Life happens! What exactly does that mean? Well, for one thing, in our hectic, complex lives, sometimes we have to take a break from work unexpectedly. It might be because of illness or an injury. Some of us find we need to care for aging parents. Then there are the planned leaves—to have a baby, to raise our children, or perhaps to take a sabbatical to travel or go back to school – all with the intention of returning to work.
But also, today, many people who had not planned on doing so are re-entering the workplace – sometimes after longer absences. The economic recession has forced some to come out of retirement. If your financial resources have shrunk because your spouse lost his or her job, or you have become a single parent, chances are you’ve joined the ranks of those who hadn’t been employed for a while but who are now compelled to work.
Returning to work—whether after a short-term or an extended leave—can be daunting and difficult. It takes time to come back and feel comfortable in the work environment. But take heart. It’s like swimming: once you’ve learned the strokes, you never forget—you just need to adjust to the water temperature! So, take a deep breath, get a running start and then jump back into the workplace pool!
If you’re returning to the same job you held previously, remember that while you were away, things probably have changed. Co-workers come and go, bosses get promoted, company policies change, new technologies are employed, layoffs, reorganizations and mergers occur. You may not be able to slip back into your old suit or resume your former responsibilities with ease. Your colleagues are also going to need to adjust to your return.
If you’re starting a new job, you face some other challenges. How do you position yourself? It takes a while to get accustomed to a new work place and unfamiliar faces. You are probably eager to impress your new boss and co-workers, but, go slowly and learn the office culture before spouting out ideas. You only get one chance at a first impression so prove yourself by first doing your job well so that you win over your colleagues with your skills and accomplishments.
Plunge in with enthusiasm! Don’t do the backstroke!
• Focus on the future, not the past.
• Recognize change as a positive opportunity.
• Enter the workplace with renewed energy.
• Execute your new challenges with zeal.
• Seek assistance in any areas where you are having difficulty.
• Take your time when acclimating to a new office culture.
• Yield to new systems and policies.
• Learn technologies necessary to perform your position.
• Engage in communication with your boss and colleagues.
The water is great—dive in! But go easy on yourself. Allow yourself time to adjust to your new or changed position. Building a positive work environment can help make you a more productive employee and your job more enjoyable. Just like a swimmer, you’ll improve your strokes and find your pace.
By Debora Weisbacher. Employment Specialist, Jewish Community Services
JCS offers a full range of career services. To learn more about these and other ways JCS can help you solve life’s puzzles, visit http://www.jcsbaltimore.org, or call 410-466-9200. Jewish Community Services is an agency of THE ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.