How to reboot your career after a break
A while back, I took a two-year break from my career. I became a mother for the second time, and I lived in Mexico for nearly two years before moving back to the Netherlands.
Stress-free… or brain dead?
When people asked what I had planned, I was confident that I would continue working. But guess what? That didn’t happen. I was a mum and a housewife for one and a half years.
I enjoyed this time enormously. No stress in the mornings, being there for my kids whenever they needed me, having a nanny when I needed a break, having a great social life with my girlfriends, travelling around Mexico. Nevertheless, there was a shadow hanging over me. And it started to make my happy picture darker and darker as the months passed by.
Before I became a mother, I was a businesswoman with a full agenda and a successful coaching practice. Every day, I felt I was making a difference in the lives of my clients. I had a higher purpose, and I was intellectually and creatively busy on a daily basis. Now, fast-forward 1,5 years, and I felt "brain dead". Even taking a course in Spanish couldn’t change that feeling.
For this article, I want to focus on the topic of rebooting careers. I will share what helped me to restart my career after a break, and explain how you can do it too.
But first answer the following questions:
- Are you happy with your life as it is now?
- Are there parts of your life you are not satisfied with?
- Do you feel like your brain has been in "freeze mode" for some time?
- Do you experience a nagging feeling that there is so much more that you want to accomplish in your life?
- Are you wondering if it’s time for a change?
- Do you feel like you want to break through your own limitations?
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, you need to realise that the time to make a change is now. Time is precious. You can never gain it back.
Below you will find a list of tips to help you get started. In general, these tips can be divided into two kinds: mindset-related and action-related. These are the pillars crucial to any change.
First things first, a mindset change is needed. Here’s how to go about it.
Create a vision of your future
Where do you see yourself in 20 years from now? Who is with you? What are you doing? What do you want to achieve? What would you most regret not having done? It is sometimes more difficult to envision your near future than it is to look at the distant future.
Here is an exercise for you to try: Activate your creative self and become an artist for a day. Take a big piece of paper and either draw the future life you want or, if you can’t draw, glue some images on it that represent your future life. Put it somewhere where you can see it every day, use it as a work in progress, and keep adding new images to it.
Identify your big "why"
In order for our brain to do what we want it to do, it needs to know why you are doing it. It needs to know why you want to achieve these "crazy" plans you have for yourself. If your goal is "I want to go back to work", ask yourself why you want to. Don’t stop with the first answer, dig deeper. Our big whys are often well-hidden.
Identify mental roadblocks
Now, this is the part where it starts to get interesting. You might be saying something like this to yourself: Okay, Dorota, I have this vision for myself, I want to pick up my professional life and start my own business as a health coach.
My big why is two-fold: to help others be healthier and have the flexibility to spend more time with my family. And there it comes... but... The big BUT.
Who am I to tell others what to do? There are already so many coaches out there. Can I really make a living out of this business? What will my friends say? These dreams are all nice, but shouldn’t I just be realistic? I don’t know where to start. I am too old. I have already invested so much time and money in my current career, and so on.
See what is happening? You are sabotaging yourself. Your brain is resisting change, so it’s inventing all kinds of excuses why it can’t be done. And our brains can be very creative. Trust me, I know.
The good news is that we all struggle with this problem and you CAN beat your saboteur.
Choose supportive beliefs
So how do you do it? Once you have identified the most annoying statements your saboteur is producing, rewrite them in a positive and self-empowering way, for example:
Turn "There are so many coaches out there" into "There might be many coaches out there, but some clients will choose me, as I am a unique being with my own set of talents and skills". Write your supportive beliefs on post-it notes and put them in visible places, such as on your mirror, on your computer, and other places.
Time to take action
Now that you have worked on your mindset, it’s time to start taking action.
Identify activities that give you energy
In order to take action, you must take care of your energy levels. If you are like me, a mum with young kids, you know that energy is often a scarce resource. But without energy, it will be very difficult to change.
Identify for yourself what gives you energy. Is it practising sports? Or going for a walk with your dog? Whatever it is, incorporate it into your life immediately. The more energy you have, the more action you will take. The more action you take, the quicker you will make a change.
Ask for help
You are not alone, and you don’t have to be alone. I have the tendency to want to do everything by myself. It gives me a false feeling of strength. But time and time again, I find out I can’t do it alone.
Identify supportive and positive people who can help you. Don’t let them wonder, say it out loud: "I need your help". Be specific with how they can help you. I asked my husband to ask me every week how my book was progressing.
It will all stay in your head unless you take action. However small it may be, you need to take the first step. Go out for a networking event, make an appointment with someone who made a change. Whatever it is, how tiny it may be, it has the magic power of getting you into motion.
If you take that first baby step, the next steps will follow. I promise you that.
Now, imagine yourself a year from now, sitting in your favourite place and enjoying what you have achieved in the past year. Feel the pride growing inside of you. Feel the happiness and the sense of accomplishment. Is it worth it? I bet it is!
Want to empower yourself and others? Put down in the comment box what your first step is going to be!
This article originally appeared on IamExpat in the Netherlands.