Returning to work after maternity leave, time off with the kids or a career break can be very stressful. In fact, in a recent survey, 82% of women didn’t feel happy or confident returning to work and 37% said they were so isolated and unsupported they felt like handing in their notice.

This level of self-doubt can develop after only a few months away from a job and for some women it continues to increase the longer they’re away from the workplace.

I regularly hear clients say that they don’t feel they will be ‘good enough’ when they return to work or that others may judge them as not ‘good enough’.

As well as the drop in confidence, many women struggle with guilt about spending less time caring for their children or an ailing parent. Alongside this is the worry that they can’t commit as much to their job as they used to. This is another example of a double bind for women in the workplace, that is less likely to affect men.

What can you do when that storm of self-doubt takes over your thinking and you question, ‘What value can I add’ or, ‘Will I still be able to do the job?’

Six strategies to chase away your inner critical voice with these

Reflect

Make time to reflect on your previous achievements. Think about the skills and strengths you had before your career break Look back on past performance reviews or recognition you received. Would those attributes just have disappeared whilst you were off work or are they an integral part of your personality?

Identify the positives

How will your children, parent or personal satisfaction benefit from you returning to work? Look at each element of your life and list the positive differences that will result from you re-joining the workforce.

Ignore your inner critic and turn up the volume on your inner coach

We all have that negative voice in our heads that wants us to stay small and never venture out of our comfort zone. But it’s only a thought, it can’t hurt you and just because it’s there it doesn’t mean it’s true. Either ignore it as unimportant or imagine it as a character or person external to you, like a nagging backseat driver or an ex-boss. Instead, listen for your compassionate inner coach who wants you to succeed and believes in you. You may need to listen quite hard, but the voice is there and if you turn up the volume dial, you’ll find it’s on your side.

Find a role model

Is there someone in your previous organisation who has also had a career break then returned to work? Ask them how they felt, how quickly they got their confidence back and what was it that helped them. Use your network and connections to find someone with a similar experience.

Work out your priorities

Would you like to change your working conditions when you return to work? Start by identifying the changes you’d like: salary, benefits, flexible working hours or working from home. Prioritise the most important and the things you’d be happy to compromise on. Remember that negotiation is an expected part of the recruitment process or returning to work and it’s okay to ask assertively for what you want.

You are Good Enough

My clients who are going back into the workplace often say they don’t feel good enough or they’re worried that others will think they’re not good enough. If your inner critic pops up with these words remember we are all born good enough and always will be. Being good enough is about your core value not what you’ve achieved or how well you perform. Once you accept this you will feel free from a lot of your worries and doubts.

Jo Painter, author of Good Enough – A Career Woman’s Guide To Courage, Confidence and Credibility 

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