Successfully Returning to Work After an Extended Career Break

Satya Chheda

This is a guest post by The Mom Project Community member Satya Chheda. If you are a Community member with a unique story to share let us know.

In 2007, my son was born, and I had no idea what kind of impact having a child would make on me as an individual and a professional. I had originally planned to return to work after my maternity leave; however, once I balanced the realities of being a mom to an infant along with my income at the time, it didn’t make sense for me to return to my job. 

I felt very privileged and lucky to be able to stay home with my son and be there with him for every first word, step and so on. So I jumped into my full-time mom duties fully and built a community around me to stay connected to others.

Here are some tips that worked to keep me connected during my career pause

Stay in touch and relevant while out of the workforce

During the first year, I didn’t do much. (No surprise I’m sure to many first-time moms out there.) However, during the following years, I started looking for stimulation outside of my parenting world. I had worked as a career counselor in a university for 3 years prior to having my son, so I decided to help other moms around me who wanted or needed to go back to work. 

To start, I helped them pro-bono with things like figuring out their next career steps, writing resumes, preparing for interviews and other career development needs. Then, I started to get referrals from people who worked with me so I decided to charge a low fee for these services. 

As my son got older and began to attend daycare, first 2 days a week, and later additional days every week, I found myself with more and more free time. At that point, I had some consulting opportunities related to career coaching come my way that I jumped on. They didn’t pay well but they kept my brain engaged and one foot in the work world. I was lucky to be able to do the work remotely as that was not common back then. 

👉 Some opportunities might not pay well in money, but provide experience and connection that make them worth pursuing.

Returning to the full-time work world 

In 2016, I went through a divorce which was devastating, but also the motivation I needed to go back to work full time. I live in NYC and expenses are high here. I also knew that I would need health benefits and need to start putting money towards a savings account for my retirement. 

I had no other financial support to fall back on so I knew that I was now fully in charge of my financial future. Due to that, I decided to leave behind my dreams of working for myself and jump back into the full-time workforce.

I didn’t realize this until then but I was lucky enough to have kept my skills relevant plus have contract work to showcase on my resume. It would have been more challenging for me to return to work while navigating a divorce without having something that I could use to sell my skills to an employer.

Return to work tips

Strategies used to return to work

I started my job search by activating my network from the past. These included friends and former colleagues. I made sure that everyone knew that I was looking to return to full-time work and what types of roles and industries I was targeting. 

Next, I reached out to my newer network which included new neighborhood mom friends and other parents at my son’s school. 

Finally, I expanded my network by attending networking events in my industry so that I could meet new people and learn about opportunities. 

I make sure to brush up on my job search skills, create customized resumes and practice my elevator pitch and interview responses. I also needed to invest in a whole new professional wardrobe to look the part.

What was challenging

I was returning to a full-time job after being out for over 9 years. However, this time, I was a mom and had to figure out childcare, take care of the home and meals, learn how to manage my finances (since I was newly separated/divorced) on top of doing my 9-5 job. 

I had the added challenge of not having a spouse to split the home duties with or family nearby to help out. I knew that if my son was sick, I most likely would need to stay home from work, and I worried how I would manage that with a new employer. 

Lastly, I was also not in a great mental place as I was dealing with a lot of grief and loss over my marriage falling apart and learning to live alone again. It was a very challenging time but somehow I was able to get to the other side. I definitely leaned on friends and family to help me stay motivated and keep moving forward to reaching my goal.

The benefits of returning to work

When I went back to work, I didn’t realize some of the benefits such as having time to myself during my morning and evening commute. I also didn’t realize how nice it was to have colleagues again that eventually became new friends. Since I did not have my son on some days when he was staying with his father, I was able to spend my evenings getting to know new colleagues outside of work or meeting up with friends to catch up. In addition, the most important benefit was the boost to my confidence as a professional. I had lost a lot of that confidence and my professional identity during my marriage as a stay-at-home parent. I was able to gain it back as I reinvented the professional that I wanted to become.

Suggestions for others looking to return to work after a break

Be patient with yourself and the process

I was able to make my journey back into full-time work pretty seamless because I had made sure to keep one foot in the door while I was a stay-at-home mom all those years. I also stayed connected to my professional network and began to warm up those contacts prior to a full-time job search. 

It’s never too late to start the process of getting your foot back in the door

There are many ways to gain experience through volunteer work and short-term consulting projects. You can join a committee for your child’s PTA organization at their school or find a local community group in your neighborhood. I was part of several different committees and tried to give back as much as I could handle while I was home with my son. 

I do recommend meeting with a career coach to help you navigate this if you feel stuck on how to get reconnected to work. You have to start somewhere, even if it’s something small. 

Q&A with Satya:

  1. How did you find The Mom Project?
    I can't remember exactly how I learned about The Mom Project but it might have been through social media.
  2. What motivated you to sign up?
    I signed up because I had not ever seen another type of company out there that catered to the careers of moms. I wish something like The Mom Project had been around when I was struggling to return back to the full-time workforce. 
  3. What has been your favorite aspect, tool or part of The Mom Project?
    I like the community aspect of it and being able to connect with other moms who have common situations or interests as mine. I also like the fact that I can use the job board if I am ever in a job search and know that the jobs are friendly towards being a mom.
  4. What are your favorite resources from The Mom Project?
    I love the articles that are located in The Study. It is nice that you can filter by category or topic to find an article of interest.

Satya is a coach, writer, and learning & development leader. She currently is the Director of Career Growth at Teal, a career platform and community for professionals, and has over 10+ years of experience in the career development field working in higher education, tech, consulting, and non-profit. She has worked extensively with job seekers, career transitioners, and professionals seeking career growth from a variety of industries and levels in her own coaching practice and as a career consultant for several companies. Satya has her M.A. in Counseling from NYU and is a Board Certified Coach. If you want to stay updated with her ever-evolving career journey, follow her on social media on LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram.

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