How to invest in your learning as a returner from parental leave

Here’s the good news for anyone preparing to return from leave – becoming a parent is one time in life when you learn more about yourself than you ever have done before.  You are tested to your limits – physically, emotionally and mentally – whilst experiencing one of life’s greatest changes.

Contrary to those who think that going on parental leave results only in extreme exhaustion, forgetfulness and inability to get out the house, these months of caring for a baby bring out a level of patience, dedication, loyalty, determination and ability to deal with adversity that you never thought you had.

Going back to work and harnessing this new-found self-knowledge is important, because for many, a temporary confidence-dip comes with a period of time away from the technicalities of the job.  So, to further boost confidence levels and to get those technical and business-skills back up to scratch, consider the following:

  1. List out all the things you have learnt about yourself as you became a parent (see above)
  2. Pull out your latest performance appraisal to take stock of your strengths and areas for development
  3. Find out if there’s any mandatory training/CPD that you’ve missed since you’ve been away and get booked on to the relevant course
  4. Find a buddy or a couple of buddies who can bring you up to speed on all the changes – new people, processes, systems, legalities, responsibilities…
  5. Find a mentor who is already doing what you aspire to do – and who is positive in their outlook
  6. Hold a review meeting with your manager after 3-6 months of return and ask for feedback on what would be best for you developmentally at this stage
  7. Read around your industry – what are others doing in your space?  Can you meet with them to ideas-sharing?
  8. Block out 30 minutes a week in your calendar purely to start work on any or all of these 7 tips….consider booking a meeting room or going out to a coffee shop to minimise disruptions (bearing in mind you are your worst enemy so resist all temptation to check emails!)

Finally, take it slowly and don’t be too harsh on yourself.  You may feel ready to do all of the above and more in your first couple of months back; but many take a lot longer to settle back in and find it’s enough of a stretch just get the logistics right.

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