Many women start working right after college but continuing to work becomes more difficult when they have to balance it with marriage, children, and other household and family obligations.
By Deepa Madhavan
After taking a break from your career, the thought of getting back into the workforce is daunting to say the least. Many women start working right after college but continuing to work becomes more difficult when they have to balance it with marriage, children, and other household and family obligations. Once they leave the workforce, it becomes difficult to go back to work or to find purpose through alternate career options. That’s where I found myself several years ago. I had originally planned to take off one year from work when my first child was born but after my second and third child, I found that I had been out of the workforce for so long that I feared no one would hire me. With my three kids as an integral backdrop of my life, I decided to explore my options. Here is the story of how I “Reinvented, Recalibrated and Recharged” myself back into the workforce.
Workplace mantra: Introspect and find your core strength
I first decided to evaluate my skills that could be leveraged across industries. I lived in the Silicon Valley at that point, I had a Bachelors in Economics and had completed a Master’s in Computer Science. Through the consulting firms where I worked, I understood the nuances of evaluating industry problems through market research and had contributed to many industry-specific reports. This introspection helped highlight the solid blend of technology and business knowledge I possessed. The ability to communicate well and perform in-depth analyses became the core abilities I banked on.
Quick Advice: Introspect and find your core strength. Everyone has something valuable to offer; find that, build it and bank on it as your starting point.
Enter the job market with confidence: Focus on Learning
My next step was to look for options available on various online forums and freelance sites where I focused on part-time/freelance opportunities that would make it easier for me to re-enter the job market. I also prioritized jobs that would allow me to learn, build my skills and profile and could be stepping stones before I started working full time.
Soon, I found a few odd market research jobs for early stage startups who were looking to evaluate specific industry problems and to see if their ideas had a market. Their interest in my skills was a revelation in such a niche segment and I gained a lot of experience at the same time.
Quick Advice: Focus on learning through your first job; despite the fears that may be present, focus on absorbing contemporary skills that will showcase your utility in the future. Today many companies offer programs to bring women back into the workforce. If possible find one that resonates with you and your skills
Workplace success: Figuring the Balancing Act
With my kids all being below the age of 5, establishing a balance between work and family was very important to me. I did so by mastering the following:
Schedule: I worked out a schedule that aligned with my kids needs but still allowed me time for work. For example, I used the two-hour nap time my three kids took get work done and also worked after 8pm once they were put to bed.
Organizing Myself: I would wake up at least an hour before my kids to set myself up for the day so that I maximized my time with them in the day and worked while they slept during the day or at night.
Planning Ahead: I planned every aspect of both my children as well as my life such as the kids schedules, their meals and their clothes for the next day, helping to cut down on the time spent on making small decisions.
Quick Advice: Understanding what your balancing act will involve is important as you get back into the working world. What is it that you and your family need in order to make your daily life less stressful? Find your own balance and master it.
Workplace Challenges: How to Tackle Tough Situations
After a few freelance research projects, I got a job in the green energy space where I performed several studies on the power issues and challenges in the US. Subsequently, the startup obtained funding from a top investment company which prompted them to offer me a full-time job. After a few years of work with them, however, they suddenly shut down, leaving me without a job. At this time, I was more confident about taking time off to get back into the workforce. After deciding to take off some time to spend with my three young kids, the process repeated itself the next time I choose to begin working, ultimately leading me to PayPal.
I look back positively on these years of being in and out of the workforce. It was not always easy to get back in, but having the time at home was valuable and made it worth it. Through it all my learning can be summarized as follows: Find your core strength, focus on learning, be flexible in your options and don’t look back!
Deepa Madhavan is Director – Enterprise Data Services at PayPal