Ep 1 : Return to work after a break
Updated: Jul 22
Breaks happen for various reasons. It could be a layoff, a sabbatical to raise kids or just time off to recalibrate your life. In this episode you will hear about the highs and lows of finding a job, the need to build your tribe to work through the transition and also ideas to stay positive during those first few months back at work. Each podcast has a few takeaways and resources at the end. Check them out and leave me your feedback!!
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Below is a transcript of the episode, slightly modified for reading.
PODCAST TRANSCRIPT OVERVIEW
[01:37] - Layoffs... When you don't have a choice [Jump to section]
[04:06] - When you make a choice... [Jump to section]
[08:42] - Length. Short vs. Long breaks [Jump to section]
[10:05] - Timing. Early vs. Late career breaks [Jump to section]
[11:45] - Sanity... Learn to breathe [Jump to section]
[14:30] Food for thought. Episode takeaways [Jump to section]
PODCAST DETAILED TRANSCRIPT
Layoffs...When you don't have a choice [01:37]
Sirisha: My first break was not a choice, I got laid off. The hardest part of it was trying to understand how to get back to work as I had worked only for a year. Eventually, I found a job as my client that I worked for before, called to see if I wanted to come back. What I really learned from that experience was that your work ethic and your relationships at your place of work really help. There were downsides. It was a very lonely experience, being laid off because it was a new place a new town. One thing that helped me get through the phase was just keeping in touch with my old friends and old colleagues. The funny thing and sort of the interesting thing is, when there were further layoffs in my original company, I was able to help those friends get into the client company as well. So we sort of kept that pipeline going. So it was a good experience, as well.
My first break, I got laid off. I found a job as my client that I worked for before, called to see if I wanted to come back. What I really learned from that experience was that your work ethic and your relationships at your place of work really help.
One thing that helped me get through the phase was just keeping in touch with my old friends and old colleagues.
Usha: As you were talking, I couldn't help but think your layoff was also at a time really early in your career, right? You had probably landed from India, and it was only a few years. Where we grew up it was almost unheard of to get laid off. People usually stayed in their job till they retired. I've learned over a period of time that a layoff is just a function of being in the wrong job or wrong place at the wrong time. It is an opportunity for you to fix that wrong, that's how I think of it now.
Sirisha: You're right. I was on an immigrant visa. So that complicated issues, it was my first job, the feeling of getting laid off no matter what the reason is, is very heart-wrenching. You're questioning yourself as well. So it is a tough spot to be in. Having a support network really helps to keep you grounded and you know, kind of keeps your sanity going as well. So, what about your experience, I know you took time off recently.
Having a support network really helps to keep you grounded and kind of keeps your sanity going as well.
When you make a choice... [04:06]
Usha: Yeah, I recently took off about four years to take care of my kids. My break was a little different from yours. It was by choice, I was financially able to do it and I'm still thankful and grateful that I was able to do it. A couple of things come to mind when I think of returning to work. During my break I did not volunteer, do any upskilling or any networking, all I did was take care of my kids.
As I started thinking of coming back to work, I decided I'm going to go back part-time first year just to help with the transition. I learned that part-time positions are great in theory, but they do not exist very much or they are hard to find in my line of work. So I had to make a bit of a trade-off and go with a smaller company vs. a large corporate and I was able to do that by reaching out to my old contacts who were happy to give me an opportunity to prove myself. The second thing I did during that part-time year, I put my kids into daycare, got them used to it. I also interviewed caregivers to have on-call, because I don't have family in town. I wanted to have some backup if I need, and also people to help with chores.
Part time positions are great in theory, but they do not exist.
I went with a smaller company and was able to do that by reaching out to old contacts who were happy to give me an opportunity to prove myself.
And then, I lost touch with my friends for various reasons. You move countries, they have kids, you have kids, and then I just lost contact. I connected back with them and it was awesome. They all had kids and gave me a lot of advice. We keep going back to it, but it was nice to have that 'tribe' to help you. The quote it 'takes a village to raise a child' comes to mind. I really think it takes a village to raise a mom and get her back to work! And it truly helps to build that village or your tribe before getting back to work.
It takes a village to raise a mom and get her back to work! It truly helps to build that village or tribe before getting back to work.
Sirisha: I think you're right. You have to have people who are there to support you and be there for you because it's a big transition in life. I actually quit work for the second time. This time it was a choice I made very similar to yours, I was in a better financial situation. I stayed home because I had kids and I wanted to pursue higher education at the same time. But transitioning back to work, there are a couple of things that come to mind. Very similar to the first situation, I got a call from my old company asking me if I wanted to come back and I got hired back into my old group. The other part that was very hard was transitioning back when you have kids at home. So I had to negotiate with my boss on my work hours. It's always a hard, challenging conversation to have because you don't feel like you are at an advantage to have that conversation.
I had to negotiate with my boss on my work hours. It's always a hard challenging conversation to have.
After going back to work I also realized staying at home as a mom is much harder than going back to work. Going back to work, it's very structured, you know, there's an end to the day, things get done, you sort of get rewarded vs. staying at home. The second time around, I had actually made friends during the break so it was nice to have a place to go and talk. There was a bunch of 10 of us, all stay-at-home moms who have all transitioned back to work around the same time. Finally this time I was a little more focused and clear on what I wanted to do. I was open to having conversations at work about different pursuits, I wanted to go and explore.
After a break, I was a little more focused and clear on what I wanted. I was open to having conversations at work about different pursuits, I wanted to go and explore.
Usha: As I think of this, first year is the hardest. You have to adjust to the new job, your family has to adjust to your new job and you have to sharpen your skills. After the first year, the break does not matter as much. Your growth is really dependent on your performance in that year. Sure, there will be a blank spot on your resume, and maybe depending on the length, the amount of explanation you have to give changes. So let's talk about that a little bit - does the length of the break matter?
After the first year, the break does not matter as much. Your growth is really dependent on you performance in that year.
Length. Short vs. Long breaks [08:42]
Usha: Does the length of the break matter?
Sirisha: It can matter. I have a friend who came back to work almost 13 years later to the company that she used to work at and transitioning is hard. So, the decision she made was to take a step down and get into a different role. She couldn't get back to her old role. It's a high-tech company, so things move pretty quickly. I think it helped her sort of adjust like you said to transition just getting used to work, it helped her get her skills back. A lot of it is muscle memory. I mean, she remembered everything from her old job, it just came back to her fingertips as she did it. The fantastic thing is in six months, essentially, she's got back her old role, she's got a promotion.
So in that case, the length made a difference. However, the work ethic and the relationships she built helped smooth the transition. She just reached out to her old contacts on LinkedIn to keep in touch. Those contacts actually helped pushed her resume through and said, "Hey, there's an opening coming, you should apply for this." So it's not even something that she was necessarily looking for but she ran into the opportunity by just reaching out to people. So you never know who your advocates are.
A friend came back to work after 13 years. The decision she made was to take a step down and get into a different role. She ran into the opportunity by just reaching out to people. So you never know who your advocates are.
Timing. Early vs. Late career breaks [10:05]
Usha: Yeah that matters, also when you take the break matters. For example, the type of job you look for when you take a break in your early 20s is very different from what you look for in your 40s. 20s is all about that safety net, making sure you have everything in place for an emergency, all of that fun stuff? I remember when I took a six-month break in my 20s, there was a lot going on, I had to recalibrate. But when I went back, I went back to the same company, same job. In my most recent break that I took for my kids, it was a little different. I was willing to make some trade-offs on where I would work to pursue an intellectual challenge. I still wanted the money, but you're
just willing to trade off a little bit to satisfy other needs in your life.
Sirisha: Yeah, exactly. I think your mindset changes. I think it's sort of you coming to grips saying, Okay, this is what I know, my needs are being met, now, what do I want to do? And I think, frankly, having got laid off once and having taken the break, it sort of built my confidence that, hey, I can always do this, you know, I can figure it out and get this done. I think it's a question of just believing in yourself.
Sanity... Learn to breathe [11:45]
Usha: Hindsight is always 20/20. Everything looks perfect. But the truth is, when you're in the moment, there's a lot of craziness. You mess up a lot of things, drive yourself and others crazy, So tell me, how did you try and keep yourself sane during those breaks, even if you weren't successful all the time?
Sirisha: Oh, my love is books. That's what keeps me sane, completely. So when my kids were infants, my mom was helping, she came from India. She would see me up at midnight, you know, with a young baby staying up to read books, and she would say what's wrong with you, go to bed, this is the time to catch up on sleep. But you know what, I was completely willing to trade off that sleep for that 'my' time. I so badly needed my time. So I would read books, and I would read four books at a time, five books at a time I would max out the library limit. Most of my friends know this, drop me on an island, a bunch of books, bunch of chocolate, I am going to be so happy.
Usha: Chocolate sounds perfect! There's also little bit of insanity which hits you when you start work. The negative self-talk! What helped me was there was an article which I ran into on growth mindset. There are so many books on that subject but essentially, it's a simple thing. You have to believe it's possible and put in the effort, your brain will move around and do some magic to make it happen. They have a nice word for it but I think at the heart of it, that's all there is to it. The brain will adapt to what you're trying to do. And that helped me do so many things.
There's also little bit of insanity which hits you when you start work. The negative self talk!
What helped me is growth mindset. You have to believe its possible and put in the effort, your brain will move around and do some magic to make it happen. The brain will adapt to what you're trying to do.
Sirisha: Can you sort of pull all this together and summarize our food for thought today?
Food for thought. Episode takeaways [14:30]
Here is today's food for thought,
Breaks are going to happen, whether it's by choice, or you were laid off, it's going to happen. And that's a way of life in your career
Trade-offs are certain as you try and make a transition back to work. So that would be something to be prepared for. From our experience, we have learned that it is important to build that support system, your family, your friends, and your caregivers, whoever it might be, to help you get back into work and make the transition
The last thing that I would say is what pulls everything together - be easy on yourself. That in itself will make everything around the transition much easier
LinkedIn | Get in Touch with former colleagues and new contacts
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Guest Host: Usha
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