Questions to ask yourself before heading back to work

Plenty of women have successfully managed to return to work after a hiatus which means you can too! To help you gain some clarity and sense of direction for getting back to work, career and life coach Zeta Yarwood highlights questions you should ask yourself before heading back to work:

What kind of job do you want?

If you enjoyed your previous career choice, knowing what job you want might be easy. If, however, you have no idea what you want to do, the process will take a couple of extra steps. In order to gain clarity on potential career options you need to ask yourself the following questions:

What specifically did I like and not like about my previous jobs?

Write two separate lists for ‘like’ and ‘dislike’. Think about your bosses, the company, the location, the working hours, the job responsibilities, the people you worked with, the environment. When finished, take the ‘dislike’ list and write down the opposite of each item. This will help you figure out what you do want. For example, if you didn’t like working on your own and spending all day behind a computer, then, by taking the opposite, you might enjoy a non-office based job going out and meeting people. Add this list to your ‘like’ list to help you get clarity on what you want in a job.

What am I good at?

Go back over all of the jobs you have had, or even as far back as school or university, and think of all the things you were really good at or performed really well in. Now, look at everything you have done while taking care of your family and running a busy household e.g. leadership, multi-tasking, managing budgets, forecasting, negotiation, conflict/time/stress management, event planning and so on.  We’re not looking for perfection here – a rating of 7 or 8 out of 10 is good enough. Remember – any time you received positive feedback about your performance, either at work or home, is an indicator of something you did well. Write it down.

What are my values?

Finding a job that matches your values is crucial. Your values are what is most important to you. Examples of values could be creativity, financial security, fun, trust, respect, leadership, innovation, friendship, nature, environment, challenge, design, structure, processes, achievement, recognition, charity, helping people, building, coaching, training, health, fitness, inspiration, intelligence. Write down a list of 20, and then out of that 20, then pick your top 7. Looking for a job that matches those 7 values will be the key to your happiness in your new role.

What am I passionate about?

Examples could be art, architecture, humanitarian causes, saving the environment etc.

With your lists, start to think about which jobs you might enjoy. If you’re stuck on ideas, use google to search for lists of different career options.

What else do I want?

Here, think about the type of company, size, their values (do they match yours?), industry, location, type of people, working hours, salary etc. Do some research using your criteria and make a list of companies you would like to work for.

Once you have your complete list of criteria, you will then need to think about what is essential, and what you are willing to compromise on.

What obstacles are stopping me from finding a job right now?

This could include: out of date CV, LinkedIn profile, interview skills, small network; lack of job search strategy, money, time or required qualification. For many mums, the two biggest obstacles are lack of confidence and a fear of failure. Make a list.

What resources do I already have to help me overcome these obstacles?

Resources include people, time, money, skills, the internet, social media, and recruitment agencies, publications (magazines, blogs, books, newspapers, and business publications). For example, if one obstacle is not knowing who to contact, start with the question ‘Who do I know that could help me?’ Write down a list of every single person you know. Then go through that list and ask each one if they can give you some advice or connect you to someone either in your target industry/company or if they know someone who can. Meet as many people as you can and ask them to help you. What have you got to lose? If you have a weak CV or out of practice in terms of interviewing, asking a recruiter friend or career coach for help is a good option.

If you are lacking confidence, remember confidence comes from doing. Were you confident when you first started driving? No. Are you confident now? Yes. Be kind to yourself and appreciate you will be a beginner to start with. But the more you do your job, the more confident you will become. Your employer will realise this too and will make room for the odd mistake. As long as you show you are learning from them, they’ll be happy.

If the issue is deeper than that, i.e. it is more a lack of self-belief than lack of confidence, then working with a coach is a great way to build self-esteem. A quick exercise you can do on your own is to write down as many examples in your life where you were great. Not just in previous jobs or at school, but also as a friend, mother or daughter. Go through the list and recognise you have so much to offer.

What actions do I need to take, starting today?

So now you have an idea of what jobs you are interested in, a target list of companies, the resources that can help you achieve it. Now it’s time to create an action plan. What steps, can I take starting today, to help me get closer to my goal?  Make a list and set deadlines e.g. by Feb 15th I will have contacted Jim, Mark, Sue and Lily. Or by Jan 30th I will have my CV ready.

The final step? Take action! While getting clarity on what you want is really important, it’s committing to taking action that is the crucial step. Having a plan is great but, unless you execute it, it’s useless. If you find yourself not taking action, chances are you are focusing on the potential pain of finding a new job (the stress of job-hunting, lack of certainty, scary interviews etc.). Write down all the positive things this new job or career will bring you and focus on those instead to keep you moving towards your goal.