From a reader: What happens when you get divorced and because of finances, you have to go back to work? I have 3 young kids and am going back to work after 10 years. I don’t know what I am qualified to do now, what I want to do, or who would want me.
Before I had kids I was in sales and did pretty well, but I just don’t know how I would manage the childcare. I’m also afraid of technology, and not sure if I could figure it out. Even the job descriptions I read about are hard to understand. The professional world has changed so much. It’s intimidating and I’m really scared.
Here’s my advice for going back to work after 10 years:
I really hear you on this. Transition can feel intimidating and even scary. Here’s the good news. You are on the precipice of something great. It might not feel that way, but trust me. You are. As a life and career coach I have helped hundreds of clients discover what comes next. Like you, they were scared, unsure and even anxious about their possibilities. It’s normal.
One of the first questions I ask when I begin working with a new client is “What are your gifts?”
A long – very long – silence usually follows. When the client finally speaks, they say the same thing: “I don’t know.” When I dig deeper, I hear a little more: “Well, such and such seems to come easy to me, and I sort of have a knack for it, and yeah, I guess you could say it comes naturally, but I’m not good at it, or anything. So I wouldn’t call it a gift.”
Yep. I hear this all the time. And it. Is. Messed. Up.
We all have gifts. Not one of us was born without having a special gift or talent. Mine is speaking and really hearing what people are saying under their words. I have a friend whose gift is writing. Another has an eye for style.
We all got somethin’, folks. But from my years of coaching I’ve noticed that the word “gift” tends to be synonymous with “being good at” something. And being “good at something” tends to mean, for most people, that they are an expert in the field, or wildly successful at this one thing, or freakishly talented along the lines of say, Mozart. In other words, if it’s not a Super Talent lit up in klieg lights on a big marquee, we’d rather just sweep it under the rug, thank you very much. A gift doesn’t count unless it is great. And what a pity that is.
This is actually fear masquerading as modesty. And it’s doing nobody any good. Let’s say you like to write. Do you feel uncomfortable saying that you have a talent for writing if you haven’t been published? Or, let’s say you have been published. Do you still feel uncomfortable saying you have a gift for writing if you haven’t hit the best-seller list? Or you’re not churning out books like Stephen King?
Just because you haven’t won the Pulitzer, or haven’t found an agent, doesn’t negate the talent you do have. Let’s reframe the definition of “gift.” If you do certain things better than most people, if certain things come easier to you than to others, if you enjoy doing something so that time seems to vanish when you sit down to do it – that’s usually a gift. It really has nothing to do with how “good” you are at it. And if you have a gift, no matter how big or how small, you have a responsibility to use it. Otherwise, the rest of the world misses out.
Children are a great example. My fifteen year-old son is a budding magician learning his craft at the Magic Castle. Is he David Copperfield? No, not yet. But he is working towards his talent. My thirteen year-old is a great songwriter. He loves music and acting. Does he have his own Disney show? Nope. But he still has a gift and a talent and writes songs about people which he gives them as gifts.
Children know that they have to practice their natural skills and abilities. Adults aren’t as down with this concept. If you are good at something or you could be if you practiced, you have to use it. The world needs your gifts. Even if you’re not earning your living from it, or you haven’t achieved massive success with it (yet), you need to at least recognize that it is something special and unique to you.
But what if you still aren’t sure what your gifts are? Then it’s time to go digging for them. Here are some exercises to help you zero in on those superpowers that you may not realize you ever had:
1. Ask yourself what comes naturally to you.
Whatever it is might seem like no big deal. Gathering people together comes naturally to me. I think it’s no big deal, but other people have thanked me for creating community. What do you do easily? It might even seem like something trivial, like organizing a closet or managing numbers. But if you look deeper, it’s not so trivial after all.
2. What do you do better than most people?
It’s okay for you to own the things you do well. I can speak in front of crowds better than most people. It doesn’t make me boastful, it’s just a fact. I can say things that are hard truths to people in a loving way. Again, not boastful, just a truth of who I am.
3. What are things you enjoy doing?
You don’t have to be good at them, only that you like doing them. I love to paint, sing karaoke, find cute outfits on sale, and write.
4. What do people come to you for? What do they ask you?
I am asked for advice all the time. I am the stranger you meet in the elevator who knows your deepest, darkest secret by the 10th floor. It’s been that way since I was a kid.
The next thing I want you to do is to take that list of components from the above questions and read them all out loud. This will help your confidence. Next, ask yourself, what could a person with these gifts do for work? Don’t worry about the qualifications and if you have them. Just take a moment to ask, what is possible? Write those answers down.
I had a client who came to me who was in the same career for 15 years. She was a data analyst and wanted something more. By the time we were done working together she was set on becoming a private investigator. She wasn’t afraid to look at the possibilities that seemed outlandish. I don’t want you to be afraid either.
I know that you have been out of the “workforce” raising kids for many years. Remember, many of the skills that it takes to run a home are used in corporations. People need planners, accountants, coordinators, drivers, cooks, managers, and more. My guess is you have all of those skills.
Lastly, I want to acknowledge your fear around childcare. I encourage you to just take the first step and start figuring out what you could do before letting the fear or obstacles get in your way. My guess is, once you open yourself up to possibility there will be many options available to you.
Going back to work after 10 years isn’t easy. It’s scary.It’s uncomfortable. But if you believe in yourself and let yourself see your gifts, everything will work out great.
Gretchen Hydo, MCC, CMC, CBC, CSC, is a Master Certified Coach, certified mentor coach, keynote speaker, and trainer. Specializing in business, life, career, executive productivity, and relationship coaching she helps people from all walks of life who are ready to make significant and substantial changes. Gretchen has spent the past ten years working hands-on, with individual clients, name brands, and notable companies, providing entrepreneurial tools, public relations acumen, and real-world practical advice to produce unprecedented results. She has an extensive background in PR, marketing, and business strategy. She is also an instructor with the Life Purpose Institute and a mentor coach for the International Coaching Federation. For more information, please visit, www.GretchenHydo.com or reach out by email, Gretchen@GretchenHydo.com
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