There are moments in life when you can really question yourself and your decisions. The self-doubt ‘monster’ starts creeping up and tapping you on your shoulder. It’s usually when you need to take a leap into the unknown without having all the answers.
I have returned to work this month after a six month career break, but what does a career break even mean? Well for me it was a chance to stop working altogether, take some time to rest, to breathe, to think and plan my future, because my busy professional career life was not allowing me to do so.
For others, a career break may not be out of choice. Maybe you had to take a break to have a child, to look after a loved one or because of illness— whatever the reason, we all tend to get to the end of it and ask ourselves, how will I ever return to work?
Having started my new role at A Human Agency (A-HA), in a completely different environment to what I was used to, all the fears about returning to work resurfaced. My head was filled with self-doubt and endless questions like ‘what has happened since I took a break? Are my skills still up to date? Can I still do my job effectively? Will people want to work with me?’
I am sure this scenario would be familiar to most people returning to work after a long break and it is a lonely feeling when you first emerge back to the professional world.
I don’t have all the answers and for each of us it is a different journey, but I thought it would be worth sharing some insights on what I’ve learnt so far.
1. Your biggest enemy is fear.
The minute you allow the negative self-talk and doubt into your thought process, it’s easy to let it hijack the other parts of your brain that encourages you to take positive action. Some people would even say fear paralyses them.
I refused to let fear paralyse me and as I started to doubt my ability to have that first conversation, I put a plan in place to overcome that fear. I discovered that by talking to contacts, colleagues and friends, and telling them what I was doing, they encouraged me to give it a go. They acknowledged and advised that it would take time, but I had the contacts and the skills to make it work. They gave me the confidence that I was doing the right thing. They lifted me up and away from the fears I had.
2. Think of the Positives
Although it is daunting to do something different, it also feels exciting to work with like-minded people, and to have the opportunity to offer something different in the HR space. Even more exciting is the opportunity to work with a diverse group of organisations that I may never have been exposed to in the past.
Whilst taking a leap into consulting is not without its challenges, it has enabled me to tap into a more creative mindset.
Though I enjoyed and valued my time at larger corporate organisations, I’m also loving the freedom of choosing my own work/life balance, being surrounded by fresh thinkers and being part of an innovative and energetic company. Though there are more risks associated with being your own boss, it definitely feels good to be brave and step out of my comfort zone.
3. You don’t have to do it alone
Find people who have gone through something similar. I can’t emphasise enough how helpful it’s been to have the support of old colleagues and friends— to have people around me to talk about my new venture and ask questions of colleagues who have similarly taken a courageous step in a different direction.
There are many great people out there who are willing to share their story, their insights and help others who are starting out in a new space. When you reconnect with former colleagues, you reconnect with your professional self. All that knowledge you have comes back and the fear dissipates.
I keep thinking about the analogy of riding a bike. You can never really forget how to ride a bike once you’ve learned. It doesn’t matter how much time you have away from work, if you are passionate about what you do, then you will be able to overcome any fears.
If you are reading this and you’re thinking ‘that’s great Simone, but I don’t know anyone who has been in this post-career-break situation’, well now you do! Email me for a chat, you can also take advantage of our special EOFY offer on coaching, when you book your first two coaching sessions, you'll get a third for free (offer ends 30 June, terms and conditions apply).
As a principal at A-HA with over 17 years experience, Simone Gigg specialises in coaching, strategic HR and restructuring.
If you’d like to know more, talk to us, A Human Agency is here to help.