Reconciling your past and present when re-entering the job market

Written by Lisa Ross-Marcus

During the past year of coaching for Empower Amsterdam, I have encountered many talented, skilled, and experienced women who struggle with low self-confidence about the prospect of rejoining the workforce after taking time out to raise a family. Whether because of changed circumstances or a deep sense that it’s time to reconnect with themselves now that the kids are older, the prolonged absence from the professional playing field seems to engulf many women in a fog of insecurities and false assumptions.  

The coaching process helps them to see things clearly, to identify what is most important in this new life chapter, and to build confidence to re-enter the job market with an optimistic and realistic attitude. 

Recently one of my coachees said to me, “What I really need to do is to reconcile my past with my present.”  This ‘aha’ moment got me reflecting further about what to take with you from the past, what to leave behind and what to embrace in the present, in order to bring the most up-to-date, empowered version of yourself to the next career step after a long break.    

I hope some of these suggestions will support you as you embark on this new chapter in your life:

Own your skills and talents 

Make an inventory of the skills and talents that made you successful the last time you were employed, no matter how long ago.  Take ownership of the fact that these abilities are still yours, even if you might need to spend some time getting limber with them again. Remember, if you haven’t been to the gym for a while, it takes practice and maybe some aches and pains as well to reach top performance, but you will get there!

Replace speculation with investigation 

Instead of panicking about not being up-to-date with the latest trends and technology in your (desired) field, spend time doing research about which tools are currently being used, try out tutorials, and investigate online trainings to fill out your skillset.  Recognize that this process will take some time, and whatever the outcome, it is not time wasted. Every step you make is a worthy step.

Reframe your reality

Using old models of your previous work life to judge what would be a good fit for you now can have a self-sabotaging effect.  Although in the past you may have sustained an intensive full- time job with a lively social life in the pub after hours, this lifestyle may not work for you now. Spend some time reflecting on what makes sense for you at this point in your life. Consider the pros and cons of part-time employment, freelancing or starting your own business, taking into account financial needs as well. 

Instead of comparing, ask for advice

Observing other women who successfully combine a career with family life only breeds insecurity and self-doubt when you spend time comparing yourself to them. Thoughts such as ‘I could never be that organized, cope that well, be as interesting, have as much energy or look as well put together as she does, etc.’ give rise to limiting beliefs that only drag you down.  These same ‘successful’ women are a precious resource for you. Instead of comparing yourself, how about asking for some tips and advice instead? Here are some questions you could ask:

  • What has been their biggest challenge in combining work with family? 
  • What kind of support has helped them to do well? 
  • What do they wish they had known when they first went back to work as a parent that they know now?   

Whatever they can share with you will help you on the road to shaping your own vision for your new role as a working mom.

Share your plans with your kids

Although the decision to re-enter the job market has been made, many women feel guilty just anticipating that they may no longer ‘be there’ for their children once they have a job.  From a practical standpoint, it is useful to start investigating child care options early on, when you are not under pressure to find a solution quickly. If relevant, speak with your partner and enroll him or her in helping with investigating options, as it is in the interest of both working parents that the kids are well-looked after.  Regarding the emotional side of the lifestyle change, engage your kids in conversation about it, telling them what kind of work you will be doing and emphasizing what is positive about that for the family. Know that you are a role model for your sons and daughters in how you manage your new life as a working mom. Trust that all the qualities that have made you a wonderful mother have provided a strong foundation for your kids, and chances are that you may be delighted to find that when you are honest and open to them about it, they are supportive of you going back to work.


This article was written by Lisa Ross-Marcus, one of our amazing volunteer coaches. If you are unemployed and living in the Netherlands, we offer free coaching sessions with one of our international coaches. Apply on our Contact page today!