#1: DID NOT COMPLETE MY CAREER ASSESSMENT/SELF REFLECTION
When I decided to return to work, I treated it like a new adventure! I jumped right in. Even though I dabbled in several things during my career break, I did not STOP and give myself permission to take stock.
This is definitely a critical step. WHY?
Because our lives, circumstances, interests have changed since we left the industry. In my case, I adopted a very flexible career approach, where I did short term consulting from my home office while managing and being with the kids. I also created an e-commerce site to test out selling online. I figured we always talk about it, why don’t I just DO IT! I have always been a person, to jump right in and figure things out instead of waiting in the sidelines for the “right moment” as there will never be a right moment.
One can say “patience” is certainly a quality I need to continually work on. According to my husband, I am insanely patient with my children, and he wishes it sometimes extended to him too…haha….So when my husband’s work took a turn because of the economic climate, I decided the practical thing to do was return to work, as it did not make sense for both of us to be free spirit “entrepreneurs”.
I am always game to try out new things, and when I was offered a role at a major advisory firm in the city in a different area to which I applied for, I was game to try it out! I jumped at it. My rather adventurous side came to fore….and just to add I don’t regret it, but after several months into it – I found it to be a job I could DEFINITELY EXECUTE, but the passion and values were in CONFLICT with my own.
#2: REFRESH YOUR GENERAL IT SKILLS AHEAD OF TIME ( E.G POWER POINT, WORD, EXCEL….)
So for me, Microsoft Excel, Word and Power Point were common tools I used before I went on my career break. As with any skill, one does become rusty if it is not used for a while.
In the workplace, there is an expectation to do everything quickly or faster, and, had I spent some time going over basic functions in excel and power point it could have saved me time refreshing on the job. Of course one is always learning new things on the job, so don’t beat yourself up and the juniors ( in some instances) will know more and cooler tricks than you! So be open to learning from them.
This is certainly not a deal breaker, though to feel like one is on par with others in the workforce, it would help to do this simple home work ahead of time.
#3: CONFLICT WITH PERSONAL VALUES
One of the areas I thought I would be indifferent to is the travel requirement on the job. The role I did required travel to client site 3-4 days a week.
As work got underway, I realised the challenge this posed to my young family, especially my 2.5 year old child, who was struggling to me being away so often. Although my husband was always around when I was away, this did not appease my 2.5 year old.
Furthermore, this frequent travel also made me realise that I missed the freedom and challenge of building my own business (which was something I was working on).
While I love travelling, the frequency of the travel was becoming increasingly challenging to fit around my family life and I had to make a serious decision on this front.
#4 NOT GIVING ENOUGH THOUGHT TO CONSULTING/ADVISORY
Prior to my career break, I was in a role within a bank and asset management that did not require frequent travel. Consulting is a whole different ball game and it’s not until I did it I realised the stark difference between the two. In hindsight, if I am returning to a different role, post career break, I would do a greater due diligence instead of being “adventuruous”. Incidentally this is one the steps I skipped from the framework I had created for myself for a successful career re-launch!
#5: HAVE REGULAR UPDATES WITH YOUR SPONSORING MANAGER(IF YOU ARE on an EXPERIENCED INTERNSHIP) TO ENSURE NO SURPRISES
One of the aspects of Consulting is that you will work on different teams. Therefore, you only have a short period to get to know your new team before diving right in! There are always unassumed expectations and its good to ask and set them at the beginning.
As a career returner, one is always judged slightly harsher because we are experienced so we must know a lot and there is a lack of empathy or understanding or just plain awareness in some cases, that given the time away, we require the time to get up to speed. This point is easily forgotten when one is busy delivering a project at a client site.
This is certainly a delicate point, and so if you are serious about returning to work, this is where you will need to invest your time getting up to speed on things, which may mean some late evenings. It is also at this point that one needs the wholesome support of your spouse/partner and family to lean in with the family duties ( school pick up, bath time etc) until you are comfortable in a role.
It is also important to set the scene from the beginning. If you have certain commitments don’t be afraid to communicate them at the beginning. So you set your boundaries and of course don’t forget to deliver!
One of my key takeaways is to always communicate no matter how small a matter is to your business sponsors/ managers such that if a matter were to become a serious point, you have the support of your manager as you have kept them in the loop the whole time.
#6: NOT HAVING A GOAL EXPECTATION FOR THE JOB WHETHER IT BE SHORT/LONG TERM
I have to admit, the only goal I had returning to work, was “RETURNING TO WORK!!”. Sounds really SILLY I KNOW….but at that point, I felt the first barrier is returning and then I will figure everything out. I failed to follow the entire system I created for myself previously, thinking I knew better! Well it certainly backfired. If you have done your research for the particular role you are targeting and you know whether it is for the short/long haul, going backwards two steps in “title” is not detrimental. In fact, in no time at all, you can outshine your peer group and accelerate your career.
Patience is key! For me, I knew deep down, that I wanted to create my own business for the long term and in the interim, I was willing to “experiment” with potential jobs. I knew I wanted to build a coaching/advising business helping other women, as its something I have been doing informally with my friends. They always came to me for advice on interviews/resumes/cover letter/motivational talk!
So set your goal at the beginning so that when you are at the crossroads, you know which path to take to get to your goal.
- Do a career assessment – just sit down and give yourself permission to write down all your needs/wants and write out your ideal job scenario.
- Patience – this is for the long haul and there will be some regression, don’t take it personally, it is about the job and delivering on the job and so businesses have an economic decision to make. That being said, don’t undersell yourself.
- Look at your career return like a marathon, it is not about the first 100 meters, or the first 400 meters, instead it is about crossing the 10k, 20k, and 40k finish line.
- Building relationships are key, more important than your technical skills as you move up the career ladder. One of my friend who runs a blog, What I Learnt on Wall Street summarises nicely, When you start out, you are just being paid to learn, then after about five years you are paid for what you know. Somewhere in your thirties, you start getting paid for who you know. I focused on building relationships not just with senior management but with junior members of the team too, as at some point I am going to have to call upon them to support me in a particular project.