Come Back With Confidence

Avanade Inc.

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Coming back from a career break can be a daunting proposition. Women have career breaks for a number of reasons, with maternity leave being one of the most common. In partnership with Talent Keepers, Avanade are running an event in the UK this February called "Comeback with Confidence". As the head of talent acquisition and integration for Avanade in Europe, I wanted to offer you ten tips to consider for a smooth transition when returning from a career break.

1) Find a mentor and/or a sponsor when you return. These can be two different people as the roles are quite separate. A sponsor should be someone with influence over senior decision makers who will champion your career progression in the organization while a mentor would coach and guide you on a regular basis with everyday challenges. A mentor could act a sponsor as well, but they aren't always and don't need to be the same person.

2) Raise your visibility. The point about choosing a sponsor is one way to do this, choosing the right projects to be involved in (point 3) is another way and participating in networking events, when you can, is also really good value.

3) Choose projects that have the 3 Is: Impact, Importance and Influence. This will help you make an mark quickly, it will help you demonstrate success in areas that are visible and will work toward reminding you of what an important asset you are to the organizations.

4) Decide on your boundaries before returning and stick to them, even if it means blocking out time in your calendar for commitments outside of work.

5) Don't make excuses. Coming back after leave often renews people's sense of priorities. Whatever those priorities are, you shouldn't feel you need to explain or defend them. If you can't make an 18:30 meeting, empower yourself to say "I have a conflict" and not feel obligated to explain what that conflict is.

6) Take time to reflect on your achievements without attaching them to preconceived timescales. Making that next career jump should be dependent solely on your individual time frame, not the time frame others did it in or think you should do it in. Careers don't necessarily progress in a linear way or a consistent speed. There is quite often a series of climbs and plateaus and there is nothing wrong with that.

7) Trust your instincts. One of the most highly underrated business skills but by far one of the most valuable is the ability to listen to your gut feeling! Trust it and act on it! This can (sometimes) be a distinct advantage women in business have- a strong instinct. We have to learn to trust our instincts.

8) Make time for yourself. If you were on leave for parental, family or caring responsibilities chances are you feel that taking care of yourself is low on the list of priorities. It's not. It's top of the list. Think of the oxygen mask analogy on planes. You cannot be of use to others if you are not whole and functioning on your own. Carve the time out where you can and make it a priority every day. It might be a five minute walk from the train to the office, it might be listening to positive audio books in the car or participating in your favorite hobby each day-whatever it is no one will make it happen for you.

9) Keep the lines of communication open with your employer, boss and team about when you are available and when you are not. Setting clear expectations up front will help your employer know what to expect from you as well as people outside of work who may be depending on you. Many companies also allow you to keep in touch when you are on leave. These "keep in touch days" are a great way to remain close to the business and stay abreast of changes and movements.

10) Work with what you've got: I love this blog because it really talks about taking lemons and making lemonade. Find your solution before you let an issue become a problem. Learn to make the best of what you have.

Some other great books as reading resources for coming back with confidence: Off-ramps and On-ramps; Mother's Work and Lean In

Els is an experienced Recruitment practitioner with over 20 years' under her belt as an adviser to several global organizations and consultancies such as KPMG and EMC. Today, she brings the recruitment strategy to life for Avanade and leads a fabulous team of Talent Acquisition professionals across Europe. She is a single mum of 2 wonderfully bright and vivacious girls (11 and 13) who keep her on her toes. She is passionate about Diversity & Inclusion and making IT more appealing to young girls and women, starting at home with her 2 math's geniuses.

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