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Jul 18 2013

Use career breaks as catalysts

 

Indian Working Women - Use career breaks as catalysts

Image courtesy Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

We don’t like them, we don’t like to talk about them and we may resist them with all our strength. Yet the likelihood of a career break is far more for a woman.

Every working woman has to manage several work- and- home balancing issues popping up every day. No one really wants to quit work due to any such issues though. However some of the bigger milestones in personal life may throw a person totally out of the game, if not forever then may be at least for a while.

As known to all of us the biggest such events are marriage, child birth, health issues, spouse’s work related travel etc. Majorly these do not change for many Indian Women.

One by one events keep on happening and we accommodate yet one more change into the already hectic schedule and continue to go on. Someday one may come face to face with the fact that a break from work is inevitable.

Thankfully many organizations have realized that women need increased support during some phases and sabbatical options are offered. Such policies have worked wonders and many women were able to successfully return to their jobs after availing without-pay-extended-breaks.

There is more to it though. Unless a person is emotionally equipped to better handle a break, it may not be the best use of time. I believe if a career break is handled correctly it helps immensely and actually acts as a catalyst to propel your career ahead instead of just serve as a bump to get over.

Stop viewing career breaks as a negative event happening in your life

A career break is never easy to actually go through. The break may be for a right reason too. Yet actually going through it is difficult after working for even a few years.

If a career break is handled correctly it helps immensely and actually acts as a catalyst to propel your career ahead instead of just serve as a bump to get over.

We all take a long time to adjust once the break phase actually begins. Much of the time is wasted in negative emotions. Add to that is the explaining to other people one has to do in an Indian society as to why you are home at this hour of the day! It adds to the already awkward feeling even we are wondering what to do about.

Catch yourself thinking negative thoughts and quickly stop. Find something to do that will distract you. And for other people, what worked for me is to prepare a two liner. If they understand it good, else move on. Do not discuss further even if they agree or disagree with your need of this break!

It is okay to feel confused and little sad at first. Give yourself some time to adjust. Don’t spend the whole break feeling sorry though. Unless you take charge of your time and schedule you will not be able to turn this time into the most fruitful phase of your career.

The same old ‘right attitude’ concept!

Have goals to achieve during break

Indian Working Women

Image courtesy Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Personal Goals

Remember all those things you missed doing while you were working? Sit and jot them down. Be it reading some novel or meeting some relatives and friends or throwing that long due party. May be you wanted to but did not get time to take your kid to a garden which is at the other end of the city, list that too.

Professional Goals

There will be some work related things also which you should include here. Did not understand some term someone used during a meeting? Note to read on it. Think some area you need to improve at work like technical knowledge, planning, managing, add these too. There may have been some improvements suggested during your previous appraisal cycles. List items to study on those and improve them further. Any professional seminars, workshops, certifications you wanted to do are also excellent to-dos to consider.

Having goals, plan for executing them is important. If the goals are not completed, it will just mean a not-fully-utilized or worse a wasted break!

Please note that both types of goals – personal and professional ones – are important to identify.

Personal goals will help you to live a satisfying life during your break.

Professional goals ensure that you still focus on the possible work related items. While working, we do want to improve our skills and abilities but hardly get time to do so. That time these are not the priority items. Priority was delivery, customer, service.
If you list and read up on the topics now, you will be able to spend more quality time on this self improvement activity. And it will be adding to your horizontal growth.

Have a plan for the break

After you have listed these, don’t forget to put dates also against all of these to-dos. Otherwise it may just remain a wish list. When it is time to join back, this list will no longer be top priority. If the goals are not completed, it will just mean a not-fully-utilized or worse a wasted break!

Have a routine to help you achieve your goals

It is not necessarily to live your daily life exactly as other people do when they are at home. What works for them need not necessarily work for you. If you follow that routine even for a few days, it will quickly make an otherwise fulltime working woman feel worse. It is because somewhere it gives her a directionless feeling which she is neither used to nor likes from the bottom of her heart.

The best thing that a work life offers is surprisingly – the routine. Even if you are at home, don’t spread housework throughout the day. Keep some hours for yourself daily, however less. In those hours, visit your goals and plan small steps which you can take to help achieve your goals. It will give you a sense of purpose. It will keep you sane.

If you are on a particularly long break with joining back seems a distant dream, you might want to reconsider how to re-think and re-learn how to be at home.

Sell the improved you!

Use the self-identified hours to work on your self-decided goals to meet your self-agreed timelines. The break will not decrease rather increase your sellability score.

If you cautiously plan and utilize the time available, you will love your break and use it to the maximum improvements. Consider you are on a 6 months break. You jotted 5 personal and 5 work related goals in the first month. And you achieved it in the following months. What will it mean to you? Your confidence will not hinder. On the contrary, it will be more!

At the time of returning to work you will not be the same or an out-of-form individual. Rather you will be able to list a number of areas you worked on and showcase that you kept in touch with the latest in your field, or even explored new fields.

To sum it up, use the self-identified hours to work on your self-decided goals to meet your self-agreed timelines. The break will not decrease rather increase your sellability score.
 

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