Restoring career confidence after kids


Last week, on this post about rebuilding lost confidence, Julie left this comment:

“I’ve been thinking of returning to the workforce after spending the past 6 1/2 years at home. However, I’ve lost confidence in whether I can still do the job I used to do before I had kids. Now I need to think about what I really want to do and whether I need to do a course to upskill myself.”

This is the second time in a couple of weeks that I’ve heard this sentiment expressed and it’s something I have zero experience in as I never stopped working when I had kids! So I took it to my Facebook page and, as always, that amazing community delivered in a big way!

Here’s what the clever people there had to say:

Karen: “I changed careers seven years after becoming a mum as motherhood changed my outlook on my old job. A quick course allowed me to follow something I was more interested in. When you have a family, I think the time away from them at work should be really fulfilling, otherwise you might question the whole point of juggling two jobs.”

I have to say, that last line from Karen really resonated with me as I found myself in the position last year where I was juggling my job in the Swish office with my job running our household … and, as I wasn’t enjoying the former, I spent a LOT of time questioning what the point was. This year, where my main role is the Flying Solo Editor role … life is MUCH better!

But, er, this post isn’t about me! So back to awesome advice for Julie:

Tracey: “Hi Julie! I’ve just done this very thing! I found the work part came back to me fairly easily. Hardest part for me was interacting with adults who weren’t interested in only talking about what the kids were up to. Which made me realise how isolated I had been. I did find that my organisational and time management skills are so much better now than they were pre-kids.  I’m sure your confidence will return in time. All the best!”

Cat: “You can absolutely do it Julie. You are a better worker for having been home a little while, I promise.”

Danika: “I had over a year off and feel exactly the same way! Before I thought I was ready to return to work the perfect job came up! I just couldn’t not apply and … so glad I did! Instead of overthinking I just had to jump in. And I interviewed really well! If I hadn’t done the interview I would have continued to doubt myself; instead I could feel good about how I went. And I got the job … I’m still amazed that the whole process went so smoothly. I still have to prove myself in the workplace but I’m several steps closer which is awesome. Good luck to everyone,  I recommend the ‘just do it’ approach after my experience.”

Julia: “Julie might be underestimating the skills she’s learnt in the last 6 ½ years!” (I reckon you’re right Julia!)

Margaret: “Reframe the negative thoughts into positive or at least not quite so negative. Fear of failure is a powerful motivator to do nothing or avoid risk. If you can cope with whatever is realistically the worst that might happen (which most often never happens) then you can cope with anything. Instead of ‘I’m afraid I can’t do the job’ turn it into ‘I’m excited I’ll be able to learn some new skills’. You’ve got this!! Another thing Julie might find useful: watch Amy Cuddy on TED on the subject of power poses and using your body language to develop confidence.

Jenni: “I would suggest this is a perfect time to reinvent! Study, do workshops and open your mind to possibilities. Money is nice but personally being happy is even more important. Confidence comes from many things … mind, body, spirit, image etc, make changes in all of these areas and you will own the world.”

Alycia: “Sometimes the tech can be an obstacle. Check with some old colleagues to see if you’re missing some tech skills and find some short courses to upskill. I found attending networking sessions, albeit scary at first, got me out and talking amongst the adults and can give you that little bit of confidence to keep going. Smaller networking functions are usually best to attend when starting back into it. Also, have some coffee with some currently working friends. Pick their brains. You’d be surprised at the opportunities that can arise by simply telling people you know that you’re keen to get back to your career. And … just as you would encourage your kids that they can do something, give some of that encouragement to yourself.”

Ashley: “I’m going through this same thing and my baby is only 13 months. It is a strange thing to go through as confidence plays a big part but we have to pull ourselves together and get on with it no matter how daunting. I would say to Julie “Go with what you think is right”. ie If study will give you that boost to a new career that will make you happy, then do it. After six years at home doing the world’s hardest job I would say do something you love and that makes your heart sing. (Not that raising children doesn’t make your heart sing! But you need that other thing that gives you satisfaction.) Good luck and go get ‘em girl I say.”

Jo: “A career coach can be extremely helpful in many ways as they can assist in building a fantastic resume, cover letter etc but most importantly, they can help with confidence by showing you your strengths and key achievements ready for interview. You may also like to look at career preference and suitability testing. It’s a bit like personality profiling but for careers.”

Bron: “Like I always say to the kids, “you won’t know if you suck at something if you don’t at least try…””

Finally – my friend Tammy (who’s just released this really awesome book for anyone in a leadership role) has also written a great blog post on the topic.

Wow – I learned a lot from that conversation!

Do you have anything to add to the amazing thoughts above?