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What goes on in the minds of women when they are contemplating restarting career?
Well ladies, grab a cup of coffee as I will be telling you a story. This story starts from our ancestors when divisions of roles were clear – women would take care of the house and babies while men would go hunting. What people forgot was to focus on the fact that division started because it was practical to use the strengths of partners in order to survive.
Going a century ahead, we fought for the right to education and eventually we did get it. However, this right came with terms and conditions attached. The condition was to get educated only and only if we could manage the household chores as well. In fact, household chores were supposed to be given the priority irrespective of exams or any competitions.
After a lot of struggle over education, we stepped into the next phase where doing an office job was the privilege. So as we all know about this and many of us have even experienced it firsthand. Families made us feel that we were getting the privilege of working out of the house. So now ladies, notice the trend of terms and conditions, here the terms and conditions were same. You can go to work as long as you can manage household chores. Again, priority would be house and marriage irrespective of deadlines, promotions or office functions and treats. And how did we respond? We took it up as a privilege and continued the struggle. They made us feel that they are doing a favour and we allowed that thought as long as we are getting education and chance to take up jobs.
The crux of the problem is in our belief that adjustment and struggle in everything are mandatory in our lives. It’s so deep in our psyche that we don’t realize that we can say no and take a stand. And you know what makes it worse in this evolution of women- the appreciation factor. No one appreciated us for doing a good job, doing the good work. If one managed both house and work, it was taken for granted. If one managed her studies and house still it was taken for granted.
Do you remember anyone in family telling you this –‘I really admire the way you manage everything, ‘You are very hardworking and sincere’, ‘You have great multitasking skills,’ ‘Is there something I can do to ease your burden?’, ‘You look too tired. From now onwards, I will handle this last set of chores. ‘You go to sleep as you have a long day tomorrow.’; ‘You have amazing people skills’, ‘You are doing a great job with your kids’. Nah! I don’t think so.
But we have definitely heard these statements – ‘Your presentation was very good today’, ‘You spoke very confidently’, ‘Your performance is amazing’, ‘ How do you manage to be so good with everyone?’, ‘ I will give you this project because you will be able to handle this client’, ‘Due to your consistent performance, we are promoting you.’ And of course, a salary package is cherry on the top. In the workplace, our leaders do appreciate us or at least colleagues do. In family set up, who does it? No one!!! In few occasions maybe husbands or our own sisters or brothers will motivate us with a few good words.
Elders are supposed to be as leaders, right? I call them bad leaders because the duty of a leader is to nurture and motivate. It is to encourage and help the person grow. To add to the mix, man is brought up from childhood with conditioning. This conditioning is that it’s okay for women working harder than the men and have a higher share of the workload. Same goes for women. They have accepted that they have to work hard at home also as it privileges to even go to the office. And permission to hang out with office friends feels as if the favour is done on them.
This is another crux of the problem when the career break happens. At the workplace, there is constant appreciation and moral support given either by colleagues or boss or clients. Here we knew our worth. It enhanced productivity. When we take a break, we are usually in the house where critique flows easily compared to appreciation or even acknowledgement of hard work of the woman. We don’t even think it is okay to ask your family for help in managing a house. It has sunk into the psyche without anyone realizing.
Think back about each instance where you deserved appreciation. An instance where mother in law should have said that you are very hardworking and managing everything so well. Or an instance where the husband should have said that please go to sleep, I will manage the house chores for tonight. An instance where family acknowledging in front of relatives that we are proud of our daughter in law. Another instance where the mother should have said, ‘please go out and have fun. I will keep your kid for some time. You deserve to be pampered for working so hard’.
The absence of these positive verbal acknowledgements leads to several subtle changes in thought patterns. These can play a role in making us stronger and confident. Positive statements by our loved ones motivate us when we are vulnerable. It is true that Indian family environment is less conducive for our personal and professional development. The ‘me’ time factor is lost in the world of chaos and then when it comes time to restart the career, she has to start from square one especially mentally. Ladies, it’s time to say this – ‘I am good at multitasking so I will handle these chores you handle those.’ ‘I am tired as I am having a larger share of the workload.’ ‘I need a break from this routine, I am going out. Please handle the kids.’ ‘I had a tough time handling things today; I will finish this tomorrow’, ‘I have handled the whole situation very nicely, I deserve a treat’. I know that most of us haven’t even thought like that. Well, it’s time now to start getting our perspective in place.
We need to understand that even at home, situations should make you self realize and more confident. If you don’t receive a positive boost by your loved ones then it’s time to start doing it yourselves. This attitude and confidence will be needed when we step forward into the job world.
A career break is taken for various reasons and it’s important to focus on things that we learnt. It can be handling household chores under pressure, constant multitasking, keeping the energy levels up, leadership in case of handling kids and able to deal with elders assertively, negotiation skills, financial planning, prioritizing the chores, discipline, admin tasks, scheduling, planning and what not.
Do you know what’s the best part, ladies? The best part is the ability to adapt and accept and adjust in any new phase that life had thrown at us and being self-motivated and quick learner to deal with it. If you feel this about yourself every day then trust me, women, you will give the best interview of your life and will learn to demand a salary equal to the last drawn. It won’t be easy to change your way of thinking suddenly but you can try a little every day.
Well, I can help you with few tips apart which can pull you through these tough times.
Below is a list of 6 things can definitely boost your morale –
Prepping for break
Remember longer the break, tougher is the comeback. So get your mind ready.
Rethink about your career options – Same profile or change of profile
Start your networking once you know you will be taking a break.
Maintain this networking during the break, it gives an edge.
Social Media is the key
Maintain your social media presence – LinkedIn, Facebook, other Associations or groups.
Read the articles, comment on posts; follow the companies, network with HR professionals or other leading people of organizations where you aspire to get back into.
Start pursuing those skills and course which interests you.
Think of taking up a part-time job as per your situation or convenience.
Remember, courses help in exploring yourself, learning your capabilities and has a feel-good factor.
Touch with one’s self
Keep in touch with yourself.
The transition from successful career woman to homemaker can be difficult and there are chances of losing identity or struggle to adjust to the new role which is quite different from the one you are used to.
Key is to focus on the skills and the learnings instead of the work profile.
Focus on what you are getting to learn and how are you managing it.
Learn to hone your skills in your new profile now. This attitude will make you more flexible, open-minded and confident.
Importance of career counselling
Book an appointment with a career counsellor and get your assessment done.
Be clear about your expectations and your needs from your career now.
More the filters, more time it will take to find the right company and profile.
Career counselling will enable you to explore more.
There are various internship programs coming up for women who are planning to restart her career, you can give it a thought.
The city, culture, your efforts, organizational culture and your expectations need to be realistic and match.
Get connected to women who have restarted their careers. It helps to have likeminded people around.
So, in end, trusting yourself and being in touch with your self is going to help you break the ceiling. You have done it before and you can do it again. You will sail through only if you help yourself. Take help if needed, focus on what to want and develop ways to achieve it. There is nothing that you cannot achieve if you put your mind to it. As Amir Khan said, “Focus on excellence, success will have no option but to come behind you”.
We have to thank the strong women entrepreneurs who have struggled hard to help us to come back from a career break. Organizations like Sheroes, Jobsforher have recreated a revolution and spreading the awareness about giving fair chance to women returning from break. Companies have also realized the importance of promoting such awareness and have started various programs for the same. Tata –Tata Second Career, Godrej –Careers 2.0, Dr Reddy’s Comeback Careers for Women, Larsen and Toubro’s – Renew, Axis Bank – Reconnect and many more such companies have started the launch.
It’s just a matter of time when things will get easier for a coming generation till then pat on your back for having the courage to take this step and achieving a milestone for yourself. We have been achieving milestones and we will continue doing it.
Kudos to all the women out there.