Building confidence in yourself as you return to the workforce

One of the most common stories I hear from women who want to return to work after some time out but are feeling a bit low on confidence. And the first thing I say is, you are not alone!  I’ve been there too.

I know how you feel. You feel that you do not have the skills and knowledge needed to make yourself employable, but also that there are many challenges from employers who are reluctant to employ older workers.

This combination can make you feel that you are facing an uphill battle. But I promise you that’s not the case. There are some very simple things that you can do to show that you do have the skills that employers are looking for and that employing you is the right thing to do.

One of the most important things you can start with is by acknowledging that you have some really good talents to offer, not only those you developed in work before you left the workforce, but the ones that you have gained since then.

Although the workplace may have changed since you took time out, the important thing is to recognize is that the things that you have done in that time out are useful.

You may have been out of the workplace for a while, but you have been working, just at different things. If you have kids, think of how many hours you have spent managing all their different needs and idiosyncrasies, creating an environment where others can flourish and be at their best. Think back on all the roles that you have done whilst raising them: teaching them to get dressed, helping them do their homework, listening to their hopes and fears, balancing the logistics of getting child A to one place and child B to another, researching any issues with their health, such as allergies. The list is endless.  So firstly, let yourself reflect on everything you have done and realize its true value.

The second thing to realise is that working others are actually a valuable influence in the workforce. Many studies have shown that women in flexible work situations, such as mums who fit work in around their children, are the most productive members of the workforce.  And employers too are increasingly recognising this.  I once worked for a woman who preferred employing women because they were more focussed, prioritised their time and were highly productive because they knew how to use the time available efficiently. Honestly, I think she was inwardly sighing as she reflected on the amount of time that she had to spend on the men in the team who were not quite as focussed. The important thing is to find an employer who thinks that way. Believe me they are out there.

Just look at the rise in schemes that have been developed to help women ease back into the workforce, including flexible working hours, working from home or working at unusual hours that fit in with other commitments. Some employers, such as Westpac, Vector and EY, offer a range of packages to help with different the ways people live such as flexi-time, job sharing and condensed hours which compress a working week of 38 hours into 4 days not 5.

And lastly as you are going through work through the job adverts, you might realise that you don’t feel comfortable using some of the latest technology. You ‘ll see all these new programs noted in job ads and you may not feel familiar with them. So, it helps to read up on what programs are currently needed for roles. If you are looking at graphic design roles being able to operate the Adobe Creative Cloud suite including Photoshop and Illustrator would be advantage. Or for any type of office work, being able to use the Microsoft Office is essential. What’s required differs with each sector and browsing through different job adverts in roles like the one you are interested will give you an idea of what employers are looking for. Don’t worry if you find that you have learnt one system and they want another; the employer might be willing to train you.

But the final tip for boosting your confidence is to know there’s a huge amount you can learn yourself. This was brought home to me when I started freelancing. Most of the companies I dealt with were using Xero. I had done an accounting paper at University, so I knew my way around spread sheets, but it was all done with pen and paper. OK, I had graduated to Excel spreadsheets, but accounting packages such as Xero and MYOB were something different again. I happened to know a book keeper who used Xero. She gave me a few lessons and I was soon away. Talking to her, I found out that she taught accounting, which included computer packages at the local college. And when I was stuck I either watched the excellent videos posted on line or rang her. Help is never very far away.  So start upskilling – even if it’s just by watching YouTube.

Rosemary Johnson