Transcript of Live Chat on How to be Ready to Return to Work

Transcript of Live Chat on How to be Ready to Return to Work (answered by Deepa N Swamy on 14th March 2019 online in the thriving FlexiBees community within Sheroes App)
Q: 3 years back I left my job and moved to Indonesia post marriage. Since then I took up freelance content writing. But it was a makeshift arrangement. I now want to shift to traditional marketing again. Can I do so by working remotely from Indonesia? Are there companies that entertain in such a situation?
A: First of all, it's great that you made the best of the available opportunities and dabbled in freelance content writing, thus exploring some of your adjacent skills and learning new ones as well.
Marketing as a role is in general requires at least a few touchpoints with business stakeholders, hence even in Marketing roles where a lot of flexibility is provided, there is some need to visit the office location. That said, there are new and upcoming areas in Marketing - like Digital Marketing which are more amenable to the remote working model, where companies may insist lesser on physical presence in the office.
You could also explore the Indonesian startup ecosystem for opportunities for working flexibly with some physical touchpoints. There would be legal dependencies as well, such as your local country visa rules - which you would need to ensure you are compliant with, whatever choices you think about.
Q: I wanted to know if some1 joins post a break of 2-3 years do they have to compromise on salary package or position?
A: There is far more openness today about a Returning mother, and more opportunities from the start-up ecosystem as well as enterprises for her experience, than say that existed a decade back, however it is far from a level-playing field.
The reality is biases exist still around Women returning to the workforce post a career break. This coupled with the fact that returnship jobs with some flexibility that returning women usually need, are relatively fewer.
This may result in the roles that are naturally available to returning women to be slightly different or junior than the ones from which they took a break from. This also has a parallel impact on the compensation, hence in general it is difficult to achieve the salary levels prior to break immediately during the re-entry.
I would urge you to view any opportunity with the lens of whether the role is of interest to you in itself. Does it excite you? Accepting any role would need you to make some trade-offs on the home front. Hence it is better for you to consider roles that intrinsically excite you and are in the area of your interest and passion.
Q: Hi my question is will my career gap affect my skills/performance?
A: Yes, and No.
There is a huge value to being inside the work environment. Of being in the "mode of thinking work". Once out of that mode, some elements will get affected until we get the "Work think" mode back - (1) Latest developments in the field (2) Memory associated with some nuances at work (3) Networks/ confidence that we usually have with work related relationships (4) Speed with which we think and speed of execution (5) Confidence with which we will give suggestions/ ideas. Confidence with which we will execute things.
Rather than see them as setbacks, we should see them as challenges in the journey. Given the right opportunity, awareness of what are you going through itself will cut through some of these phases. These are not permanent losses, and with the right preparation, patience and hanging in there, we can overcome these gaps.
For e.g. networking with ex work colleagues, bosses, talking about some work aspects, reading up about your industry or function. Of Course skill upgradation through conscious choices of courses. Doing courses also have a great additional benefit - of refreshing memory or getting back into "Work think" mode.
Q: For restarting work after a gap what all will we need to do plan ahead, so that later we can work in a flexible role smoothly?
A: The first step is to assess what kind of work hours suit your life, and can be reasonably committed. Whether you are ready to start at full time, or part-time. And are you willing to travel everyday to office or occasionally, or need a purely home based job.
Of Course thinking about childcare infrastructure is critical, and feeds into this assessment itself. Are you comfortable leaving your child in day-care. If so, better to have a few visits, understand that system ahead. Do you want to leave the child with a maid, or a maid under the oversight of family members.
It is also important to consciously engage with family, seek their help, and have that channel of communication open. Ask if family can move in temporarily to ease things. All these things will again help you assess job opportunities faster when you are faced with choices.
Q: Is a 10 year gap considered too big? What are my chances for remote working?
A: In general 10 years can be seen as a big gap. That said, the rules are not all laid out, and the initiative of each person will determine her success.
An important factor to consider is which industry or skill area do you belong to originally?
In general if you have HR background, it would be less difficult to come up to speed on current scenario, compared to say, Tech sector where changes in technologies & skills needed are far more rapid.
In Marketing as well a lot has changed in the last 10 years, with newer medias, changing allocation of media budgets by companies, and consequently emergence of Digital Marketing as a powerful new skill to have.
If you are from Finance, your basic skills might be useful, however there would be a big need to come to speed on latest regulations to be effective.
We would urge you to do a self-assessment along these lines. See what are the jobs in this field currently, what skills do they need. And have a conscious plan for upgrading your skills.
Q: How will I know if I have the required skills today?
A: To your question on how will I know if I have the required skills today. First step is to take stock. Refresh your own memory about your past work experience. Write down what all have you done. What are the things interested you, excited you. Which areas you did not like. There is a chance of forgetting these with a time gap.
Next is to see what is happening in the market today. Talking to people, networking, going through job boards. This will give you an an idea of the kind of skill sets needed today.
Then you can do specific preparation against which additional skills you want to work towards.
Mentally - this is hard. There will not an immediate urgency. No exam. You would need to motivate yourself to update yourself in a systematic manner. "whether this will pay out" is not a question we should ask at that point. Even family will ask. But we need to prioritize and do like something for yourself.
You should also explore new skills that interest you. Adjacent skills to your own to make yourself more relevant/ brush up.
Take all opportunities that help you brush up - could be helping someone / an ex boss. There is a value in being in touch - it can be huge confidence boost - having done something tangible, even if a bit low paying at the beginning.
Q: Hello mam I am currently working as full time employee. However, due to lack of family support raising my kids is difficult. I want to resign and take up work from home. Is it a good decision and can I opt for that?
A: While it is our vision at FlexiBees to enable flexible working for ALL women, and ultimately for everyone, the reality is the market is still nascent and evolving. We do have a lot more options today than a decade back or even 5 years back. From our experience we have seen that even core jobs or some elements or core jobs like Marketing, Finance etc can be done with flexibility of working from home. However the number of such jobs is fewer. The wait time to land an ideal flexible job can be very high. Hence you would need to plan your financial commitments accordingly.
Even once you land the ideal dream job, work from home career comes with the inherent trade-off that it would be difficult to predict your cash flow beyond a few months. Today, that is one of the costs of flexibility. We hope even work from home careers become as stable as mainstream careers. However till then, we have to recognize the differences in these models and plan accordingly depending on which criteria are important to us.
Q: I am multi-talented and did my masters in ecology and environmental studies.I have explored almost the the age of 40 what are chances for safe job.
A: Congratulations on having explored the World at 40 :) Only a rare few are able to do that.
You have some unique skills emerging from your Education as well as Life experience. From your education, you have the option to explore opportunities around Ecology/ environment, There are many startups today who are disrupting this space, and keep needing people with relevant experience in this sector. This of-course would also depend on the relevance of your work experience in the field.
Your unique life experiences around travel can also lend itself to multiple outlets like blogging, or joining the plethora of travel related startups today that will value your experience.
You would need to explore these options, and see where do you have the most work experience match, and interest to work, and work towards plugging reasonable skill gaps which you may face.
Q: Hello ma'am I have never worked have always been in a joint family and kids and husband responsibility now want to start something as kids have grown up I have started a small catering like making items on order but do not know how to expand it
A: Congratulations on your big first step. Though in this discussion, we are mainly dealing with back to work as a career for people with prior work experience, some of the elements of preparation we could still repurpose here for your case. For e.g. thinking about infrastructure you would need to put into place when you have work or meetings. Have you engaged with family on what kind of support they would be willing to provide you etc. On questions around running the business itself, you could do a course, attend networking events. Even join the Sheroes Community on She Starts up or Women Entrepreneurs which encourages Women starting up and provides help in this regard.
Q: Hi Deepa, I am trying to return to work after a gap of 2.5 years. I have 6 years long experience in social sector but I have a limitation now that I cannot commit for field work since I have a a year old baby at home. Willing to do freelancing work with NGOs to begin with until I get a suitable job. What would you suggest?
Q: Hello mam I want social work .I have no experience but I can do it
A: We are not very well aware of the NGO segment in general. However there could be certain functions - like fund-raising, marketing, accounting or even digital marketing depending on the NGOs space and budget that could be more amenable to flexible working or remote working. You may like to network with your old employers, colleagues, and engage on these lines. It would also depend on your specific skills and experience, and interest.
Q: Hello, mam I want to work from home, I have done masters in education... I have no experience, n my baby is small
A: Try for getting hands on knowledge and experience even if initially the pay is low. Helping friends or ex bosses on assignments informally or try for internships even if the pay seems low. Since there is a large pool of freshers available for companies to choose from, in general it is advisable to try and get as much experience as you can to differentiate yourself.
Q: I want to go back to work but could not find job. Now feeling depressed that I am not working. It has been 5 years. I have done MBA in marketing and had 3 years experience of teaching in BBA college. Now I am in Muscat Oman and because of Omanization I could not find job here. But I would like to do work from home. Please any suggestions?
A: Don't lose heart. Getting back to work is not easy. We also need to have some mental tactics to help us tide over this phase in a positive manner. Do consider engaging in things that you truly enjoy doing, pursue your interests and passions. We have covered a question earlier in the chat asked earlier on Marketing from another country. The response to that could be helpful to you as well.  Be open to explore adjacent skills, like the person asking the earlier question has herself done as well in addition to exploring upgradation of specific skills and figuring out the legality of working in your home country. All the best.
Q: Changed locations. Didn't get the profile I was interested in. How does one get back to work at the same salary in the same field?
A: In general it is difficult to get the same salary levels after a break right at the beginning. Reasons are answered in response to an earlier question. Could you kindly refer to that response in this chat as well.
Q: I am 30 and due to some idiotic issues haven't work till now and now have problems with getting hired. I am not comfortable with 9-5 jobs but want to do something which impacts the society. What options do I have and how to pursue them as most people want to give job to 20 year olds
A: It is never too late to start if you set your mind to it. Initially you may need to compromise on somethings like salary and role level to first build you experience.. then go on from there. See every new experience as a learning opportunity.  Businesses usually want a mix of people - both young and old, both have a role to play. Be open to your path unfolding as you go along. All the best.
Q: I took a break and did not get my confidence back and the freedom of working.
A: One big reason for falling out of confidence is once out of work, we are also out of the "mode of thinking work". Lack of this "work think mode" usually affects what we remember of our jobs, Networks/ confidence that we usually have with work related relationships, Speed with which we think and speed of execution, Confidence with which we will give suggestions/ ideas. Confidence with which we will execute things.
Rather than see them as setbacks, we should see them as challenges in the journey. Given the right opportunity, awareness of what are you going through itself will cut through some of these phases.
For e.g. networking with ex work colleagues, bosses, talking about some work aspects, reading up about your industry or function. Of course skill upgradation through conscious choices of courses. Even the recap or "Work think" factor will be a great value from doing courses. Confidence can usually be built with preparation. All the best.
Q: When a person returning to work post maternity break leaving a baby at home, when should one not feel guilty and how to prepare mentally for it
A: Once you do a self assessment on readiness, especially work hours, infrastructure, family support, then you would need to take a leap of faith and trust that it will work out. It WILL be too much initially :) Since nothing or no-one can replace the role you were playing entirely :) This indispensability can tie us down for far too long. We have to move things onto others' plates. Everyone takes a chomp, some will spill on the floor. We pick up the pieces, clean up and go on. We don't quit.  It is a journey for the family, kids. Everyone needs to let go. For your own happiness. For your family's happiness also.
Q: Hi I have to return to work and in lunch time want to come back for feeding baby bcoz home is at 15-20 mins far from office s and baby is just 4.5 months so can I tell to my supervisor about this? I have fear if I tell then they will not allow me to go home! Please suggest!
A: The first step to getting flexibility in the workforce is to ask for it. But that is easier said than done.. Understand your difficult situation. Are there others in the office who have made this work before you? You could take their specific advice if so. It is still better for you to ask for this, while you can also assure your superior that you work will not be affected. You could also compensate for this extra travel time if required by leaving a little later. Asking is in general better than feeling later that you should have asked or quitting the job without trying in the first place.
Q: Hi I worked as a hr executive before my pregnancy and now my baby I'd 9 months old. Now I have to return to work but only wfh I can do. Can u offer me or suggest me any job opportunities are there to do.
Q: Hello mam,I have IT experience of 6 years but due to kids I'm not working since 6 I'm looking for work from home..plz help for opportunities
A: In the Sheroes community we are not offering jobs as per Sheroes guidelines. We are here to offer information, guidance,  and answer any queries women may have about getting back to work. If you are interested in exploring part-time work opportunities you may directly register at the FlexiBees website ( We do not post open roles, but in fact our Team does a matching of client roles and the skills and experience that is needed for the role. Once the matching is done, a shortlist is drawn up and the Team calls shortlisted candidates by phone. Please note that we do not give individual confirmations to those who register, but call only shortlisted candidates. Also this community is not used for updation about the specific roles, recruitment process etc. Thanks.
Q: I am really stuck in so many things and feeling like a roller which is not reaching any where. Please tell me if something is there for my kind of moms...I am also MBA in HR with 7 to 8 years of experience.
A: Since you are from the HR field, a lot of your experience will still be valuable. What you would need to do is to take stock, and assess what more you need to do to fit in the job market today. You may refer the response we gave earlier on this as well - on how do I know if I have the required skills - as a large part of that will be applicable to you as well. All the best.
Q: Will my family support me enough?
A: It is important to engage and discuss with family at every step of the way. Even at the readiness phase. You would need to explain to them the importance of your working. You would need some time off to prepare , study, network, apply, attend interviews etc. Do trials with family. Ask for their help. One mistake I made is, I gave up on family support too early. It is not binary, Yes or No. Whatever people are able to do for you, accept and try it out.
It is a journey for the family, kids. Everyone needs to let go. For your own happiness. For your family's happiness also.
Q: I wish to say that the first step towards resuming your professional life is the hardest. There are always things that need our attention, and there are always pending tasks. Thanks to Flexibees, I was able to take that step in December 2017, and eventually everyone in the family got used to my schedule. Now my question to Deepa is how to make the most of online and work from home opportunities so that there is no lag phase between jobs, like the one I am currently facing. Thanks!
A: First off, Congratulations on starting on the returnship journey! The lag phases are unfortunately part and parcel of the flexible work ecosystem, so to some extent they are unavoidable.. What we can do best is to occupy this waiting time in fruitful ways to prepare ourselves for the next phase - either via updation of skills or also in putting in maximum effort to find the next opportunity. All the best.
Q: I want to go back to work, but I have a 2 years old baby.. And I don’t have any family support... Please suggest me something.
A: It will be very important for your life to think about your priorities deeply. What are the choices you and your husband are comfortable making. And what are the trade-offs. In general every choice has a trade-off, and you need to hang in there a bit long enough for the fruit of the choice to come through. For example, how do you feel about doing trials at a nearby day care? About hiring a nanny? About inviting family over for brief periods of time to enable a transition. With Nil family support, it is indeed difficult. However do note that sometimes we view this support as binary. Accept all the help that is possible. You could explore options that offer some flexibility to begin with as well. Do expect some setbacks as you begin the journey. These are also part and parcel of the getting back process, and the key is to hang in there, and trust that it will work out.
Q: I am a dedicated teacher with good qualifications and experience certificates.  Due to ill health I discontinued from work. When I casually uploaded my Bio-data on, I got an interview call. While the odds such as age and health are against me, the board of interviewers requested me to work on teaching modules for teachers, current style.  This is challenging and new. I need to adapt myself quite a bit in involving further. If I don't try my best, I get disappointed. So, I would like to keep my best foot forward. Thank you.
A: It is great to be in the Education space in general because there is a lot of startup activity and disruption going on in this field. This in turns gives a lot of opportunity for educators and teachers to innovate as well as participate in the Education revolution. It's great that you have an opportunity available in front of you. You are also acknowledging the possible gap where you need to work. Kudos ! Do keep going, and be open to learning. It may be difficult at first, but understand that this is an important growth phase for you. You will be proud of this phase when you emerge victorious. Do allow yourself some leeways on other fronts - like home management, kid management and try and get help, so that you give yourself the time and space you need at this critical phase. All the best
Q: I am a Home Marker. It has been 15 years struggling on how do I become self reliant and make a mark of my own. Managing Home and Family I have managed to do some certified courses yet unable to make use of them properly. Can you suggest on how can we like minded women/Ladies can join hands and startup a Self-Help group and source each other and build a platform for only Ladies who can become Financially and Mentally Reliant..
A: It is a great suggestion.. in fact, even in this community, and the Sheroes platform is working towards women supporting each other.. As for being financially reliant, the mode that FlexiBees has chosen is more on the professional side. There are also other avenues that offer and encourage entrepreneurship/ small businesses for mothers - all are different options to explore as per interest.
Q: I am 33 years old. My daughter is 7 yrs old. I have one baby. I want to restart my career. I did job before marriage.But I am always think of restarting my career.
Q: I am commerce graduate. I was working before marriage now I'm mother of five months old baby. Could you please suggest options for work from home.
A: Depends on the profiles you have had past work experience in. Please do take stock of the market for this job role today, and fill any gaps that you see with skill development courses. You may also apply to FlexiBees where we do a specific skill match against open roles. (We do not offer jobs on the Sheroes platform). If shortlisted, our recruitment team will get in touch over phone.
Q: Is it fair that after maternity break when I resume, my company gives 30% reduction in pay because I had a break, how long do you think it would take me to close the perceived gap in my value such that the company will be able to close the gap in my pay and how can I negotiate on this?
A: Yes, It is not at all fair. Unfortunately we do see these in reality in some cases. You should weigh your options versus your life stage. If you feel you may be more valued in other organizations, you should be open to looking out as well. However there may be practical considerations to remain in the same organization as well. In that case one sure way to negotiate is with consistent performance so that the company sees your value. There is no perfect answer for how much time is needed, but ideally it should not take more than a year from you joining back and demonstrating great performance for them to acknowledge it.
Q: I have 2 years experience in pharma industry in quality assurance department( qualification MSC. Chemistry). Now I want to work from home.but in pharma industry there is no work from home. Please give me guidance .
A: From our experience, there are upcoming startups that are disrupting almost every space. Many of these startups are able to use a lot of the traditional experience and skill sets and use them in innovative and new ways. We would urge you to do some specific research in the space to help you understand if there are specific cuts that are more amenable to flexible working, can you do specific courses to upskill yourself etc.
Q: Is it necessary to upgrade our skill set while on break so that we could resume work with more confidence OR can we learn new technologies/apps only when we resume back?
A: We need not wait till our break is over to reskill ourselves in general. There is a huge value in skilling ourselves during the break, in getting us into "Work think" mode. It is better to refresh our memory about our past work, think about the work, what are the thing you like, don't like. Next is to see what is happening in the market today. Talking to people, networking, going through job boards. Then take up specific courses for either adjacent skills, or skill gaps. This is be a challenge initially as this will require a lot of proactiveness from your side, without immediate return. Don't think about whether the effort will pay off immediately. It will all pay in the long run. All the best.

Q: I was a RJ before wedding. After wedding I moved abroad. I am so confused since I don’t have any exposure to any fields here. What i do? Am ready to do any course to upgrade myself. But I don’t know what path or field  to choose..this stops me from searching my job in a peculiar field. Please help.
A: You have a very unique experience. No doubt with some unique skill sets that will include Communication, Thinking on the Feet, and Persuasion? :) If you are open to make a fresh beginning, you could explore Digital Marketing roles / other content based roles that require communication. There is a huge need for Women Sales professionals - especially in the flexible working space. Many startups and enterprises recognize the value of experienced women professionals who want to Sales and BD roles remotely and flexibly. I see there will be an inherent need to experiment with a few things before you find what is the field of your liking, interest and aptitude. Don't be afraid to fail in one. It is not the end, but a new beginning. All the best!