Women are more apt then men to underestimate their abilities and performance at work. Add two kids to that and a few years out of the workplace and you’ve got a recipe for low career confidence. When women don’t feel confident, they don’t act. When they don’t act, they don’t feel confident. The cycle continues. My hope is that this article helps you get into action with a career you’re excited about.

Examine Your Motives for Returning to Work

What is behind your decision to return to work? Are you going back for financial reasons? Do you want more intellectual stimulation? Is there a passion you are finally ready to pursue? Get clear on why you are going back and what specifically you need to get out of this next phase in your career. Check in with yourself to ensure you feel at peace with this decision. If you aren’t sure if this is the right time or you’re feeling ambivalent about your intentions, it will show. Have the conversations necessary to get clear and get the support needed to step forward with grace.

Get Clear on a Direction

Once you’ve identified your motivations for returning to work you can take the next step which is defining what you want to do. I’ve seen it more than once: the last kid goes off to kindergarten and mom feels like she needs to start working NOW! Don’t make the mistake of frantically searching job boards and sending out tired resumes for a job you’re not sure you want to do. If you have the option, take the time to explore your next step rather than diving into a career you may regret later. This is a process and it takes time. Plus, it’s an opportunity for you to craft a career you can feel good about. Work with a career coach or counselor to weigh your needs and desires for this next phase of your life. If you feel good about your direction, you will project positivity and self-assurance moving forward.

Get Your Feet Wet

If you aren’t quite sure what you want to do or your confidence is in the basement, volunteering may be the way to go. This is a safe way to get back into the groove and provides the opportunity to try out a new industry, flex some new skills or brush up on old ones. Everyone is thrilled to have someone do stuff for free. So there. You get to be a hero and learn a thing or two. Why not?Many people wind up working at the place where they volunteered.

Freelancing is another way to go for the mom who needs income right away. It may not be exactly what you want, but it will provide extra income and experience which are both confidence boosters. Volunteering and freelancing allow you to ease back into the work world and test the waters. There’s nothing to lose.

Educate Yourself

Did you know women are less likely than men to feel they are qualified for a promotion? It’s like we feel we have to know EVERYTHING before we’re capable doing anything. Not so. Knowing that we don’t have to know everything can help, but sometimes we just feel better when we know more. So, after you’ve figured out what you want to do, how about taking a class? Sometimes a class is all we need to feel like, “Oh ya, I got this”. Many women I know returning to work feel like the world has passed them by. They feel like they’ve been out too long and too much has changed. A class can put this into perspective and help you feel like you are back in the game.

Begin Having Business Conversations

Next time you are in a conversation, feel free to move the topic over to career or business. Beginning to engage in these conversations gets our brains in motion. Plus it connects us to others in a different way that can lead to networking opportunities and other career ideas. I also encourage clients to begin informational interviewing. Go talk to someone who is doing what you want to do. Connect with other moms who have successfully transitioned back to work. Ask what they did. Women are great this way and are more than happy to help other women do the same. The conversations will be inspiring at best and illuminating at worst.

Join Professional Organizations/Networking Groups

If taking classes isn’t your thing, perhaps joining a professional organization is. Professional organizations meet regularly and have annual conferences. They usually have the latest trends and updates in your field of interest. Attending these types of meetings is a great introduction into the world of networking. If your schedule is making it hard to get to meetings, you can begin by joining professional groups on LinkedIn. This will get you into the conversation with other professionals in your field. Don’t shy away from setting up phone conversations to reach out to some of the people you’ve connected with on-line. Soon you will be feeling more in touch and more connected.

Don’t Apologize for Taking the Time to Raise Your Children

We’ve all heard Oprah say it, “Being a stay-at-home mom is the most difficult job there is!” So why is it that those of us who have chosen this path feel so insecure? Regardless if you chose to stay home or go back to work, all women struggle with this decision and none of us need to apologize. We do what we have to do. Staying home while your children are young is a courageous and loving thing. Own it. The principal reason we didn’t return to work wasn’t because we wanted to wear yoga pants all day. It was because we had the opportunity and made sacrifices to be able to stay home. That’s a decision to be proud of. 

The bottom line is we need to take action. I urge you today to just do something small: have a conversation with someone, do some research, join a professional society, talk to a career professional. Taking these small steps will get you back to work with your head held high.

If you would like to feel happier at work, contact Careerfulness for a free consultation.

Written by Pam Farone.  www.careerfulness.com