Eight years ago, I directed my professional energies to work in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with the expectation that my professional journey would conclude there. A course change surprised me, however, and brought me back to the States this past November. I didn’t know what was next, but knew that I had to find a way to re-engage professionally and make a living.
For women who have been out of the workplace for five, 10, or, even, 15 years, it’s a challenge to re-enter the corporate marketplace.
Maybe you are a survivor of unexpected job loss. Maybe, like me, you are re-entering a culture and work environment that you had previously left behind. You wonder, “What’s next? How do I move forward? How do I do this?”
Here are 5 tips to make the transition easier:
Tip 1: Choose Courage
It’s easy to fall prey to the critic that rents space in our heads: “Who are you? Who is going to hire you? What do you have to offer?” Choosing courage mean we change the channel and listen to other voices.
Listen to podcasts about women of courage, women entrepreneurs, women in the outdoors, women in politics. One of my favorites, is Do It Scared with Ruth Soukup, but there are tons out there.
Begin your day by reading something uplifting or of a spiritual nature — it’ll boost your mood. At night, when critical voices slink into my dreams and waken me with worry, I turn on mindfulness or meditation recordings to settle my soul.
Tip 2: Accept Transition
An oncoming force, like a wave at the beach, has the power to knock us over. When we dive into the wave, we feel the water pulsing over us, then we surface on the other side. Accepting the reality of transition is like diving into that wave.
Rather than be embarrassed that I didn’t have a job or know what my re-entry would look like, I chose to embrace the transition. A colleague advised me to add the hashtag, #ONO (open to new opportunities) to my LinkedIn profile. For four months, I treated “In Transition” as a job title, and introduced myself as such at networking events.
The result? I didn’t fumble or mutter in embarrassment. Many times, other attendees approached me for further conversation.
Tip 3: Engage Others
We don’t do life alone, so we shouldn’t expect to go through this stage alone.
Friends, family, acquaintances, neighbors, former classmates and fitness partners make up a rich network to tend. As you have certainly helped others along their career paths in the past, let people in your network know you are exploring options and ask for their assistance.
People in my network have introduced me to their connections, shared resources and invited me to events to expand my network. Meetings with three individuals, in particular, revealed the destination of my re-entry journey.
Tip 4: Prototype
Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, the authors of The New York Times number one bestselling book “Designing Your Life,” describe the power of prototyping as it applies to career change. Engineers and designers prototype to test a model of their invention or pilot a project to evaluate its potential. Consider ways to prototype an idea, service or product. Offer to lead a one-hour workshop at the local library. Prototype a career or line of work by spending a morning shadowing someone in that position.
Tip 5: Trust the Process
You may not know where this path to re-entry into the workplace will lead. But, as you choose courage, embrace transition, engage others and prototype, your path will unfold.