Work After Baby: How to Get Your Career Mojo Back

What are some of the challenges women or men face when trying to re-enter the workforce after a long absence? Communications expert Elissa Lansdell shares solid advice for new parents transitioning back to work.

woman rushing in suit with baby in carrier

Don't Look Back 

While it's tempting to try to "recapture" your former self, you're so much more than that! You've been enriched by a major life experience and discovered new capacities. Redefine who you are and realize that you're now you — only better.

If you need a pep talk, phone a friend — one who knows you best and who will be honest with you. What changes have they seen in you? For example, they may have noticed that you're more direct in your communication or that you are more efficient or more committed to seeing a job through.

Find a Mentor 

We all know at least one woman who has successfully re-entered the workforce. Talk to her and question her. Find out what her fears were and how she overcame them. What resources has she used? Where has she found her strength?

Make sure it's someone with whom you have an established relationship, or with whom you've interacted before. Ask specific questions and never underestimate the power of a well placed compliment. People love to talk about themselves and their successes, so if you open with a genuine compliment (i.e., "I was impressed by how seamlessly you managed your transition back into the workforce. I'm about to make that transition. What's your secret?") you will probably get a useful response.

Get Your Mojo Back 

And to do that you really need to shift your mindset. Sure, you may have been knee-deep in diapers and laundry, but that's only part of what you did. Start listing the talents you've acquired since having children. Parents returning to work are generally more empathetic, mature, reliable, present at work and motivated. You'll probably notice that your "No B.S." factor is incredibly high!

Both moms and dads who have taken time off to raise their children have some fantastic soft skills: they have developed good negotiating skills,patience and commitment, and they know how to prioritize (because they have to). Never think your skills are "not good enough" because they come from personal experience. Quite the contrary — they're the very essence of leadership!

Don't underestimate the power of a new outfit. Depending on how long you've been out of the workforce, your clothes might be outdated or just don't fit. This is a time to develop your brand, and that includes how you look.

Do Your Research

Go online and research companies that promote women and encourage the hiring of women re-entering the workforce.

Check out the website workforceready.ca for tips on getting back into the workforce, as well as volunteer and learning opportunities and jobs (for both men and women). A simple Google search for "flextime friendly companies" will give you an idea of the kind of companies looking to hire parents returning to the workforce.

Network 

It's tough to find time since you're still CEO of the household, but schedule windows to network and you'll start to feel more motivated and empowered. Seeing yourself speak up is the first step toward that empowerment.

It doesn't have to be fancy. You can have a casual afternoon party and invite friends who will be excited about your new initiative. Take former colleagues to lunch, ask them what's changed in the industry, and try to leave with two or three contacts who you can call. Update your profile and make use of LinkedIn and see who can make introductions for you.

Watch Your Language

The words you use are powerful and can directly affect how others see you and how you see yourself. You didn't stop working or take time off. You planned an awe inspiring, earth changing career shift. And now you're back!

Find a captive audience (your spouse/your best friend) who can role play with you and ask you typical questions that an interviewer might ask, like: "How have you kept your skills up to date?" (possible answer: "I've not only kept my skills up to date, but developed some new ones. Here's how…."). 

Talk to friends on the phone about how you plan to answer interview questions. Ask for their honest opinion. We can all benefit from using more confident language. Instead of saying, "I feel like I'm sort of better at some things," say, "I'm convinced that I'm a better communicator/more dedicated to deadlines/etc." and then give examples. Start saying "I believe," "I'm confident" and "I'm convinced" instead of "I think" or "maybe" and you'll find that your mindset follows.

 

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