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Returning to Work as a Leader

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Dear Lauran, I recently returned to work after being away for five years to raise my kids. I was a senior-level leader with in my company and now find I am only “qualified” for mid-level. Help—what did I miss—is this discrimination due to my new family? —M.B

As women, we have a plethora of decisions that determine our career paths. These decisions start at a very young age and do not end. Today I still face many of these decisions. Those decisions include: what college we attend, degree, marriage, military, career aspirations, personal aspirations, and of course the big one—family. Moms are the lynchpin of a family. We are the nurturers and caretakers, decision makers; we hold the purchasing power within the US economy.

We also make a decision, all too often, to forgo our career for the family. However, it is not all lost, as we still can go back if we so choose … yet typically not at the same level. Does this surprise you? It shouldn’t, as many things may have changed while you were away from your desk. Yet all too often, we do expect it … and get upset if we are not right back on the horse as if we had never left.

Thus, if you are returning back to work from any long period of time off (more than six months) you need to ask the following questions of yourself and of the market:

  • What has changed in the career role?

  • Has technology moved forward, are the client’s needs the same, can the organization deliver to the client or are their obstacles, does the role have new guidelines and tasks. etc.

  • What are the new factors affecting your career choices?

  • Is there a new method to the organization’s structure, what does the job economy look like today—NOT yesterday, what does this career choice future look like?

  • What has changed in you? Family, career aspirations, work/life balance, or education level<

  • What are the leaders today facing that yesterday’s leaders were not?

  • How has the leadership landscape changed…?

Trust me it has. What do you need skill-wise, emotional-intelligence-wise, to cope with these changes?How will your leader emerge and benefit the organization once you return to work?

It is not as simple as saying I was a leader yesterday thus I deserve to be a leader today.

In understanding these questions, you will gain a better appreciation of the leadership role at your organization and how to climb the wall faster.

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