I was 39, I’d had a little girl and then we’d been living in Germany for 6 years with my husbands job, now we were back in the UK and it was time to re-start my career.
During those 6 years I’d had a coaching practice and lovely clients that had moved with me as we’d gone from Germany to the UK and back to another part of Germany, but with the 2nd move back to Germany I’d decided to park my business. It felt too much moving it all of the time and I had this need to be around people more on a daily basis, so I was a trainer for the MOD for a few years and worked in the leadership team of a school for a short while.
What wasn’t happening for me as a 39 year old woman, was a sense of identity, of understanding who I was anymore and what I had to offer (even Career Coaches have their off days!). All I knew when we landed back in the UK was I needed my independence again. I wanted to work in an office with other people, where I didn’t need to think about house stuff and I wanted a sense of having a traditional career that was going somewhere. Basically I wanted to feel like my best career years weren’t behind me.
So what did I have to offer I wondered. Well before becoming a mummy and then Germany I had worked in the drinks industry in Customer Marketing, and I was very experienced. However I’d now had a break of 7 years from the UK workplace and I didn’t really know how to position myself. Plus, I was a year off 40 and that had to matter, would they even want me in the drinks industry at that age I wondered.
I decided to hedge my bets and apply for a role at the same level at which I’d left, maybe even slightly lower. Luckily for me, the guy who was supposed to be interviewing me on the day was sick and his boss saw me instead. After reading my CV he asked me why I was applying for a job at this level, I was honest and told him I hadn’t known how to pitch myself. He asked me to go away and consider a more senior role he had coming up and a month or so later, I started.
Without realising it, my confidence in my abilities in corporate life had hit the floor. I couldn’t tell you when it happened, it just did and I don’t think it took very long either. My sense of identity was shot. I remember waiting to go in for the interview and watching all these beautiful people waft by in their trendy clothes….when I lived there German fashion was slightly dated…..I felt out of step, old fashioned and when I took the job, I then wondered whether I was out of my depth. Imagine the changes in technology in 7 years, there’d been a few. And yes of course I’d used computers in the interim but not to the same level as was expected at work.
If I’d stopped and thought about all or any of these things that were bothering me – the lack of confidence, unclear on my direction, skill fade, feeling out of place, not sure I looked the part – I’m not sure I’d have made it out of the door to the interview. But I did and one thing I can tell you, is that all of these concerns fade, as quickly as they come they go when you’re taking action.
My first month was a massive learning curve where I was adapting at work, but also at home. I just couldn’t do everything I’d done before now I had a full time job, so some changes had to be made and that was difficult for everyone, my 6 year old and husband included. Was it wrong, selfish of me to want this job? I don’t think so. It was my route back to myself and I grabbed it like a lifeline.
Within 5 months I’d been promoted and given a permanent role to lead the team, and with my confidence back in full flow I knew I deserved it and was capable of doing it too.
So if you find yourself in that space where you’ve had a significant career break, what are my tips to you?
- Write down everything you’ve done or achieved, including things outside of work. Put it up on the wall at home where you see it everyday and make yourself look at it to remind you of how capable you are
- Hire a coach to support and guide you in understanding the right type of work for you, don’t waste time flitting from one job to the next
- Have your CV updated by a professional
- See a clothes stylist if you can to update your wardrobe, John Lewis have personal stylists you can book. If you look the part you’ll feel the part
- Have your hair and make up refreshed
- Get your family on board in reassigning responsibilities around the home, before you start the job!
- Concentrate on what you can do, what you’re good at in interviews
- Believe in yourself
Good Luck! If you need any help getting your career back on track, drop me a line, I’d love to help you.
Nicola Lyle is the Managing Director of Fired Up Careers and an Executive Coach & Leadership Trainer. She started her career in the drinks industry where she worked for over 15 years in sales and customer marketing. She has been a qualified and practicing coach since 2005 and was a trainer for the Ministry of Defence for 3 years in Germany.
Nicola is hugely passionate about helping people to have the career that fulfils and empowers them to live their best life. She offers Leadership Training & Executive Career Coaching, plus occasional retreats. Just drop her a line, she’d love to help you get your career on track.
You can contact her at Nicola@firedupcoaching.org, or find Fired Up Careers on Instagram as firedupcareers or take a look at www.firedupcareers.org