Reinventing The Wheel – Succeeding in Your Second Career
There is one immutable fact that we cannot ignore – women are more proficient, skilled and gifted than we give them credit for. Some of us choose to have careers, some of us focus on our families even if it means removing ourselves from the workforce for a substantial period of time. The reasons to leave a job and assume the full time responsibilities of a household can be many…the mommy tack is definitely one of the main reasons for women to quit their job. We cannot overlook other factors such as family obligations, ailing parents, the need to pursue something different or the need for some time space to find your actual calling. The reasons are many and each one makes her own choice depending on her life situation and her own, individual drive. However, one thing that we simply cannot deny is that at some point or the other, many of us feel a strong urge to pursue our passions and aspirations be it in the form of having a second career or contributing to our society. Firstly, there should be no guilt attached to wanting more from your life especially if you have done so because you’ve had a baby. It’s quite unrealistic to expect that we should happily sacrifice our professional selves at the alter of motherhood so that we can be guilt free and earn the title of supermom. Whether it is a six month or a six-year break that you take after having children, as a woman, if you feel that you need to get back to a career that extends beyond being the primary caregiver of your children then, by all means, you should do it guilt free. As gut wrenching as it might be initially, you can be rest assured that the feeling will pass and you and your baby will be better for it. Now there are a number of women who return to their former jobs or take up jobs in the similar line of business in their stint post a break. But what about those who can’t do that for whatever reason. Maybe your previous job wanted you to be at work 15 hours a day? Maybe you needed to travel extensively? Maybe you just hated what you were doing? The reason can be anything but that doesn’t change the fact that now, today, you want to meaningfully engage and use your capabilities. Let’s begin with defining what ‘work’ and ‘career’ really means. For many, it is working in a professional organisation with a fat pay check that at the end of the day justifies the years of labour that you have put into in educating yourself and then complemented that with gruelling hours at work. For some, ‘work’ or ‘career’ simply means having something else to do in a committed manner that is somewhat remunerative in nature but could be far removed from what you have ever done in your life. At the end of the day, we need to realise that ‘work’ is doing something that you are proud of and which makes you feel like an accomplished and productive individual and impacts your selfworth positively at the end of each day. While all of this matters at a personal level, there is one thing that we cannot ignore. The fact is that the world is evolving at breakneck speed. So in order to stay relevant in today’s market, we have to make sure that our skills sets are in tandem with the current demands. Treating your career break as a sabbatical and upgrading your skills is a wise idea. Taking to your ex-colleagues, people who you look up to, your previous mentors can help a great deal to identify which skill sets you need to work on so that when you
do present your resume at that interview your potential employer knows that your skill sets are up to date and you don’t feel like a nervous wreck. And then there are those for whom getting back to their previous careers is not an option. What can these women do? I am a firm believer of the fact that in every adverse situation there lies an opportunity waiting to be identified. It is only when we don’t identify this opportunity that we end up becoming resentful of ourselves and as a domino effect everything and everyone around us. Now, I’m no counsellor but harbouring such feeling cannot, in any way, be conducive to you or the health of your family. Take this break time to assess things that excite you and you enjoy doing and see what career opportunities could stem from there. List your skills, know what makes you tick, know who you really are and spend some time figuring out which kind of companies hire women who have been out from the workforce. Or better still, start something of your own. Want some inspiration? The internet is buzzing with stories about women who completely changed their line of business because of several reasons and are actually not just successful in their ventures but also happier. Take a deep breath and explore…find things that rank high on your happiness index and see what you can do there. Keep your expectations realistic, evaluate the trade-offs, take baby steps, work hard and also prepare for failure as well. You don’t have to be successful in your very first attempt…but then, very few people really are and that is ok. Don’t be out to prove anything to anyone. It’s you who matters at the end of the day. The legacy of feminism is that we can choose our own path without the fear of being judged. Will getting back to work be challenging? You’ll be kidding yourself if you believed it isn’t. Weren’t your first years working challenging? Didn’t you feel like you’d collapse? This second phase will also be challenging especially if you’ve returned after taking the mommy break. But there’s one thing that motherhood teaches better than any B-School – patience and resilience. I’m sure if multi-tasking was a sport, mothers would win gold EVERY TIME! I’ve not met a mother till date who can’t organise and prioritise like a pro and make sure everything runs by the clock. You can’t faze a mother in a crisis situation…you can be assured that she’s seen worse! What you do need when you are trying to start a second career is support. If you have a family around to help you out, then take their help (guilt-free). Make sure that you choose a good care facility for your child. Putting a child in daycare can be a good thing. It helps children learn how to socialise, improve their skills, remain productively engaged, have fun with kids their age in a safe environment. When you know that your baby is well taken care of, you can focus all your energies on your career move. It’s an added plus that you will be setting a great example for your child that it’s ok to move out of your comfort zone when you want to achieve something. The great thing about choosing a second career is that you can get back to work on your own terms. You can decide how big or small you want to start and scale up as you get comfortable. You don’t have to work ten straight hours. You can work out how many hours you want to work and when. The operative statement here is “YOU get to decide”! Having said this, choosing a second career is no walk in the park. There are going to be days that are hard and miserable. You might at some point pine for your former
employed-self or berate yourself for getting derailed by the mommy track or even wonder what you are doing now, is it worth it at all? When you feel so, keep your head down, believe that this is just a bad day and like every day, this bad day will end too. Keep your ‘board of directors’, a set of trusted friends or associates who will guide you, inspire you and encourage you on speed dial. Sometimes a cup of coffee with your board is all you need to fix things. Lastly, have a sense of humour to laugh off a bad, difficult, tiring or downright miserable day. And remember that ‘you’ are the most important thing in your life. I have done this twice in my life , once 2.5 years break after my daughter was born and about 8 years ago , when I felt I must do something unique, towards my contribution to help young mothers go back to work. So it is very much doable. You have control only over ‘yourself’….so meet your own needs. Unless you do so, how will you be able to ‘happily’ provide for your family? Food for thought, isn’t it?