Multiple transitions: Have you ever felt like a career hand grenade?

by | Jan 4, 2012

With multiple issues in my personal life I am being treated like a career hand grenade just waiting to explode

CV gap, divorce, relocation! How to cope with too much going on at the same time!

Hi Dorothy  -     My husband and I have recently separated and I now need to return to work to support myself.   My 7 year old had a health condition which required almost full time care and support for over 3 years, which means sadly that I have not stayed in touch professionally for almost 9 years. My previous role was as a senior Compensation and Benefits Director for a large multi-national.  What steps should I take to get myself back on track? For financial reasons this is urgent, but with a parenting gap, a divorce, a need to move house and 3 kids, I feel as if I am being treated like a career hand grenade, just waiting to explode by all and sundry! Cressida, London

Hi Cressida- I'm really sorry to hear that you're going through a tough time. But at least you have retained your sense of humour which will prove invaluable!

I'm sure you are seeking legal advice to try and protect yourself and your children financially and also to negotiate some stability, with all the major transitions you are going through simultaneously. I suppose you will also be discussing custody and childcare arrangements, the latter being important if you intend to return to work full time. It might also be helpful to seek emotional support, either with a professional, or within your friendship group. As we are always reminded during in-flight emergency procedures on aeroplanes, take care of yourself first. If you are not safe, you cannot be there for your children.

Complex and common
Your situation is complex, but not that uncommon. 50% of marriages end in divorce and employers are looking for assurances from both men and women,  that they are in control.  Sadly the responsibility for childcare issues still tends to be associated mainly with women, although with joint custody arrangements I observe that this is now changing.  So, many women do experience multiple transitions and quite often at the same time. A career hand grenade you are not!

In terms of your professional situation you clearly worked at a senior level,  but much has happened in 9 years, so there is a need to make rapid progress. My suggestions would be as follows,  based on the assumption that you want to return to the same type of activity:

  • Get up to date in your profession  - contact old colleagues and professional bodies to establish what changes have been going on in your field in your absence. Do you need to go on a refresher course or will general reading be sufficient? You may find that the most significant developments have been in the areas of technology and software.
  • Re-connect with your professional networks. Subscriptions,  workshops and conferences can be pricey on a tight budget,  but there is still a lot of material  available on-line and social media networking is free.
  • Network with old colleagues and bosses. They will give you the heads up on any opportunities. Can they refer you?
  • Create an online presence  - I took the liberty of researching you and you do not have a LinkedIn profile. This should be a priority. Extend your network.  Join groups related to HR and Compensation and Benefits  - there are many.
  • Consider working from home: can you set yourself up from home,  working on an adhoc basis to ease yourself gently back into a business environment?
  • Consider setting up your own business:  I know many women who have set up their own businesses successfully in response to issues in their personal lives.  If they can do it -  so can you!
  • Re – train  -  is this a good opportunity to think about doing something different? What are your passions? What would you like to do with the rest of your life?  Do you want to stay in C & B?  What are your skills? On- line courses make it easier to combine acquiring new skills with childcare and domestic responsibilities.
  • Check your business image: if your wardrobe is full of office attire circa pre-motherhood -  a trip to the charity shop is essential. Nothing dates you more than looking out dated. Think of this as a business investment.

I hope this will help in some way and wish you every success. Once again seeking professional input maybe an advantage if you don't make the progress you hoped for.

Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she joins the dots between organisations, individuals, opportunity and success.
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