Over at DPM they know all there is to know about the kickoff meeting being key to a successful project.
For the women I often talk to, their next biggest project is going back to work after a career break – the Career Break Project.
DPM tells us that “the kickoff meeting is such a critical moment in a project; an opportunity to establish common goals and purpose in completing the work“.
But hang on a sec … if you are a woman on a career break (maybe you’ve taken time out to bring up your family or to look after elderly relatives or you’ve spent a year travelling), who are you having the kickoff meeting with?
Well your project team might include your partner, maybe your family, a trusted friend and your coach if you’re working with one.
The kickoff meeting is to introduce the team, understand the project background, get clear on what success looks like and agree how the project team will work together effectively. It makes sense though, doesn’t it: get clear at the start on what a successful return to work after a career break looks like.
You want to get clarity on WHY you’re doing it, WHAT you’re doing, HOW you’re going to make it happen, WHO is going to work together and HOW you’re going to maintain momentum.
When I work with clients, we work through 6 simple steps:
Step 1 – Identify your skills and strengths
You need to get a clear understanding (and appreciation) for what’s unique about you and the way you do it. It’s important that you are absolutely clear on your innate strengths and talents. Even if you’ve taken a career break (no matter how long it’s been), you still have the same skills and talents you always did.
Sure, you might be a little bit rusty but you are still uniquely you. And if you’re not sure on your strengths, ask for feedback from friends and family; or former work colleagues.
And if you’re thinking “yes but there are 100 marketing managers looking for work” you are unique in terms of your skills, strengths, background and experience.
Once you have that clarity you are ready to move to Step 2 which is about how you present your career story.
Step 2 – Your career story
Once you have worked through Step 1 (and by the way the other piece I ALWAYS cover in Step 1 is getting to know your values i.e. what’s most important to you), you need to spend time on your career story.
There are three parts to your career story: your career background, what you’ve done during your career break, and what you are looking for now.
Once you have fleshed out your story, you need to present this on LinkedIn and on your CV. (And if you’re about to tell me “I don’t use LinkedIn”, then I’m telling you “You do now” and here’s the reason why).
First though, spend time researching the current career market, former employers and their competitors, job advertisements etc to ensure that you are using the ‘on trend’ industry jargon and terms.
Step 3 – Mindset
Now you might think that as a career confidence coach, the mindset piece (confidence, self-belief, sense of identity, overwhelm) would be the first thing I’d deal with.
But actually very often dealing with some of the more practical tangible ‘stuff’ is a brilliant way to deal with any confidence or identity issues that might be getting in your way.
Plus … in order to properly explore and resolve any mindset issues you might have, you want that sense of safety and comfort you get when you have worked with somebody for a few weeks. Then you’re more ready and more able to deal with the trickier issues.
If you’re taming your mindset monkeys on your own, check out the 10 self-coaching questions that I have put together especially for you. However to get that all important support so that you realise you’re not the only one going through this, come and join the Career Break community over on Facebook.
Step 4 – Identify gaps
Now that you have got clear on your strengths, sorted out your career story, and started to take care of those mindset monkeys (don’t worry, they’ll be back from time to time to try and trip you up), then step 4 is about identifying the gaps.
You need to identify whether there are any gaps between what you have and what you need to go back to work after a career break.
Maybe you need to bring your technology skills up-to-date. Or you need to polish your LinkedIn profile. Or maybe it’s time to start networking again. Or perhaps you need to refresh your interview skills. Or more practical information on how to request flexible working.
Step 5 – Create a plan
Now you know where your gaps are, it’s time to create a plan. Every project needs a plan which includes a clear timeline, an end goal and of course the milestones or stepping stones in between.
You might like my sticky note brainstorming tool to make sure you’ve got everything covered in your plan.
What I would say though – don’t get stuck on planning. As long as you know your end goal (going back to work), you can use more of an agile approach. You don’t need to know every step or every milestone that needs to be reached before you get started. The plan doesn’t need to be perfect. Just get started even if you don’t know what the next step will be.
Step 6 – Get support
The women that I often talk to, tell me that when they go back to work after a career break, there are ups and downs. Some days, you’ll be feeling full of confidence and raring to go. Then you’ll get days when you despair that you’ll ever get back into the workplace because you didn’t get the interview; you didn’t hear back from your former work colleagues; an agency gives you feedback that makes you feel stupid for even trying.
It’s ok to have good days and not so good days. The thing is to pick yourself up and keep going.
This is when it’s SO important to get the right sort of support and accountability. Who do you know who’s already gone back to work after a career break? Who do you know who’s good at listening? Who’s got a positive mindset and can lift you up on the days you’re feeling down? Who knows you well enough to be objective about your strengths? Who will hold you accountable when you say you’re going to apply for that job, or reach out to that recruiter?
And if you ask around, you might find an accountability partner – another mum going back after a career break. Get yourselves organised with a fortnightly accountability call or email (just like I do with my clients) to keep yourself on track.
The right support – whether that’s a friend or whether you invest in a coach or an online community – is absolutely crucial to your successful return to work. Get that support in place when you kick off your career break project, and you’ll soon be wondering why you ever doubted yourself.
Need more help to kick off your career break project?
If you need more help to kick off your career break project, have a browse on The Confident Mother website for loads more articles and career break stories.
To get you started:
- Ten ways to get back into work after a career break
- How to get clear on your strengths after a career break
- How to address a gap in your career on your CV
- How to get noticed on LinkedIn after a career break
- 5 things you can do in 5 minutes or less
For support, stories and ideas, whether you’re a mum on a career break or you’ve gone back to work, join us in the Career Break Project where a community is building to inspire and encourage other mums like you. Let’s make it a party – invite your career break friends too!