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6 tips to tackle self-doubt after a career break

By Emilly Parris

Returning to work after a career break can prove to be quite a challenge. Whether you’ve taken time off to start a family, faced a redundancy or spent a year travelling abroad—an absence from work can reduce your confidence levels and make you question your ability to perform a job that was once so familiar.

It is normal to feel a sense of doubt after a career gap, but the good news is you’re not alone. In fact, a 2013 British study found that eight in ten mothers lacked confidence and felt socially isolated when they took time off work for their children. During their maternity leave, many women felt they were losing the professional skills they had spent so long developing.

SkillsTalk will look at six ways you can minimise the self-doubt that creeps in when you decide to return to work and how to make the adjustment much smoother.

6 ways to help minimise self-doubt after a career break.

  1. Prepare yourself mentally.
  2. Talk to your employer.
  3. Use your support network.
  4. Don’t compare yourself to others.
  5. Have the right perspective.
  6. Understand that it will take time.

1. Prepare yourself mentally.

Without mental preparation, returning to work can seem much more difficult than it should. It’s worth taking the time to figure out what you want to do, the type of work environment you want to be in and what you want your role to shape into in the future. 

Consider that your attitude to work may change—for example, you may decide to take on a role with fewer responsibilities to start with, and then work your way up as you gain more confidence. While the transition into work may happen quickly, it’s more likely that it will happen in gradual stages as you settle into a new routine.

2. Talk to your employer.

Communication with your employer is vital in the earliest stages of your return, so be sure to discuss everything with them to make sure you’re all on the same page. This is the perfect opportunity to address any concerns you have about workload management, team structure and any changes that may have happened while you were gone. Most employers will understand and some even have measures in place for employees who are returning from a career break.

3. Use your support network.

support network concept

For new parents returning to work, it’s important to utilise your support network to help you get back on your feet. Have a system in place, whether it’s another family member taking care of the kids while you’re at work or a contingency plan for those days you need to be at home. Many working parents say the right support is what makes the transition into the workplace that much easier.

4. Don’t compare yourself to others.

It’s easy to compare your journey to others in a similar boat, but everyone’s experience is unique. Each individual works at a different pace, some have a stronger support network while others have fewer barriers to re-entry. Focus your attention inward and reflect on your own goals rather examining everyone else’s experiences at face value.

5. Have the right perspective.

two women working together

It’s easy to view your worth through the lens of how you perform against KPIs and other external criteria, but your value extends far beyond how hard you work at your job. Remember, if at one time you were able to do something, there’s no reason you can’t do it again (and in most cases do it better). New parents especially, have gained many new skills, most of which are transferable. Try to avoid placing too much value on how well you do in your job, and remind yourself how much value you bring into the world by just being you!

6. Understand that it will take time.

It may take a while for work to start feeling natural, since this will be a complete overhaul of your existing routine. Depending on how much time you have been out of the workforce, many things in your industry may have changed and it will take time to get comfortable with it and settle into a daily work pattern. It may not feel the same as it did before, but you will eventually find your rhythm.

Considering further training or development?

When you are ready to start job hunting, it’s important to know where you are at with your skills and experience, and update your resume as required. This could mean taking on an additional course or training to get you up to speed in your industry. Though you may be apprehensive about your return to work, stay positive—this could be a great opportunity to carve the career of your dreams and step into a role you truly love.

Want to learn more? Upskilled offers courses from short refreshers to certifications in some of Australia’s most in-demand industries. Give us a call on 1300 009 924 or chat to one of their education consultants for more information.
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