Heading Back Into The Workforce? Here’s What’s Changed Recently

If you’ve spent a few years out of the office, a lot has changed. Maybe you’ve spent a few years focusing on your children and decided it’s time to go back to work. Or maybe you’ve been working for yourself and decided an office job is going to provide more security for your family as your children mature. Lastly, you might be in need of additional income as raising your children gets more expensive, leading you to seek a dual-income from you and your spouse. These are all wonderful reasons for considering the change to go back to the office. Don’t look at your need to go back to work in a negative light, feeling as though you may have failed. You have not. In fact, it’s a majority case across the US. In 2014, Pew Research Center surveyed that nearly 46% of US families have both parents working full-time. With that number to have estimated increasing since then.

But before you jump back in, a few things have changed over the past five years. Technology has evolved quite rapidly, changing communication methods both inside the workplace and out of it. Here’s what you should expect before you start applying for a job and what you should expect before your start date.

The interview process has become more challenging

Even five years ago, interviews were more informal than they are now. There’s a greater demand in the workforce for most job functions. This has caused employers to be more deliberate in their hiring process, ensuring that each candidate meets a certain baseline criteria of expertise.

Generally speaking, this means you’ll experience:

  • More emphasis earlier in the process, like having phone interviews before interviewing with those you may report to. And requiring you to passionately seek their employment using strategies like “thank you emails” after your interview.
  • Potentially unclear reasoning for why an employer decided to pass on your application.
  • Interviewing with multiple team members you may work with before receiving an offer, anywhere from 4-5 team members.

Thankfully, because many people are feeling the stress of this process, there have been guides that help to prepare you with the exact answers that interviewers are looking for. Often, these behavioral questions are asked to meet that benchmark and then more specific questioning may happen based on your experience. Prepare yourself with guides that are specific to the part of the interview process you’re in. For example, from the phone interview to the second round of interviews.

Communication methods have drastically changed

Say goodbye to the water cooler. Unfortunately, it doesn’t exist in many workplaces. Digital communication tools are taking precedence over verbal communication. Meaning, more phone meetings than in-person meetings. And a majority of communication happens over private messaging services like Slack. These private messaging services are essentially group instant message conversations for the whole team. This also means that your discussions are more public than ever before. These methods are so popular that in 2014 it was estimated that nearly 67% of businesses use instant messaging as their core method of communication.

What you could expect:

  • Less emails on a regular basis wand more direct communication happening by instant message
  • Less in-person meetings and more phone meetings when instant messaging doesn’t cut it
  • Less personal discussion around the workplace and more emphasis on delivering results

The pace of execution has increased

Most stressful is the change of pace to working habits over the past five years. Due to the new methods of communication, there’s an increased expectation of turnaround time with regards to work at-hand. This means more multitasking and expectation of staying organized. Luckily, if you are a new mother, you’ll have a lot of experience multitasking. But instead of going from preparing bottles to changing diapers, you’ll be going from phone meetings to emails and proposals all within a few hours. It’s important to prepare yourself with a pace of work you might not be comfortable with.

Best tips for handling this new pace of work:

  • Ask for help when you need it
  • Manage expectations of those you work with that you need more time on certain projects (if you do)
  • Stay calm and know that most employees are consistently under water as it relates to how much work they have on their plate

Work has become more distributed

Being at work by 9 AM and leaving at 5 PM was still a fairly common staple a few years ago. But as we’ve moved into more digital communication habits, working hours have changed with it. Because you are almost always connected with work now, your working hours may become less strict and more flexible. But you’ll find yourself actually working more hours in the day than you might anticipate. And if you see the abbreviation “WFH” — it means working from home. Even in large office settings where there’s a requirement for you to be in-office, there’s more flexibility to decide to stay home and be available through connected communication methods. Meaning some of your colleagues may not be there on Fridays. For you, as a mother, this could provide you some flexibility to take care of your parental needs while still meeting the job function requirements. This is one of the nicer changes that has happened over the past five years.

What you could expect:

  • Less strict working hours but potentially more hours where you are connected to work
  • Availability of connecting with your colleagues in-office to be variable, due to “working from home”

Transition slowly, stay collected

The most important thing to remember is that it will take time for you to adjust. If you are a new mother, remember that you will be transitioning into motherhood as well as transitioning into the changes that have happened in the workforce. Give yourself time to adjust. Ask for advice if you need it. Speak to your managers, give them insight on your home life but don’t share too much — mention you are transitioning back into the office setting and it’s been a while. They’ll understand, provide you guidance and time to adjust. Give yourself at least six months to adjust before making any irrational decisions, like potentially leaving your job or declaring being back in the office isn’t the best for you. Good luck on your new adventure, stay positive and appreciate the journey life is providing us with.

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