to work after maternity leave or a career break feels a bit like riding a
rollercoaster. Some of the most common feelings I hear from mums returning to work
after having children are: loss of confidence in themselves, feeling daunted by
the idea of being in the workplace again and fear about whether they can do the
Most mums I work with have often forgotten how much they have to offer back at work; underestimating both their skills and experience. This is where reminding yourself about your Personal Brand can help you.
So what is your personal brand and why is it so important?
Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon, says that your personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. What are you known for in your area of expertise? What is your reputation within and outside your organisation?
Having a strong sense of your personal brand can help you:
● talk clearly and easily about your strengths and qualities
● feel more confident to talk about your value in interviews
● demonstrate the value you bring to an organisation
● feel more comfortable talking about your successes in development discussions at work
● be clearer on how you contribute to the overall success of your organisation
● be thought of or found for opportunities inside or outside your organisation
On returning to work after a break, many mums I have worked with feel their reputation will be affected by their time out of the workplace. They fear they will be seen as less committed to their work, with one eye on the clock counting down to when they can leave to get back to their family. In effect, they feel that one of the main things that their colleagues will say about them now is that they are a mum first colleague second!
But panic not! Having had time away from the office on maternity leave can make you even more effective in your role having learned to be even more productive and efficient at getting things done. And you can rebuild your brand when you return to work by taking some simple steps to re-establish your reputation.
Top tips to reconnect with your brand.
Before you return to work ask yourself these questions:
1) What are your natural or innate strengths? What feedback have you been given by friends or colleagues about what you do really well?
2) Before you left for your break, what were your main achievements at work? Reflecting on all the great work you did before you left can help you build your confidence. Think about examples as if you were talking about them in an interview or on your CV. You can use the STAR format (Situation - Task - Action - Result) if that helps. Think about what you did and the outcome, particularly with regards to how it benefited your organisation and colleagues and the value you added.
3) Thinking about all of the roles that you have had in your career to date, what is the thing you consistently did when you started them? Were there common improvements you made in all your roles that weren’t necessarily part of your job description? For example, after taking time to listen to how things work, did you often streamline processes in your roles or teams to save both yourself and colleagues time?
4) What are you passionate about in your career? Why do you do what you do?
5) What do you want to be known for in your career?
Once you have answered these questions, read back over your answers and maybe talk them through with a friend. What is the clear message coming through that you want to take back with you to work? What is the value you have and will add to your organisation? Think about the top three things you want people to say about you when you return and how you can demonstrate these qualities in your day to day work as well as longer term career.
Things you can start doing before you return to work.
1) Use your KIT days to get back into the swing of things, catch up with what has been going on at work and start reconnecting with colleagues.
2) Spend a few minutes a day on LinkedIn reading updates from colleagues and other industry updates. Like and comment as feels right for you and share things you think your network would find useful.
3) Look back over your return to work plan and your priorities for when you return to work.
On your return to work, take your personal brand with you.
One of the most important things to do when returning from maternity leave or a career break is to re-connect with your colleagues. This helps you build up your support group again in your office, helps you find out what’s happened while you were away, and lets your colleagues know you are back and engaged with what’s going on. It also shows you are acknowledging that things have changed since you were last in the office and it might not have been a bed of roses for your colleagues while you were away! These conversations can also help you remind your colleagues of what you do and how you can help them.
Once you know what projects you are working on, and who you will be working with, arrange to have a coffee with your key colleagues to reconnect with them. Find out what has happened with them while you were away and what work issues they are grappling with now. You can talk about your current priorities with them and any issues you can see coming up plus sow the seeds of your brand and if/how you are able to help your colleagues.
Now you know a bit of the background of what’s going on with your colleagues, you won’t feel out of the loop. You’ll be more aware of what’s going on behind the scenes and feel confident speaking up in team meetings. Your colleagues will know you have done your best to catch up on what you’ve missed and have taken the time to find out what else is going on.
You can start to use your personal brand to help develop your career. Choosing projects or helping out with tasks that build on your personal brand will help you establish yourself as the go-to person for that type of work or for possible promotions in the future.
If you'd like some help rebuilding your reputation and visibility at work after maternity leave, drop me a line at email@example.com to see how I can help you.