Returning to work after a period of caring for children - or any other dependants - can be a bewildering and daunting prospect. Particularly in the case of returning after maternity or parental leave, it can be difficult to even remember what life was like prior to having family responsibilities, as things have changed so fundamentally since.
If you’re starting to think about going back to work, and need a confidence boost, consider the following exercises and ideas.
Talk your self confident
Tap into your confidence by using exercises based on neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). For example, NLP anchoring techniques can help you unlock a more confident state. Think about a time when you were really confident - perhaps in a work situation, when you have delivered against expectations and received praise, or in a personal context, when you have been in complete control of a situation and felt really confident about the part you play. Think about how you felt at that time - use as many senses as you can when conjuring this image in your mind, what did you see, hear, feel, what did people say about you and what were your physical responses to the situation.
Create a vivid image, and then, by anchoring this to a gesture, you will be able to tap into the emotions you experienced at a later date. For example, when you are absorbed in the feeling of confidence you have created, click your fingers or discretely stamp your foot. Practice linking the feeling of confidence with this physical gesture until your can release these feelings by simply making the movement.
Start thinking about your skills in business terms
To help you feel more confident about the prospect of job hunting or returning to your previous role, start to think about what you have learned and do every day during your maternity or parental leave in more business-like terms. This will help you identify your transferrable skills and use your parenting experiences to your advantage. Think, for example, about situations when you have shown organisation, leadership or negotiation skills - there will probably be many in your parenting journey - and give yourself credit for these achievements in a business sense rather than simply considering them ’something you have to do as a parent’. Don’t forget, also, to update your CV, including the transferrable skills you can articulate.
Remember what you loved about your job
Whether you’re returning to a previous role or starting afresh, it can be hard to really remember what you were like as a professional working outside of the home, as the work of parenting is so absorbing. Spend time reminding yourself about what you loved about the job you had, whether it is the social connections, the challenge, to independence or variety. By focusing on the things you loved about your career you will start to look forward to your return and feel more enthusiastic and confident as a result.
Reconnect with your network
If you have found that you have drifted away from colleagues and work-based connections during your leave, don’t panic. It is not at all unusual, and reconnecting with your network need not be half as painful as you might fear. Most people will be able to empathise with your situation if you drop them an email or pick up the phone for a chat, and explaining that you’re shortly returning and would love to catch up should be enough to rebuild some bridges. Don’t forget, many of your colleagues will have been in the exact same situation themselves, so will understand the challenge you face.
Be realistic in your expectations of yourself
Returning to work can be hard emotionally. You can help yourself by picking the right time, and giving yourself time to find the right role and settle in - it can take months, so don’t panic if you feel odd about your return for some time. Think about how your return can be made most smooth for you and your employer - don’t be afraid to ask for flexible working if you think this is right for you, and be creative with what that looks like - perhaps some time spent working from home to avoid the commute on top of other pressures, or a variety of working hours to make your childcare easier to arrange, even if only for a short time during your initial return period.
Finally - know your rights in regards your return to work, and don’t be afraid to raise any concerns you have with your boss or HR department if you feel that you’re being unfairly treated as a result of your family status. Whilst legal protection varies in different parts of the world, most employers would not intentionally make life difficult for any returning parent, and simply asking in a calm and balanced way for the support you need may well do the trick.
Image: Proud mother via Flickr