Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood . . . Make big plans; aim high in hope and work. – Daniel Burnham, American architect (1846 – 1912)
A few months ago, one commenter here asked if I would talk about my transition back to work. I’ve let the thought simmer for a while and want to tackle part of it this week.
I haven’t talked about it much here, but it’s true. Last June, I slipped back into my corporate high heels and opened the glass door to go back to work. It’s been a while since I’ve worn those shoes — many years, to be inexact. I left the corporate world armed with my Purdue engineering degree, just before my oldest son was born. During the years of adding more sons, changing oodles of diapers, and transitioning them all into preschool, I began writing and painting and discovering the things I genuinely love to do alongside my three little guys. A book was published, and then we moved to Prague, and the four years there, the first years of all my boys in school, I continued to write and paint and photograph and work on my website. I learned things and stretched myself.
The recent time back in the US has been full of adjustments and change, but the changes have been good. And in June, it was time. I made the leap. Here are a few things I’m learning …
12 Things I’m Learning About Going Back to Work
1. It’s okay to let things go. Dishes, laundry, the state of the pantry, and the state of the social calendar — none of these will be the same. They don’t need to be. Everything that once depended on me to do it all needs a little extra help these days, and that’s good.
2. Do what you love. Don’t settle for a job that doesn’t include your interests, just to receive a paycheck. Find a role that taps into something you love, whether it makes sense or not. It adds up to doing a good job, and excellence always outs itself. Besides, happy at work, happy at home — it’s true.
3. When at work, work. It’s easy to come to work unprepared and still in home mode. After working from home, it’s not easy to transition back into being a professional. But it’s essential.
4. When at home, play. Leave work at work. Be present at home with those you love. It might be the most important thing I’m learning.
5. Cut yourself some slack: things happen. Kids get sick. Sometimes they miss the bus. Embrace flexibility as much as you can, and lean on vacation days, if necessary.
6. Simplify. We don’t need to have complicated things to manage outside of work, so where you can, cut back. Clean the toilets yourself, cut back on the extras. The calmer mindset is worth it. Less is more.
7. Say thank you. For all of those times your boss lets you come in before dawn and leave for your son’s game, for all of the carpool help from friends, for the extra help, and kindness from others, say thank you, often. It’s impossible to pull off going back to work alone.
8. Be selective. Don’t stay in a toxic environment. My first job was a step back into the working world, but it wasn’t a good fit. Legions of angels must’ve been watching out for me, because soon, I was interviewing for a position at a reputable corporation with solid values. I love where I work now, the people I work with, and the work I do. I am grateful beyond words.
9. Prioritize. Start every day with a clear view of what counts. Money? Not so much. Family, friends, coworkers, always. Remember what matters most and use it as a guide.
10. Sharpen the saw. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and be ready to soak things in like a sponge. Learn, learn, learn. The working world is always in flux. Change is good.
11. Restore. Take a vacation. Step off the grid, leave the phone at home, and let yourself be refilled. Everything in your life will be better for it.
12. Support others. We all need a helping hand, especially moms coming back to work from being at home. When we have been given support in getting back into the working world, it’s important to remember to support others when they do, as well.
One last note: embrace the things you love to do in your free time. When you’ve been hired after taking many years at home, it’s likely because you are a balanced and well-rounded person. Make it a point to keep your balance by continuing to do the things you love. It shows. Balance and happiness make you shine from the inside out.
I’ve been told multiple times by friends that stories like mine just don’t happen. It may be somewhat true, but if I can make it back through the door into the working world, you can, too. I’d love to hear your stories and thoughts — please share in the comments below. Thanks!