If you are returning to work after a break, know that the professional world has moved on.
By Devashish Chakravarty
You want to reset the career button because you are either fed up with your current role or your industry as gone into a tailspin. Perhaps you want to reboot your personal and professional life because you have just retired or have moved into a new country or a new family where your needs and demands have changed. Maybe you are returning to work after a long break and want to restart your interrupted career. Here’s how you can make a success of your second career.
Plan for 10 years
Don’t work to a planning horizon of a few months or a year. A second career is not to be tried out for a few days. There is no free lunch that will give you immediate financial and personal rewards. Think about the goals that you are likely to achieve over a period of 10 to 20 years in the new career.
Only then will your decision make sense. In the short term, expect the journey to be tough and the challenges seemingly insurmountable. Like in your first career, showing up at work daily and slogging through the bad days will get you the skills, control, success and income.
Play to your self
Your first career was probably a result of coincidences, constraints, family influence, peer pressure and a limited understanding of possible career options.
This time make it about yourself. What are your core life values? What kind of work do you truly enjoy doing and are also good at? What kind of environment or people energise you? What provides meaning to your days? Next, prioritise amongst these parameters to find which domains and roles match you best.
If you are returning to work after a break, know that the professional world has moved on. People who worked with you earlier have a few more years of experience under their belt and are now senior managers.
Do not benchmark yourself against them. Your past reputation and previous achievements do not count as much because they are a few years old and the relevant skills have not been used for a while. Be realistic about what to expect and how hard to negotiate.
To begin with, it will be difficult to find relevant or good opportunities in a new domain or while returning from a long break. As you are not plugged into the eco-system, you do not have access to right and timely information on opportunities.
To rectify this weakness, get out and meet people. The more physical interactions and conversations you have with connections and their references the greater is the probability that you will stumble upon opportunities that could give you your first break.
Play on the front foot
While meeting people do not be burdened by guilt because you took a break from your career or by diffidence because you do not have relevant experience in the new domain. Operate from a position of confidence arising from your expertise in your primary career or past achievements before the break.
If you don’t feel confident, simply act the part. Walk and sit erect, look the other person in the eye while speaking and avoid crossing your hands in front of your body. With some practice, your positive body language will rub off on both you and your listener permitting promising interactions.
Ask for help
Though you are more experienced, in your new career you are still a fresher. So, like a newbie, ask for help from others. Do not assume that something is impossible. Instead, keep an open mind from where help may come from.
Family members may pitch in while you spend long hours at work. Friends may connect you to professional references and colleagues at your new job may stay back after work to teach you the ropes faster.
Beyond the beaten path
To get a leg up in your second career, think beyond the obvious brands and opportunities. Explore options in non-profits. Before you apply for jobs, consider gaining free experience by volunteering or doing internships. Also, consider moon-lighting—working part-time in a second job after normal work hours in your first career.
Give before you ask
When you meet potential employers, discuss outcomes you can deliver. Discuss your own needs only after they see value in what you offer. No employer likes to start a discussion with how he can meet your requirements.
If your past skills are not relevant, seek education or freelance opportunities to learn new marketable skills and demonstrate your ability. If you are changing profession, identify transferable skills that you bring to the table.
When you embark on a second career, keep a strict watch on your financial health to stay alive through the initial ups and downs. Plan and live to a budget. Set aside an emergency fund. Make sure you have medical insurance and have planned your loan payments. If you are planning to be an entrepreneur, keep a safety buffer over and above the working capital budgeted for your venture.