We tend to think of returning to work after a long break as arduous and challenging. And make no mistake, it is a lot of work. But recently, I had an interaction that made me think about the silver lining to that cloud – exploring new career options after a career break.
After Class XII, most of us chose a stream of study because “that’s what we do (or don’t do) in our family”, or by a process of elimination – “I don’t want to study biology or maths”, or because we were told that it can get us a well-paying job, or because “all my friends are doing it”.
Very few of us made the choice of knowing what the domain involves and whether we would find it interesting and absorbing. Basically, no different than tossing a coin to decide.
I met Sambavi a few months back and she has an entirely different perspective. She says that the exciting thing about returning to work after a career break is that as an adult, she can make an informed choice. And since she was already on a break, she could take the time to find a domain that interested her.
Sambavi discovered an interest in digital marketing after attending a webinar on the subject. Earlier she was under the impression that marketing people were very social, connected with people easily (and superficially), made friends in minutes, were polished (she means flashy), and had terrific communication skills. None of which, she felt, were true of her. She says she is shy; it takes her a lot of time to feel comfortable enough to start a conversation and even in college, she had a very small circle of friends. She attended the webinar only because her former boss, Shyla, was speaking, and she had sent her a personal invitation.
Her whole thinking changed after the session.
She heard about the many roles. Content Marketing – where she could write content, and create videos and posters. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – where she could drive and increase traffic to a website, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) to decide if paid advertising should be used to increase website visibility in search results. Social Media Marketing (SMM) to use social media to interact with customers to build brands, increase sales, and drive website traffic.
She reached out to her former boss and asked for time to discuss her ideas. Before the meeting, she read about all four job roles and prioritized them by interest. During the discussion, her boss Shyla recommended a couple of courses and agreed to help her understand the material if she was stuck.
Sambavi went one step further. She started contributing to a friend’s blog. As she worked on the course, she wrote content, worked on SEO and SMM. She is still a bit sad that she couldn’t work on SEM as they had no budget for paid advertising.
Her hands-on experience definitely helped her get a better understanding of the methods used by each function by the time she completed the programme. During those six months, she needed to tap Shyla for her expertise only twice. But knowing she had a mentor added immensely to her confidence.
Unlike in the performing arts, like movies or music or reality shows, where the audience’s reaction tells if you’re talented and you discover if you have the willingness to put yourself in front of an audience; knowledge work is in the minds of the people who perform it.
How will you know what it involves unless you mine the brains of the people who do the job? This takes the willingness to identify people in that space, reach out to them and ask for help to understand what they do. Some people are articulate and tell a story of what they do and how they do it. Others aren’t. You may need to speak to a few people to get a good understanding of the subject. Some people will be generous with their time. Others, not so much. Don’t give up – find the people who willingly share their time and knowledge.
At the core, knowledge work is problem-solving. And the more problems you solve in that space, the better you become at it.
Remember when in school, teachers would have you solve a hundred problems in arithmetic – the first ten were confusing, the second lot was tough, but by the time you had solved 50 problems, you were breezing through it? So, finding hands-on projects through an internship or by volunteering your time is a great way to build expertise.
Whether it is brain-mining to understand a domain or solving a hundred problems, learning about an area of work takes time and effort. And of course, an investment in course fees. It feels like going back to college, with none of the fun.
But the good part is that you are making an informed choice. You are choosing an area of work that engages and excites you. That, combined with effort is a sure recipe for success.
indePenn coaches and prepares women on a career break returning to work, to present themselves as confident professionals.
Once you’ve identified your new area of work, we connect you to a guide who will work with you to build an intensive upskilling programme.
Visit us at indePenn.com and Sign Up – we’ll handhold you through the process of getting back to work.
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