any sort of pressure from your mind. Taking up a course and finding out new options for yourself is the first step. Since you have been on a break, see what it is to move out and the problems that you face while doing so. Internships and a part-time job could also help in the initial ice-breaking. Once the pressure of performance is off your mind, list all challenges that you have faced or the potential challenges that you will be facing and work out your plan of action.

You cannot have it all

You cannot be playing multiple roles and be perfect in all. Be prepared. Make a list of the things you can and cannot do. Hiring a help can act as a great way to divide the truckload of work that you have. Start counting on the people around you for small things and return the help as and when you can. This way, by sharing a bond with neighbours and family, you can ease out many of your chores and duties.

The biggest challenge isn’t getting back but staying there consistently. I had to restart my career and I know I can’t have it all. I’m happy with what I’m doing today

says Anuradha Madhusudhan, a guest speaker at the event. After nine years in the industry, she took a three-year break and sprung back into action as the senior marketing manager for Target. With her husband travelling most of the time, she practically manages as a single mother with her six-year-old son.

Prioritize

Begin by planning a long term for yourself and your family. Get by evolving the list as you grow. You can cut down on your commute and socialising time. Understand what’s going to make it work and what needs to be done. Try being surgical when you prioritise at least for the first six months, it will provide great results. Many of the women at the event agree that prioritising is essential.

Kill the guilt

Supriya Goswami, one of the speakers at the event, spoke about how she distanced herself from all the social media groups with stay-at-home mothers. Instead, she started interacting with working mothers who face the same challenges like her. The guilt of not being a perfect mother automatically went down. She says,

Usually, it is the guilt that stops most of us from doing what we want. By getting rid of the guilt and detaching yourself from all the people who make you feel guilty, you will create a positive environment for yourself.

Try, try till you succeed

Work-life integration can be hard for a working woman juggling between office and family. While restarting your career, make sure you stick to something that you like to do. Re-applying in your previous organisation can a good idea since they recognise your worth and capabilities. And even if you don’t make it through, there’s always a tomorrow. Don’t fret. Stop doubting your ability to perform. Find people who can mentor you in the skill set you have or want. Perhaps someone from your old organisation, or anyone who can help you restart and fill the gaps in terms of skills.

Roopa Wilson, a panelist at the HerStory-Women Restart meetup, strongly feels that

Don’t compromise on your skills for a fulltime job. If you were a cutting edge designer, don’t come back to do backend work. You learn, however, if you do different work then you should be willing to do part-time work. Change to fulltime only when you’re ready

Filling in those resume gaps

Begin by crafting a resume for yourself and use simple tricks like the perfect LinkedIn Key words. Irrespective of your previous work position, begin by joining the bottom of the pyramid rather than joining where you left off. During an interview, try being as honest as possible rather than making up excuses for your break. Keep yourself updated with what’s happening around and fetch more brownie points with your skill sets. Priya, another panelist, urges women to keep a check on their skill sets.

During your interview, be proud of who you are irrespective of your circumstances. The only way of surpassing a career gap is by being honest

Seeking the right help at the right place

These days, multiple organisations are setting out to help women. The only way to break the stereotype is to start communicating to people. Reach out to the right people who can guide you and help you get back into the industry. Narrow down your job search to those where you fit in and that’s the easiest way. Organisations can be streamlined to sensitivity.

And with all the above points, the only weapon you need is your willpower to succeed. If you have that within you, you are sure to conquer the world. As quoted by one of our panelists, women systemically and consistently underestimate ourselves, in India and worldwide. Leave your inhibitions behind and make it happen. Though restarting a career isn’t easy but it’s definitely worth a shot.

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