Women In Science

Women In Science

How To Get Your Career Back On Track After Starting A Family

Women In Science: How To Get Your Career Back On Track After Starting A Family

Embarking on a career break to focus on family life constitutes a significant life shift. For women in science, temporarily pausing your career in a research environment or academic setting requires balancing an array of factors, such as long-term career prospects and financial well-being. Fortunately, re-entering the scientific workforce post-hiatus need not be an overwhelming obstacle.

The Emotional Factor

Starting a family undoubtedly triggers a profound emotional shift. Alongside the joy, you may grapple with the feeling that your career has stalled or that you’re now at a disadvantage. Recognise these feelings but don’t let them dominate your actions. This emotional processing is crucial for plotting a more strategic and successful return to the workforce.

Resilience and self-awareness are vital. Instead of viewing your career gap as a setback, consider it a phase in your evolving journey. Your life experiences, including raising a family, add valuable dimensions to your scientific work and your perspective as a professional.

Assessing Career Goals

Before diving back into your scientific endeavours, take stock of where you are and where you’d like to be. Evaluate your career aspirations afresh. Has your focus changed? Are there new avenues in your field you find exciting?

Craft a roadmap based on these insights. Identify any skills that may need updating or gaps that need filling. It might involve additional training or even a temporary move to a less demanding role to get back in the swing of things.

Networking and Mentorship

It’s never too late to network or seek mentorship. Engage with colleagues and mentors from your past, but also strive to forge new relationships. You’ll discover shifts in industry thinking, advances in technology, and perhaps even entirely new subfields.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to individuals who’ve successfully returned to science jobs after taking a break. Their advice can be invaluable. Online platforms, scientific conferences, and local seminars offer fertile ground for growing your professional network.

Science Jobs and Opportunities

Research the job landscape before making your move. If location is a constraint, local opportunities may be your focus. For instance, those situated near Cambridge can explore an array of science jobs Cambridge offers—from biotechnology to software design for scientific applications. Institutions like the Sanger Institute are offering schemes like the Janet Thornton fellowship to help people back into the scientific world after a break for any reason.

However, don’t restrict yourself unnecessarily. Remote work is increasingly common, and many scientific roles offer flexible working arrangements. Keep an open mind when it comes to employment structures that might work for you and your family.

Skills Update and Re-training

Upon returning, you might find that your field has progressed in ways you hadn’t anticipated. From new software to updated research methodologies, there’s often a learning curve involved.

Online courses, workshops, and certificate programmes can bridge these gaps. Many are designed specifically for professionals returning to work and can be particularly helpful in elevating your candidacy for roles you’re interested in.

Revisiting Work-Life Balance

Transitioning back to work isn’t solely about re-entering the job market; it’s also about ensuring you and your family adjust smoothly to the new routine. Discuss openly with your partner or support system about sharing responsibilities.

Childcare solutions and flexible work hours can be lifesavers. Don’t feel pressured to dive back into a high-stress job immediately. Balance is the key; the perfect job isn’t just about the role but also how it fits into your life as a whole.

Building a Robust Support System

Having a sturdy support system can significantly ease your transition back to a career in science. This support can come from various sources—family, friends, professional networks, and even online communities designed for women in STEM. Leverage these connections not just for emotional sustenance but also for practical advice and solutions to everyday challenges.

Keep communication lines open with your support network and make it a point to update them on your progress. Your support system can provide honest feedback, assist with job leads, and even help with childcare when you’re tackling critical projects or deadlines. The stronger your support network, the smoother your transition back will be.

Personal Branding and Digital Presence

Personal branding is not just a buzzword; it’s a necessity. Your online presence, including platforms like LinkedIn, research publications, and even social media, tells a story about you as a professional. Update your profiles to reflect your current status and career aspirations, and if possible, contribute articles or research findings to reputable platforms to showcase your expertise.

Digital presence isn’t just about displaying credentials; it’s about contributing meaningfully to your scientific community. Follow key influencers in your field, participate in relevant online forums, and engage in discussions to keep yourself updated. A strong digital footprint can attract opportunities and help you stand out in the crowded scientific job market.

Summing Up

The road back to your scientific career may have its challenges, but it’s navigable with the right strategies. By addressing emotional barriers, reassessing career goals, networking, and updating skills, you set yourself up for success. Flexibility, both in job location and job type, expands your possibilities. Ensuring a healthy work-life balance and making savvy financial decisions can further ease your transition.

Poppy Watt

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