It’s not unusual to lose confidence after taking a career break to raise a family, care for a relative, or for other personal reasons. Generally, the longer people have been out of the workforce, the greater the hit to their confidence. Here are some expert tips to rebuild confidence and be the best you can be.
There are many reasons that contribute to a loss of confidence after a career break. Some of these include:
- Fear of having skills that are out-of-date.
- Out of touch with networking and talking about yourself in a business sense.
- Out of practice actually going to work in your new situation and therefore unsure about how it will all work now that you have a child/children/sick relative to care for.
- Unsure about what you actually want to do, particularly if your values have changed since before you took a career break.
- Uncertain about what strengths and transferable skills you can offer.
The biggest issue with a loss of confidence is that it leads to inaction. You might feel ‘stuck’ and not actually do anything to help your situation.
Rebuilding confidence and returning to work
So what can you do to build your confidence? I recommend the following key steps:
Manage the inner critic
Returning to work is a major change in your life and, unfortunately, your inner critic tends to appear when a major change is required. Heard this before: No-one will want me after being out of work so long; I’m too old for a career change; Returning to work isn’t going to work with the family.
The first thing you can do is expect the inner critic to surface. That way, if you’re aware of these negative messages, you can start to manage them straight away.
Listen out for them, acknowledge them, and write them down. Then for each message, write down arguments to the contrary. If the inner voice is telling you: You have no skills to offer, organise a meeting with a friend or a previous colleague and ask them to help you write down all the skills and attributes that you can offer an employer.
A vast majority of jobs are filled through networking and direct applications, and this figure is even greater for relaunchers. In many cases, your relaunch is not going to happen through researching online or via conventional job search methods, especially if your preference is part-time work.
Submitting your resume via a job-seeking website is only going to highlight the gap in your career. What you really need to do is to get out of the house and get in front of people face-to-face to tell your story so that they can see for themselves what you have to offer.
Set yourself a goal each day to take a risk and do one thing to push you outside your comfort zone. Take small action steps at first as you build your confidence:
- Tell your family that you are returning to work next year (notice that I didn’t say, ‘thinking about returning to work next year’).
- Meet with a friend to brainstorm career ideas.
- Organise a coffee with an ex-colleague to talk about industry changes.
- Sign up for a one-day PowerPoint course to refresh your skills.
- Send a LinkedIn connection to a stranger working in an area of interest.
- Prepare an ‘elevator pitch’—who you are, what you can offer and what you are interested in doing.
All these small steps will add up and your confidence will grow.
Practice talking about yourself
One of the hardest things to do after being out of the workforce is to talk about yourself and what you can offer. Before you organise coffee meetings with potential employers or advocates, practice telling your story (to friends, to the mirror) and think about what you’ll say if someone asks what you want to do with your career.
Update your look
Invest in a haircut and one new outfit that makes you feel fantastic. When you have coffee meetings and start networking you need to feel confident with your look and presentation.
Returning to work or relaunching your career can be a frustrating and overwhelming experience. Give yourself mental and physical headspace to prepare for your return, setting aside time every day to take action steps to get you one step closer to your end goal.
Written by Leah Lambart. Leah is an experienced career coach and founder of Relaunch Me, offering individually tailored return to work coaching programs which include career counselling, interview coaching, LinkedIn coaching and job search coaching.