Co-founder of SheThrives.org Belinda Elworthy takes us through three vital steps for back-to-work success.
I love a good to-do list. In the magical mayhem we know as raising our family, writing lists helps me to stay focused and action-oriented.
It’s also a pretty easy thing to do. Writing lists is excellent. But writing a to-do list when you’re hoping to make big changes in your life, without first building the mindset you need to sustain you, won’t make you unstoppable.
In the work we do to help women relaunch their careers after a career break, we see it every single day. A nice list of things to do … and very little action taken.
Many would-be returners are missing the mindset piece in the return to work puzzle, the source of their un-stoppability. (No, this isn’t a word, but it should be!)
You see, change has never been easy for human beings. It can be uncomfortable, frightening and for many ruminating about change can be a little paralysing.
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Returning to work after taking some time to raise your family can be one of these times of change where a to-do list just isn’t enough. If you’re looking to push past your fear, reluctance or overwhelm when it comes to working and raising your family, cultivating three areas of your mindset might be the only thing you need on your to-do list right now.
1. Call your confidence back
Re-discovering your self-confidence is a bit like finding a super-power you never knew you had. Confidence helps us on so many levels. It supports our wellbeing, it impacts our ability to achieve goals and importantly, it is strongly linked to perseverance – our ability to hang in there when the going gets tough. It’s also the thing we see missing most often in women.
The other thing we know about confidence is that it can be cultivated. We go deep on the strategies shown to build career confidence in many of our programs.
If you’re looking for more confidence today, you can start by recalling a couple of times when you were at your best at work (and by work, we mean work outside and inside of the home). Reflect and write down what it was about you at these times that meant you were operating at your best. What skills were you calling on? For an extra super-power boost, go and share your stories with someone else.
2. Re-ignite your return-to-work resilience
Return-to-work resilience is a little different to the typical resilience we associate with bouncing back from significant life set-backs. Rather than focusing on huge or extreme events, building your capacity to recover from the smaller emotional and psychological cuts and bruises you’ll experience along your return-to-work journey is what can really help you to become unstoppable.
Know this: Many of the conversations you initiate when you start your return-to-work journey, won’t go anywhere. You might apply for jobs that you won’t be selected for. And as a working mother, you might just totally screw it up some days.
It’s the micro come-backs that you make weekly, daily and hourly that count. One of the most effective things you can do to increase your resilience right now is to engage in self-compassionate dialogue.
Changing the way that you speak to yourself when things don’t go your way, or you mess something up, shifting from a tone of criticism to one that would be fitting to cheer up one of your closest friends can be game-changing.
3. Get career clarity
The final mindset-building tool we swear by for anyone seeking to return to work is achieving clarity about the direction you’d like your career to take. Not having clarity is sometimes the one thing that holds you back from taking the plunge and it can lead you to feel like you’re in limbo, or going around in circles.
Getting clarity first is also an efficient approach to take. You won’t waste time going down paths that don’t really fit, and clarity makes it easier to figure out where to invest your energy when it comes to updating your skills, studying or reconnecting with people who can help you.
Importantly, when it comes to convincing a sceptical stranger that you’re the best person for the job, clarity will help you to succinctly summarise why you’re the ideal candidate.
Getting clarity is straight-forward, but not always easy. The first step we always recommend is to get back in touch with what matters most to you when it comes to work. There are lots of ways to do this, and one simple way, is to jot down what is and isn’t important to you when it comes to work. Think about your previous roles, your family situation, your personal ambition and start writing your ideas down.
How unstoppable you are in any big-change situation depends on your level of readiness, and how ready you are to return to work depends on a number of factors.
Getting awareness of where you are at today, is a great place to start.
Belinda Elworthy is a mum to three boys and co-founder of shethrives.org. SheThrives supports women to return to work after a break through their access-anywhere programs, free resources and coaching support. If you’re thinking about returning to work you can take their free quiz and find out how ready you actually are, as well as what to do next.