I met with a friend of mine the other day. We were chatting about going back to work. She was about to start a new job after having been out of work for 8 years. I asked her how she was feeling and she replied, ‘I’m absolutely terrified.’
I sympathised and nodded in agreement. I’d been there myself. After taking only 6 months out of work on maternity leave, my confidence took a bit of a knock, so goodness knows what she was feeling like after 8 years.
It’s The Prospect Of Going Back To Work
It was the prospect of going back that scared my friend. She had been out of the workforce for such a long time that it felt hugely daunting for her. How would she cope? Would she be capable? Would everyone be better than her?
I think, deep-down, she knew she could do it but needed some re-assurance that things would be ok. As with most situations that are new to us, we tend to let our minds go into over-drive by focusing on all the possible bad things that could happen (which never really do).
Remember that the workplace hasn’t evolved that much since you were last there. People are still the same. Technology may have changed but we’re all pretty tech-savvy these days (and if not, it’s easy enough to learn).
Remember That You Are Still You
And remember too that you haven’t suddenly morphed into an incapable being. You are still you. As another friend of mine said, ‘you are still the same woman just with more balls to juggle.’ I like that! She was talking about going back to work after having kids.
By the way, if you’re wondering what happened to my friend, she has started her new job. And yes, she was scared as her first day approached but afterwards she said, ‘I feel empowered. Don’t know why I was worrying so much.’
You’re Not The Only One Feeling Scared!
If you’re about to go back to work and you’re feeling nervous, you’re not the only one. It’s completely natural to feel this way.
I’ve talked to a lot of friends (and friends of friends) about returning to work and below are some of the comments they shared with me.
Some are already back in work and share how things have gone, whether they were nervous and if confidence levels were affected. Some are still contemplating it and share their thoughts too.
Here’s What They Said…
- ‘It’s 15 years since I last worked. I need to look for a part-time job to get some money in and I am absolutely petrified. I’m not used to working in an office or a shop and I know the culture has changed over the years and I’m not sure how I will cope with it. Everything seems to be done electronically these days and I’m a bit nervous of that.’ (This is a comment from a friend who is back in work now and is liking it, though in her words is ‘knackered’.)
- ‘My confidence levels weren’t affected. I was still the same person, doing the same role; I just had another string to my bow so to speak.’ (My friend is talking about being a mum too.)
- ‘Initially yes, I felt nervous. I wondered if I had forgotten how to do my job (I hadn’t!) but issues at work affected me less after becoming a parent as I have an adoring family to come home to who don’t care about how I am perceived at work.’
- ‘When you return to work after having a baby you are completely exhausted but that didn’t mean I was less confident. It just meant that I couldn’t concentrate as much!’
- ‘It was ok as I returned to work after 8 months but I took longer off with my second child. When I was applying for jobs, I could see that my skills had become out of date. I had to spend some time getting my skills up to date again. I would love to work part-time but struggle to find a well-paid, part-time job.’
And Some More Thoughts….
- ‘I’m back at work and what I’ve realised is that I’m less bothered by things that happen at work. Don’t get me wrong, I work hard and love what I do but the issues that used to affect me (office politics, bitchiness, worrying) don’t affect me so much these days. I think with age, I’ve got more perspective – and I’ve less time to get involved.’
- ‘You know what, I just think we lose confidence in ourselves. We lose that faith that we can do it. And of course, we can do it. We are hugely capable and need to remember that.’
- ‘I felt a loss of identity. I wasn’t sure who I had become after having kids. My life is focused on the kids and running the house and returning to work just seems too scary.’
- ‘I have gone back part-time but I feel that I have been treated differently at work. I don’t feel that I am involved in decisions any longer. Not sure if that is because I’m working part-time or if I’m genuinely being left out of the decision making process.’
- ‘Well, let’s talk about the juggle. I went back to work and still ended up doing all the housework etc. My advice to any mum going back to work is to set expectations at home before hand and to divvy up tasks. It makes the transition easier for you and helps with the exhaustion levels which in turn helps with how you feel at work.’
- ‘I think maternity massively knocks your working confidence as when you leave you worry they aren’t going to miss you, then when you go back the way people perceive you is different.’
- ‘Temporarily (nervous) as I work in the digital industry and technology changes so fast. On return to work, once I had caught up on my time off and educated myself on major changes then confidence levels were instilled.’
- ‘I didn’t return to the same work as I didn’t have the flexibility that I needed with my old job. It was quite daunting starting out in a new industry but I coped and it’s going well.’
- ‘Yeah, I was petrified but it has been liberating. I’ve got the old-me back and I love it. I’m meeting new people, learning new stuff and it feels good.’
- ‘Of course, it’s scary. But I think looking after kids is much harder than working!’
I’d love to hear from you on how you feel about going back to work or if you have returned, how you coped. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out my post on 15 confidence tips for mums going back to work.