This is one in a series of stories written by mums for mums talking about going back to work after a career break.
This is a career break story with a difference because Helena works for Shell and took a planned 12 month career break to go travelling before settling down to start a family. She learned loads about herself in those 12 months.
Job title: Learning Excellence Manager
1. Tell us about your career before your career break
I worked for Shell for 9 years before applying for a 12 month career break. I worked in Human Resources in various generalist and specialist roles in the UK and then Holland .
2. What do you do now?
I still work for Shell in HR as a Learning Manager. I came back to the same company as I had a guaranteed return agreement.
3. How long was your career break?
12 months and I travelled the world. I wanted the opportunity before settling down and starting a family.
We spent 3 months touring the coastline of France, Portugal and Spain searching for good surfing conditions! Then we spent 5 months in Australia, New Zealand and The Cook Islands and for the final 4 months we visited Asia: Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia.
4. What did you learn about yourself?
I learned that despite a structured ten years in a large corporate, I was still able to let go and really experience a once in a lifetime opportunity. Freedom, choice, all dictated by myself was not to be wasted and I grabbed it with both hands. When do we get many chances to do exactly want we want to do??
Also I learnt that despite office life, I hadn’t lost my sense of adventure and I tried new things. When you’re away from your comforting home environment for so long (we purposely avoided Skype), you learn to appreciate family and friendships.
Lastly, it made me appreciate my own company.
5. What was your biggest challenge when you went back to work?
My biggest struggle was getting back to corporate life and lingo. It felt very alien after 12 months backpacking and completely out of that world!
Despite being away for quite a long time and because I had done so much in that 12 months, I thought work would be a completely different place to return to. I didn’t have to worry – it hadn’t changed that much. My worries were unnecessary.
6. What helped you go back to work?
It was always the plan to return so I didn’t need or seek additional support or help.
7. What’s been the biggest surprise?
How easily you get back in to it after a few weeks but that career break was needed. I had worked for 10 hard years and the time away was refreshing.
8. Tell us about your flexible working arrangements?
I came back full time then 2 years later fell pregnant and have been working 4 days ever since for the last 6 years. It was very easy for me to get flexible working arrangements.
9. What advice would you give to other women contemplating going back to work?
I think it depends a bit on the amount of time off and the reason for a break.
I was tired, that was my business case and with strong performance and potential, it helped to have the guarantee of work when I came back.
That isn’t the case now as times have changed but you don’t lose your skills when you are out. You simply have time for other equally important stuff such as family, travel, learning new stuff!
So many women lose confidence when going back but this time should build it!!!.
Join the career break project
If you enjoyed this, perhaps because you’re on a career break or you’ve gone back after a career break and you’d be happy to share tips with other mums, join the Career Break Project community on Facebook.
Thanks so much to Helena for sharing her story.
p.s. who do you know who has been on a career break or maybe it’s you? I’d love to share your story so that together we can encourage and inspire other mums before they go back to work after a career break. It’s just a few simple questions that take a couple of minutes <<HERE>>.