An identity crisis or loss of identity is something that can happen to anyone. It’s a very common experience after leaving a job, especially one that’s become your entire life - much like any emergency services role.
You might be taking a career break, in a period of ill-health or suffering with injury but the themes are the same – a fear of re-entering the working world due to a lack of confidence and a feeling of being out of the loop for too long.
It’s normal to feel a lack of confidence or low self-esteem when you’ve been out of work for a while. It’s a difficult time, but many of our Mightify clients have sought help at this point in their lives and that’s a positive step forward.
But supposing you've left your job AND had a baby? New mums are often expected to slot seamlessly back into the world of work without any support at all and perhaps even without any Keeping In Touch Days. Like those with illness or injury, your world has also been turned upside down and your body no longer feels your own. On top of that your ‘baby brain’ has become the consistency of mushy peas and you can’t remember last week let alone what you used to do at work last year.
It’s no surprise, then, that you might be seriously lacking confidence, direction and focus. Loss of identity can be a very real problem when you become a new mum. Suddenly, you’re in charge of a tiny, fragile human being 24/7, who came without a manual. It’s a steep learning curve, completely awe-inspiring yet overwhelmingly difficult at the same time.
While you’re coping with this - the most demanding job you've ever had - it’s very easy to lose sight of who you were before becoming ‘just a mum’. Conflicting feelings may arise; whilst feeling complete, unconditional love for your child, you also experience searing guilt because part of you is missing your old life and the old you. Your friendships and social life can suffer and sometimes you’ll go all day without even speaking to another adult human. Even though you’re with someone all the time, it can become a very lonely place. You watch the rest of the world carry on as normal, your friends going out and work colleagues moving up the ladder that you should have been climbing. Meanwhile you’re sitting in a mess of never-ending housework, feeding and milk/sick-stained clothes, wondering when you’ll re-emerge from the mundane routine of it all. You feel completely out of the loop and isolated, like the world is zooming past you and all you can do is watch from the side-lines as the tailwind whacks you in the face. It’s important to remember, though, that things will get easier over time.
I had a similar experience after leaving my job in the music industry.
When it came to the time where I felt ready to start looking for jobs again, I hit a blank wall. I had been at my last job for nearly 5 years and I loved it, but I had no idea what else I could (or wanted) to do. I knew I must have had transferable skills, but my confidence was lacking so much, I didn’t really know how to show that or convince anyone of my abilities. I had a couple of interviews for different roles (one back in the same industry) but I was so nervous I felt physically sick in the weeks leading up to them. I kept wondering why anyone would want to hire me when I’d been out of the working world for two years. Surely there were other people who had progressed so much in that time and had way more experience than me? For some reason, I felt that being a mother would automatically put me on the backfoot and I now realise I had become quite anxious over the last couple of years. I believe this is a pretty common occurrence with mothers re-entering the working world.
I think my decision not to go back to work was made even harder because of the industry itself. The music industry is such a competitive world and I felt proud to be a woman in that space who had worked her way up in various companies and roles, but I kept thinking that if I didn’t go back, I’d lose my chance of ever returning to that world which was difficult for me.Luckily, I had some very supportive colleagues and friends who were very understanding.
Fast-forward to now, my son is nearly 3 and I’m lucky to be able to work part time from home for a company that I believe in and I get to spend time with my son, too.
So, from one mother to another, here is my advice to you:
-Make sure you have a good support network of people around you; people that will encourage you and help you strive for what you want.
-Go out of your comfort zone to try and tackle that fear. Sometimes you’ve got to be thrown in the deep end.
-The first job you go into on your return to work doesn’t have to be your ‘forever job’! Perhaps there’s a role that could work well to ease you back in, or perhaps it’s a stepping-stone job to help you figure out what it is you really want to do.
-Be honest in your interviews. They might ask what you’ve been doing for the last year or two, so tell them! Show them your drive and determination and that you’re ready to get back in.
-Try something that will help to build your confidence within the workplace. For example, I have been doing a marketing course to refresh and further my skills, which has really helped and given me a bit more purpose.
-Believe in yourself. Nothing has changed in your abilities to succeed.