How to regain your confidence after a career break

Feeling nervous about looking for work after taking time off to raise your children? Find out how to regain your confidence after a career break. 

Job hunting after an extended career break can knock the stuffing out of even the most self-assured professionals. Many would-be returnees convince themselves that the long period away has somehow magically erased their skills.

Flexible employment can seem particularly out of reach. After all, if you want the luxury of part time hours or working from home days, you’d better be offering something pretty special in return, right?

Instead, too many mums convince themselves that they’re not worthy, with similar thought patterns:

“I’m so out of touch. I’ll never understand all the new systems. I’ll have to work full time just to catch up. Maybe I should accept a lower salary… or take a junior role… I’ll be happy just to make the coffee or something… but what if it’s some new-fangled coffee machine that I can’t work? Argh, I’m going to make a fool of myself!”

Five strategies to help you regain your confidence

Feeling nervous is understandable, but don’t let your fears go into overdrive; they’ll hold you back and make you seriously undervalue yourself.

Instead, adjusting your mindset and adopting some simple strategies can drastically alter the way you view your abilities and supercharge your confidence. Here are five strategies to try.

1) Channel your inner confidence

What does confidence look like for you? Think back to a time when you felt really confident. What did it feel like? What did it smell like? What were you wearing? Think about your body language – how were you moving and holding yourself?

Be really clear about that memory. Then bring it to mind and use it as a boost whenever you’re feeling less self-assured.

2) Apply your life skills to the workplace

Recognise what you’ve learnt during your time out. If you’ve been raising children, you’ll surely be a master at organisation, stress management and leading a team. Not to mention negotiating with hostages.

You’ll have dealt with untold challenges. List them, identify the skills you utilised and articulate them for potential employers. (Discover 17 surprising new skills you can add to your CV after becoming a mum.)

3) Value your experience

Remember that your experience counts – no matter how long ago it was. The chances are you’ve spent more of your life in work than out of it. The passing of time doesn’t negate the knowledge and expertise you’ve built up during your career.

Ok, you might need to refresh your IT skills. But people skills and managing relationships is the backbone of the majority of professions, particularly HR. Trust that once you get back into gear, it will all come flooding back.

4) Talk about how you feel

Tell people how you’re feeling. If this is your first time back at work after having a family, you could be experiencing a whole host of emotions.

I remember being particularly tearful when my maternity leave ended. I felt bad about leaving my baby and guilty for daring to be excited about returning to work. I hadn’t anticipated how conflicted I’d feel.

Being open with your boss and colleagues can really help. Your emotions have a huge impact on your performance so it’s important to be honest if you’re struggling.

5) Accept it will take time

Finally, and importantly, accept that it will take time to adjust and that’s okay. Getting back in the employment saddle can seem like a big step. But don’t work yourself up into believing it’s a giant leap.

So seek support, be kind to yourself and recognise that on the other side of fear is success. Embrace the apprehension and tackle it. Above all, remember: you were successful before and you can be again. You’re just picking up where you left off.

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Helena Stone is a change management consultant and mentor with 20 years’ experience. She supports organisations and individuals who want to create positive change and provides 121 confidence mentoring as well as delivering workshops to help women improve their confidence and do what they love.

Photo by joyce huis