Back to Work Guide
Feel more aligned again
Coming back to work after a period of time off, whatever the reason, can be daunting. In our experience it’s normally the most focused and career minded people who find it the hardest to get back in touch with their working selves.
You could have trained as a yoga teacher, had a baby, remodelled a house, been sick, or been made redundant to feel like you’ve lost your edge.
Here are some quick-fire ways that hopefully will be helpful to get back to feeling more aligned again.
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Ted Talks, podcasts and bloody good books. Get reading and downloading and fill yourself up with interesting stuff.
If I’ve got a particularly tricky pitch coming up then I’ll normally watch someone I admire doing a presentation on YouTube and it’ll just get my brain flowing in the right direction.
The internet is your oyster here; feel confident in taking some time to go to a nice coffee shop and read something inspiring online in a relaxing space with access to caffeine. Also, The British Library has a really excellent palace of reading material including loads of business focused publications – it’s also a very energising place to visit and a less trodden path than staring at your laptop in a member’s club.
Make sure that the online presence you’ve crafted for yourself is speaking in the right tone. Keep your LinkedIn up to date and if you have a public social profile then ensure that whatever you’re putting into that space is also positive. If you’re trying too hard to show everyone what a great time you’re having then it’s perhaps distracting from your focus of getting back to work so consider that.
The companies we partner with tend to be excited about people pausing their careers to have kids, learn something new, travel, do charitable work or just generally take time out for themselves. It’s about presenting this in a way that’s seen as enriching and feel-good rather than being lazy and not wanting to work.
If you’re the person who got made redundant and is feeling shook, then turn that into “I was made redundant but that gave me the opportunity to….”
We’ve done a whole podcast about that which you can find here.
Finally, remove “What’s it like out there…?” from your phrasebook. It’s the death knell of a positive chat (and generally impossible to answer).
There’s no need to sound like a daft old fart trying to be hip, but skill up on what’s being said in the industry you work in and get the right lingo down. When we meet agencies there’s always a flow of the same pitch chatter running through them. At the time of writing this, “crafted” seems to have been sidelined for “rigour”, and “baked in” is super passé where as six months ago all the cool kids were saying it.
Update them, especially if you work in digital. You should know what’s happening in the market you work in. You don’t have to spend ££££ on courses but just make sure you’re aware of what’s going on in the industry and that you are sounding on point.
This is a tricky one and is really personal to everyone.
We’ve done another podcast focused on this area here so take a tube ride to have a listen if it’s applicable to you.
Coming back to work after having a baby is often a mixture of fear, anxiety and elation. Depending on how long you’ve had off work, you might be desperate to have a lovely commute to be able to read a book without having it grabbed off you, or be feeling guilty about leaving your offspring in the hands of someone else to look after.
Speaking from personal experience, I came back after four months and felt really squishy (no other word for it). My normal, relatively sharp work image had been softened and I was trying to still be a breastfeeding, all bells and whistles mother while also running a business, managing a team and trying to look like someone who had been asleep for more than two hours in a row.
My advice to anyone going through the same is to be as organised as you can through everything – if you can sail a wobbly line through your first few weeks then you have a structure that will support you even when you feel at your most vulnerable.
Firstly, set expectations with your managers and team. If you have been in a role where you were previously working round the clock for pitches and presentations, or Fashion Week is your nemesis, then be realistic. You will need to leave on time to collect your child and that’s non-negotiable.
Also, have a calendar shared with anyone who also cares for your child, be that husband, wife, friend, nanny etc. Make sure they know where you are, and vice versa.
Organise clear schedules each day so you’ve got focus, but in the same breath you will need to have time for admin and emails.
Try not to let people drain what energy you’re bringing each day – if there’s drama in the office then lay low. Also people who just want to chat baby are fine for lunchtime but don’t let them be energy vampires when you’re trying to get back into the normal swing of things.
Plan your wardrobe: get yourself Marie Kondo’d and only have a limited choice of what to wear for your week. A capsule wardrobe is the best friend of the tired working parent. Check the weather, sort yourself out and relish in those minutes spared while you don’t panic about wearing something crap. I’ve been known to have the same outfit on three days in a row (with clean knickers), as it worked and I felt good.
Finally, if you have been made redundant or have decided to leave your role while you were on maternity/paternity leave then be honest on your CV and LinkedIn. We often speak to people who may have left roles months and sometimes years prior but have left their position rolling so as not to look like they haven’t been working.
If you’re a parent then you have most definitely been working hard, but in a different capacity. You don’t have to put “PROUD FATHER OF NATHAN: 2018 – PRESENT” but ending your employment and explaining in a covering email or letter is fine.
If you’re coming back into the same company after a period of time off, our advice here is to gather your thoughts before forming opinions on things.
You need to get to know your team again – have conversations, schedule one-on-ones with people and make sure they know you’re interested in both them, and in what’s been happening (without getting dragged into the minutia).
Set a clear agenda sorted out and ease yourself in gently. No one wants a raging bull crashing in and ruining their vibe, you want to be a positive person to be around, not aggressive.
It’s all in the delivery. Just make sure that, whatever the reason you’ve been off, whether it’s something you chose or something that was out of your control that you are able to talk succinctly about it and in a way that you are comfortable with.
Stack up your skills and take a deep breath.
It’ll be fine.