Ask one of our career coaches what they believe to be the number one personal barrier to a successful return to work after a career break and the chances are they will say “lack of professional confidence”.
Women on a career break may be very self-assured when it comes to their home and social life, but the thought of returning to the workplace can bring on a crisis of professional confidence. One of the ways this lack of confidence is often expressed is in negative thoughts around the prospect of returning to work – “I’m too old”, “things have moved on in my industry”, “I'm not the same person as the one who did that managerial job” etc, etc.
When we consider that much of our identity is tied up in our work, it’s not surprising that when we’ve been away from the workplace for any length of time, we can find our self-belief gets eroded. If you're feeling under-confident, don't let this hold you back - take steps to give yourself a boost and you'll be setting yourself up for success.
Top Tips for Boosting Your Confidence
- Remind yourself of your achievements – Think about all you have achieved, year by year, both before and during your career break. It doesn't matter how long ago it was, or whether it was a big or a small achievement, so long as it feels satisfying to you. To help, look out old copies of your CV to remind yourself what you achieved in past roles. Bringing your successes back to the front of your mind can give your confidence a real boost.
- Identify your key strengths and skills – Rather than focus on what you lack, focus on what you can personally bring to an employer. It can be a hard exercise to list your own strengths, so get feedback from your friends and family, and think about what skills you demonstrated in the achievements you listed. Don't minimise what you've done during your career break - for examples, caring and volunteer work create valuable new skills. Read our blog on setting your career compass for other advice.
- Adopt the right mindset – Your attitude has a powerful impact on your likelihood of success. We find that returners who work on their patience, persistence and positivity are more likely to make a successful return than those who give in to frustration and negativity. We discuss how to adopt a mindset of ‘realistic optimism’ in this blog and a growth mindset, in this blog.
- Brush up your knowledge and skills - Don't let feeling that your IT skills or industry knowledge are out of date sap your confidence. Upskill yourself. Find courses locally through Floodlight and look at the free online MOOCs (Massive Online Courses) to help bring yourself back up to speed. Use industry events and professional associations to find out what's been happening in your field and meet ex-colleagues to get an informal update.
- Update your image – If you look professional, you’re more likely to feel like a professional again. If you can afford it, it's worth investing in a new outfit (and maybe a new haircut) for networking and interviews. Read our step-by-step advice on updating your wardrobe for your return. Establishing a regular exercise routine can also make you feel and look better, as well as boosting your energy levels.
- Volunteer – If you've had a very long break, strategic volunteering can be a good way to ease you back into your 'professional self' and to refresh your skills and experience at the same time.
- Body Language - Focusing on looking more confident through the way you walk and talk can actually make you feel more confident. Read more here.
Get more advice on re-connecting with your 'professional self' in this blog. And don’t forget to take a look at the Success Story Library on our website - reading the wealth of stories of a wide range of women who have successfully returned to work after multi-year breaks can help you to believe that you can do it too!