How to get back in the game after taking time off work

Brought to you by our friends at Deloitte

Eight years ago, Libby Low from Deloitte was welcoming her first born into the world. Then five years later she decided she wanted to get back in the game. For many, putting a career on hold is not something that is planned for or even thought about pre-baby. But life happens.

“I had five years away from my professional life to care for my first child, who was born with a disability,” Libby says. “When I started looking for work, I had completely lost my professional confidence. On the one hand, I was so much stronger after the experiences I’d had during my time away, but I was emotionally depleted and really, very lost.”

It’s a feeling that many women around the world, who have taken a significant period of time off work to raise a family and are looking to return to work understand. You may you feel anxious about starting a new job or you may worry that your skills are a little rusty because a lot has changed since you’ve been away from the workplace.

I don’t think anyone truly knows what the experience of parenthood is going to bring. Now, if I encounter a working mother I often find myself immediately cornering them to find out how much time they took off, and how they make it work. Invariably, the answer is usually something along the lines of handling the constant juggle and how it takes some time to adjust to sicknesses picked up from school and having to pack lunchboxes before work. But eventually, you make it work with whatever work/life/help balance you have. Your own systems will fall into place and you develop a kind of rhythm at home that, depending on your workplace, you can hopefully echo during the nine to five.

In an impressive effort to attract women back into the workforce after an extended career break of more than 18 months, Deloitte has launched a minimum 20 week flexible Return to Work program which includes an induction and the opportunity to shadow new colleagues on client engagements to warm you back up to working again. Then as you progress through the program, you’ll be transitioned to work on bigger projects and given more technical training as well as a support network of coaches, sponsors and mentors. This also provides a period of time to bring you up to speed on technological changes.

Managing the emotional stress of when you return to work

Going back to work can take an emotional toll on you sometimes. But you can take heart in the knowledge that closing the door behind you as you drop them off at daycare and head to work is stressful for most parents. But the good news is there are a few things you can do to ease the pressure.

Take turns
I convinced my husband early on that when one of the little ones woke up in the middle of the night and screamed “Mummy!!”, they actually meant “Parent of Either Gender!!” Take turns finding the dummy, getting the glass of water, and looking for the monster under the bed, and it will make all the difference.

Spend a weekend
Ditch the routine and spend a weekend with your child doing something fun. That might mean taking them away somewhere for a weekend, going to the aquarium or zoo or taking them shopping for a new outfit. And if you have more than one child, give them one weekend each. Whatever it is, make sure it’s uninterrupted by your phone, give them 100% attention and you will both feel better for it.

When they have real health challenges, drop everything
I mean everything. When my son was in the hospital, I didn’t leave the hospital until he left the hospital. And be grateful that you have built the kind of career that can enable you to do this.

Let them see your success and failures
Now here’s the biggie: I’ve let my son see me work hard, and succeed, and work hard, and fail. Similarly I’ve changed my focus which has led to both success and failures. My career hasn’t been a straight line, by any means, especially when I was ready to return to work. And you should never hide that. My family has also seen me restructure my career over time to one that not only has a different complexion but also has real meaning, for me. All the while, the underlying lesson has been how much work goes into work and how important resilience is — demonstrated over the years. The same relationship should similarly apply between your child and your partner, leading to the ultimate gap closure.

To find out more about the Deloitte Return to Work Program visit their website here 

Laura Ruston

Mum to Harvey. Wife to Dave. Founder of MUMOKI. Art lover, design obsessed, lipstick hoarder.