Choose courage over comfort
Planning to return to work after a career break due to maternity or a change of residence can be an overwhelming process. I know it because I have been there more than once. Both transitions have been turning points in the narrative of my professional history. Both have opened the path to what I desired; new knowledge, rich life experiences, and diversified possibilities. Therefore, it’s an extraordinary change. Positive expectations and fears come together in the challenges of risk-taking.
It is now in Copenhagen, Denmark, where I am experiencing a new beginning. It is here, in this career pause that, as an echo of my life story, the desire to continue my professional development arises again.
With more than fifteen years of participation in the labor market, I have seen myself reshaping my career on a few occasions. Motherhood and relocation presented the challenge of letting go of the identity I built for myself as a professional with each position I held. Every routine, every workspace, every job title, and every professional success achieved, Today are like obsolete wardrobes that are no longer in fashion and are no longer necessary. They are the most stubborn attachments that I have consciously worked on over and over again. Because the complete opposite of what employment platforms, CVs, and recruiters indicate, for me, identifying with those stories is getting in the way of advancing one’s path. When you think and act from memories, you can only create a present based on longing and lack. Each person who decides to change course professionally due to motherhood or changing place of residence knows that the change means starting over. Yes, a toolbox comes with us, but you are alone internally to process everything new, let go of past identities, go through fears, face unbelievers, and embrace the vision of an uncertain future.
An example of when the past is present is the feeling of disconnection when finishing a job. When professional success is considered the purpose of life, the great consumer of time, creativity, and dedication, people who are on a career pause can experience a heartfelt sense of loss. The salary, the recognition, and the rapport achieved that reinforced the self-image disappears. However, although most of the time we don’t see it this way, in a career pause there is expansion! We open ourselves to the opportunity to grow. As a person who is currently in a life-work transition, I know I need to create a new mentality. A mentality that assumes the present yet sees and allows the comparison, the fear of not belonging, and falling behind the line to pass. I know an old fear will only prevent me from making space for what is now relevant. It is the moment of transition, the opportunity to give way to own personal leadership.
The external environment requires us to improve our skills, increase our social network, educate ourselves in a new language or a new work culture, and expose ourselves to a labor competition that seems to have an advantaged position. However, there is a step before complying with external requests. That is the self-awareness space to inquire about every need and want. A woman who looks forward to resuming a professional career is responsible for reformulating her identity where work is not a synonym for it. Her relationship with the career comeback is not a source of self-validation in terms of companies’ names, hierarchy, and appraisals. Thus, her relationship with her profession is in terms of recognition of values and skills that are of use in different contexts. She no longer listens to the voice in her head and believes that the current situation puts her at a disadvantage as a truth. The expatriate woman, today’s professional-mom, decides to ask herself:
What do I value about myself beyond work? What do I want to offer and receive from my professional development, which does not come from external factors, nor is it decided by anyone other than myself? What makes me feel safe in this moment of transition and search? How would I like to build my comeback career aligned with my future self instead of dragging down my past self? What emotions would feed that relationship if frustration, shame, longing, and impatience do not allow me to trust the result I want to achieve?
In my particular situation, I see no other way than to make myself visible after embracing the vulnerability that all those responses entail. Clinging to my professional past is judging my present with expired glasses, and poorly graduated for the vision of life to which I aspire. If I support my present with a new and fresh perspective, I have a bigger chance to attract what I’m looking for. It is in gratitude for the conquered fears, the community that encourages me, my ease of adaptation, my appreciation for cultural diversity, my family support, and my continuous curiosity to learn, that my energy will be well directed.
Convincing yourself that a new career start is possible might be tougher than persuading others. But who, if not us, can lead successful comebacks to work? Who, if not us, can make our vision and personal values silence doubts? Who, if not us, trust that walking through this transition also adds value?
For more reflections on my experience living abroad, my work on self-awareness, and my perspective on returning to work after a career break, follow me on:
Or visit my webpage https://coaching-the-world.com
Your comments are always welcome!
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash
Thank you for reading!