Episode 79: Returning to work after a career break – with Diana Cregan of Back To Work Roadmap

Career coach Diana Cregan explains how to plan your return to work after a career break, research different industries if you want to change career and build connections.

Today’s guest

Diana Cregan of Back To Work Roadmap

Website: Back To Work Roadmap

LinkedIn: Diana Cregan

Instagram: @backtowork.coach

Facebook: Back To Work Roadmap For Mothers

Facebook Group: Back To Work Roadmap For Mothers

Email: diana@backtoworkroadmap.com

Diana has a diverse background from industrial relations, to recruitment, operations, general management through to career coaching and now specialises in getting mothers back to work after having stayed home to raise their children.

She has moved thirteen times for her husband’s career, across Australia and the US where they stayed for seven years and where they had their second child.

Once she started her coaching practice, she realised she was attracting the same sort of client.  These clients were mothers who had been out of the workforce for a number of years and who wanted to return to work, but felt stuck about where and how to start that process.  Having been there herself, Diana realised there was actually a very straightforward pathway and her mission became to ensure that every woman who wants to return to work, knows where to start and how to get back there.

What you’ll learn in this episode

  • [02:19] Diana explains how she got involved with coaching.
  • [07:10] Seeing your own worth and value rather than accepting any opportunity.
  • [08:19] Realising that you have a choice as to what you do.
  • [09:23] How parents think about going back to work.
  • [11:20] The main fears people have when they think about going back to work.
  • [13:16] Tackling the fear of abandoning your family.
  • [14:24] How to work through obstacles to understand what you want.
  • [16:30] How your values change over time and how to identify them.
  • [18:01] How personality tests can be great tools for self-awareness.
  • [19:44] When to start assessing your return to work.
  • [22:31] Combining strengths and values with research to plan your return to work.
  • [23:09] How researching industries through informational interviews can help you figure out what you want to do next.
  • [25:24] Why asking for help is a powerful tool.
  • [27:17] How to reach out to people on LinkedIn.
  • [29:40] The process of exploring career options.
  • [31:34] How it’s your right to craft your own future.

Resources mentioned in this episode

Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase.  This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.

To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.

Episode 79: Returning to work after a career break - with Diana Cregan of Back To Work Roadmap

Jeremy Cline 0:00
If you've taken a break to bring up your family, but now you're thinking about returning to work, chances are you've got a few fears going on in your head. Maybe it's a fear of abandoning your family, a fear that having been off for so long your skills are rusty and are of no use. Maybe it's just a fear that you don't want to go back to doing what you were doing before, but you just don't know what to do instead. If any of that resonates with you or someone you live with, then this interview is for you. I'm Jeremy Cline and this is Change Work Life.

Jeremy Cline 0:43
Hello and welcome to Change Work Life, the podcast that's all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. Now, long-time listeners may remember my interview with Janine Esbrand of LightBox Coaching back in Episode 38. That interview was all about overcoming the challenges of balancing a career with parenthood. And it's well worth listening to if you've recently started a family or if you're thinking about doing so in the near future. This episode is the follow-up to that subject. And we're going to talk specifically about how parents who've taken an extended period out of work to bring up a family can start to think about going back to work. And to talk about all this, I'm delighted to be joined by Diana Cregan. Diana is a founder of Back to Work Roadmap, where she helps parents reconnect with their professional identity. Diana, welcome to the show.

Diana Cregan 1:30
Thank you so much for having me, Jeremy,

Jeremy Cline 1:32
It's a pleasure. Can you start by giving us a bit more of an explanation about who you help and how you help them?

Diana Cregan 1:38
Yes, of course. So, I really support mothers who have stayed home to raise a family that had a career prior to having children and decided to stay home. And then, they've got to a point where they have decided that they think they want to go back to work. And they're really not quite sure where to start. They're a bit stuck. And so, I help them navigate that process of working not only with some really practical things that they might need, but also some of those confidence, self-esteem issues, to really bring them to a point where they can move confidently forward into that search back for work.

Jeremy Cline 2:11
And before we go a bit more into the detail about what sort of tips and strategies you have to help, how did you get into this area in the first place? What's your backstory?

Diana Cregan 2:19
I guess I'd like to think that finally, all of the dots of my life have joined together to form this, it can be a career if you like. I have a really varied background and moved from industrial relations to recruitment, where I spent several years in a few different versions, and then general management. I had a few of my own businesses, lived overseas for many years, actually lived in the States, and then came back to Australia. And when I returned, I realised that having returned to a city that I hadn't lived in for 20 years, I was really stuck. And I was really that woman who knew she wanted to do something but just simply did not know where to begin. And I retrained and saw a career coach and ended up starting my own coaching practice. And I started in executive recruitment, because that was what I knew quite well. And then, I moved into life coaching and then crossed into career coaching. And in that transition, I realised that I was attracting the same sort of woman over and over again, who wanted to go back to work, knew that she was capable, had the intelligence to do it, but just did not know where to begin. And I realised, my gosh, that's my own experience. I'm seeing my own experience being relived over and over. And I just realised it was everywhere. And that's really what drove me to start the business.

Jeremy Cline 3:36
What got you into coaching?

Diana Cregan 3:37
I think I've always been fascinated by people. I find human beings endlessly fascinating. And almost all of my jobs in some capacity were about helping other people have a better life or a better business or things to run more smoothly. It was very much a problem-solving kind of background. And I had worked for a corporate training and development company when I was living in Sydney and I loved that job. I wasn't actually a trainer, but I could see what the trainers were doing. And I'd actually been exposed to their training in a different life and loved what they were doing and how they were doing it. In many respects, it's like I finally ended up on the right side of the ledger, having watched them train and develop all these other people. When I was going through my own coaching, career coaching, we went through all that there is, the diagnostics and assessments, and it just kept coming back that watching people grow and be the best that they can be was something that was just going to tick all the boxes for me. So, I did all sorts of different accreditations and coaching was one of them, and it was when I did coaching that I thought, that's it, that's where I should be, that's what I should be doing.

Jeremy Cline 4:46
And what was it that drove you to get coaching for yourself in the first place?

Diana Cregan 4:50
Actually, it was a very good girlfriend who could see how frustrated I was and how I just did not know what that next step should be. And she herself had some career coaching for different reasons. And she said, 'I think you should go and see this woman, I think it will be really helpful.' And I'd never had exposure to coaching prior to that. So, it was a completely new experience. And in the process of it, not only was I personally benefiting tremendously, but a few light bulbs were going off in my head, thinking, oh, my gosh, I love this process that we are going through, I love what she's able to facilitate in these sessions that I'm having with her and just how over a matter of a couple of months, I had gone from feeling really quite uncertain and insecure and just not knowing where to turn to in terms of my next career incarnation, to feeling so energised and excited and optimistic about the future. I thought, that is a career for me. If I can do that for other people, then that will absolutely tick all the boxes.

Jeremy Cline 5:51
And before you got coached yourself, were you aware of coaches? Did you kind of know they exist? Or was this something you hadn't really considered?

Diana Cregan 5:59
No, I had not considered it at all. I'd been exposed to training, you know, that corporate training and professional development, but I'd never seen it on the personal side. And I'd certainly not seen it from a coaching perspective.

Jeremy Cline 6:14
Let's talk about your area of specialism and the people that you coach. When mothers go back to work, do you find that they typically want to go back to a similar job to what they were doing before they took a break, or are they usually going for something different? Or is it a 50-50 split?

Diana Cregan 6:33
No, I would say more often than not, they're not wanting to go back to the same thing: 'I was in this area and I don't want to do exactly that, but probably somewhere in that space.' And other people are, 'Now that I have a choice about what I do next, I don't want to go anywhere near that again.' So, it really is quite split. But I would say the minority want to go back and do exactly the same thing.

Jeremy Cline 6:55
Do people realise that they have a choice? Because a lot of people get stuck into thinking that, 'I did this, therefore when I go back, I need to do this again. Even if it has been 10 or 15 years since I last did it.'

Diana Cregan 7:09
It is such a good point, Jeremy. And that is one of the biggest mindset shifts that I get all of my clients to reflect on during this journey that we go on, is that they actually have a choice. They have become so accustomed to living by default as it were that they don't even believe that they have a right to make a choice about what their next role is. And what I try and get them to do is shift from being grateful for being given any job opportunity, to actually saying that they are valuable, they have skills, they have life experience, and they have work experiences, that actually make them a really valuable employee. And it's getting them to see their own worth and their own value, because that will shift all of the nature of the conversations that they have with any prospective employer. So, I think that's just tremendously important. It is that power of, you actually have a choice here. And it's up to you.

Jeremy Cline 8:04
That's really interesting. And I think it's probably not just something that's limited to parents going back to work, but people generally, this idea that we do have choices, we are not necessarily defined by what we've been doing for the past 10, 15, 20 years.

Diana Cregan 8:20
I completely agree. Yeah, I completely agree. And it is such, it's such an exciting process, when you start to see them believe that to be true. Some of them don't even believe that it's possible, it all sounds a bit fanciful. But when they start to say that actually they do have a choice and yes, they can choose, that joy that comes back, and that's why I was talking about before, for me, that level of excitement is like, 'Oh, my gosh, this is the rest of my life and I get to choose how I spend it. Who would have thought?' But it really is, it's so important that they do get to that point, I think.

Jeremy Cline 8:51
When people start the, when they start their break, so when they first have children, do they typically plan for going back to work? So, 'I am going to go back to work in 15 years by which stage the kids will be at a stage where they can take themselves to school, bring themselves back from school, that sort of thing, and I don't need to look after them.' Or is it more that parents start this process without really having a fixed idea, maybe thinking that they're never going to go back to work and then they just get to a point where they think, 'Oh, now, I want to do something else'?

Diana Cregan 9:23
Yeah, it's a really interesting question and I guess my sample size is going to be limited to the clients that I work with and those that I have worked with. I would typically say that after the first child, there's very much a, 'Right, I'm going to have nine months off, or I'm gonna have 12 months off', depending where you are in the world and the kind of maternity leave access that you have. That first child, it's fairly planned, that process back to the workplace. And then once they have the second, then it gets a little bit more complicated. And it really depends on whether or not that woman or that parent is really committed to that career path and will make that happen no matter what. And that's a different sort of client that I probably wouldn't be working with, but it tends to be the ones that have that second and then third and think, 'Oh, no, all bets are off, I need to just be at home. And I want to be at home to be with my family. And I'll just deal with that work stuff somewhere down the track, if I ever go back to it.' But you're right, they do get to a point where there are kind of signals that they want to go back to work and they're thinking about going back to work, but quite often, they've got their hands over their eyes and their ears, because they're not really wanting to pay too much attention to it. So, it's things like feeling like they're in a set of Groundhog Day, I don't know if you ever saw that movie from Bill Murray, that living that same day, doing the same things at the same time every day, and not really seeing an end to it, feeling like they don't really have an awful lot of purpose or direction, starting to get a little bit disappointed that life is not actually, you know, they're not where they thought they would be in their life at this point. And that then starts to shift into a bit of resentment, because then they start to think, 'Hang on, this is just not "fair"', in inverted commas. 'Why is this happening to me? Who do I need to blame for this circumstance? Because this is not what I wanted.' So, there are signals that they start to become aware of, and that's what starts that process of, 'Well, maybe I could go back to work.'

Jeremy Cline 11:15
What are the biggest fears that your clients have when they're starting to think about going back to work?

Diana Cregan 11:21
Yeah, and there are some really consistent ones, and really, I refer to them really as obstacles, because that's essentially what a fear is. But there are three main obstacles that they think that they have, this is what they think is holding themselves from moving forward. And the first one is that they don't want to feel like they're abandoning their family, you know, they don't want to appear selfish, they don't want to appear that, by them making a choice to go back to work, that their family is somehow going to suffer, that the kids are not going to get fed properly, the washing's never going to get done, the groceries won't get bought, that somehow the household will fall apart. So, that's one thing that they think, 'Well, I'm not even going to begin because everything's gonna fall apart.' The second one is that, 'I don't have any skills anymore. I've been out of the workforce for so long, what have I possibly got to offer? No one would want what I have, it's been so long, I can't remember how to turn on a computer'. They start to feel really lacking in confidence. And that comes down to the confidence and self-esteem issues, all wrapped up in that point. And then, the last one is, 'I don't have a network. How on earth am I going to get a job? I don't have a network and I just don't want to go out to really awkward, cringe-worthy networking sessions where I just have to meet stranger upon stranger and sell myself. I'm not going to do it.' And that holds them back and they just choose not to do anything, even though those signals are still out there in the background, not stopping.

Jeremy Cline 12:40
Just pausing there, the first objection or the first obstacle, abandoning family, is that something that still people get as concerned about today? Just to my mind, maybe this is just my sort of perception and attitude, that that sort of seems a bit almost old-fashioned. I've got this vision of you know, the 1950s housewife.

Diana Cregan 12:59
Yeah, '60s housewife.

Jeremy Cline 13:01
You know, who's concerned that she doesn't have tea ready at six o'clock when father comes home and...

Diana Cregan 13:07
Yeah, slippers out!

Jeremy Cline 13:09
Yeah, and that the children bathed and lined up at the door kind of thing. Do people still think in those terms in the modern age?

Diana Cregan 13:17
Yes, they do. And I think it's not so much about the slippers by the door, that sort of thing. I think it's much more around the fact that our kids' lives are so active and so busy, the sheer logistics of running a household, it's that side of it. It's getting everyone organised, at the right place at the right time, running spreadsheets to make sure the week goes smoothly. Because so much of whoever stays at home is spending so much of their time coordinating, not only the house, it's much bigger than house, it's the house, it's all what we call administrivia. It's all of the kids' activities, it's the dog – who's taking the dog to the vet? There's just so much endless stuff in a household that they think, 'No one could possibly do it as well as I do. It's just gonna be too hard to hand over any responsibility to anyone, I'm not going to delegate, I'm just going to get it done myself.'

Jeremy Cline 14:05
Okay. So, things like taking John to football practice and taking Bella to ballet school and all that kind of thing. Yeah, now I understand that. Now, you describe those three things as obstacles which people think are holding them back, which suggests that those aren't necessarily the obstacles that are holding them back.

Diana Cregan 14:25
I'm a firm believer that those obstacles that they have, we can actually work through those. Now, for the first one, things like the family logistics, that's just logistics. All of that stuff can actually be sorted down, we can break that down into small pieces and deal with it. So, that's actually not a deal-breaker. They actually do have skills, there's a very basic framework and process that you can use to extract all of those past skills and experiences and strengths, that we can access all of that information. That's just a process to remember it. That's just a bit of an insecurity thing. And the fact that they don't have a network, I also don't worry about that because I teach my clients how to build their own, actually, far more useful network, not through strangers, and so on. So, those obstacles, I think, are actually really in their head. So, I see the biggest obstacles that mothers have when they want to go back to work, it's primarily mindset. It's primarily around confidence, self-esteem, self-worth, understanding themselves. A big part of the journey that I take them through is – in fact, the first place I start with is, 'Who am I?' And we pull apart things like values and purpose and understanding what change is. Because understanding who they are and building up their confidence and their self-esteem and their self-worth and understanding their self-beliefs – all of those sorts of things are absolutely fundamental to them actually being able to step forward. Because once we can elevate those things and build those things, then we can start to work on the practical, pragmatic things: okay, let's talk about your resume, let's talk about interviewing skills, let's talk about really pragmatic things that they also have to do. But it's the mindset stuff that they really need to start with.

Jeremy Cline 16:08
When someone has been out of the workplace for such a long period of time, do they struggle to remember what their values were, maybe, when they were working? Is there an element of struggling to reach back to remember what sort of stuff you did enjoy, what sort of stuff you did value, having almost been dulled after having been off for such a long time?

Diana Cregan 16:31
Yeah, and more importantly, they've probably changed. Your values change throughout your life. So, even going back to those past ones that were really important to you, that doesn't necessarily mean that they're the same. I know for me, when one of my past kind of values that was very high was productivity and efficiency and getting things done. I was hyper-organised and I expected everyone around to be hyper-organised. But as I've, some would say, softened and mellowed over time, it's actually not the number one thing for me. Kindness is the number one value for me, because without kindness, everything else might as well fall away, from my perspective, and that's just the values. That is one of the first things that I get them to do. So, there's a fabulous website, I don't know if you're familiar with viacharacter.org. So, that's a free survey that anyone can do and you can buy for the bigger, more extended report, but there's actually a free one that you can take. It's not that long, but it's really valuable. And it actually spits out a report at the end that helps articulate your values, your top values. And then, what I get my clients to do is reflect on those and think, 'Okay, how do I live those values at home? How would someone around me know that I live those values?' And then, as we move through a programme, we start to think, 'Okay, if this is my value, how might that be reflected in my workplace or my work style or my job?' And then we start to align them.

Jeremy Cline 17:50
Just going slightly off at a tangent, there are all of these online personality tests and that sort of thing. Are they actually effective? Or, I suppose, in particular, is this one effective?

Diana Cregan 18:02
It depends what you're doing it for. So, effective is the word there. I think all of these different surveys, different diagnostics, different psychometrics, for me, they're all about self-awareness. They're really about the individual being able to have the greater clarity around who they are. Because the more you know yourself, the more informed your choices are about moving forward in terms of everything in life, but in this context, talking about work, and what's going to be important to you. Do they work in terms of helping you understand yourself and be able to articulate yourself? Yes, I do, I think they're really helpful and really valuable. Would I use them for any other particular purpose? I'm not really sure.

Jeremy Cline 18:45
And presumably, even once you've got the results, that's not gonna be the end of it, there's going to be the next stage as to how you then take whatever those values are and apply it to whatever it is that you do next.

Diana Cregan 18:57
Yeah. So, then it gives you the opportunity to reflect on whatever you're doing. If you look at your habits, if you look at your daily routines and think, "Gosh, I do that every day. But does that really align with my values? Is that really important to me? Do I want to keep doing that? Or is that something that I've felt like I've had to do for the last 15 years, so I've been doing it? But actually, how do I want to spend my time?"

Jeremy Cline 19:18
I think I'm going to check it out myself, actually.

Diana Cregan 19:20
It's really good. I do really – it's been around for a really long time and all of the material is actually used anonymously, globally, for all sorts of different measurements and benchmarking, but it's great. I recommend it.

Jeremy Cline 19:32
Cool. I'll check it out. How far in advance of a potential return to work is it a good idea for someone to start doing all this thinking and reflecting and, if necessary, taking advice?

Diana Cregan 19:45
That's another one of the obstacles that women put up for themselves, which is, 'I can't take it on now because I can't go back to work yet. I've got too much that I've got to get done.' But what I try and remind everyone that's going back to work is it will probably take you a bit longer than you think, and in fact, the speed that you do it is in your hands. You can really accelerate the process, or you can take a whole year to do it, if that's what you want to do. I would say on average, it's about a three- to six-month journey, depending on how quickly you want to move through it. Inevitably, I think there's a good three, four, six weeks of thinking and questioning and getting to know yourself a bit better, but at the same time doing pragmatic work. So, really, I would say three months is a good start.

Jeremy Cline 20:31
And I guess it's interesting what you say, that it's, people don't actually have, well, people in this situation don't necessarily have a deadline other than those they impose themselves. And I wonder whether reflecting on career change, generally, people in this position, parents who are going back to work after an extended break, might actually be in a better position than other people contemplating a career change. And the reason I say that is that if you've got, you know, a parent who is working, maybe they're the sole provider, maybe both parents are working, but they are working, and they're contemplating this sort of career change, then they're going to have the added layer of the financial on top: 'If I stopped working, if I take a pay cut to start something new, if I take six months to a year out to start a new business, that's going to cause an immediate drop in the family income'. Whereas presumably, a parent who hasn't been working for that length of time – well, they've been toddling along quite nicely for that period, so the financial imperative, perhaps, isn't there. Is that a fair assessment?

Diana Cregan 21:35
I think that is a very good assessment. Yeah, that's absolutely right. Because if you're going back to work because there's a financial imperative, that's going to change the nature of the whole process. If you have to do it, then you're going to move quickly. And you're not going to be looking at how well your values align, and really be thinking about greater fulfilment and personal satisfaction. It's, 'I need to pay the bills, so I need a job.' So, I would agree completely. Yeah, they don't, there's not the financial imperative. If there's not one been for the last 3, 5, 10, 15 years, then they can take three to six months to work this out, and make sure it's exactly where they want to go.

Jeremy Cline 22:09
Are there things that these parents can do, even if they're not immediately thinking about going back to work, but they want to start, they've got a bit of time that they can start better setting themselves up for when they return to work? You mentioned networking. Are there things that they can do to organically build up their own network, or do other things, voluntary work, maybe, to start building up their skills?

Diana Cregan 22:33
If they're doing voluntary work already, that's great, whether it's through the school, or the local sports club, or whatever it might be. Any kind of volunteering work is helpful. But you touched on something that I think is very important that I do get my clients to do, but they can really start at any point. Once they've taken the time to work out a bit about themselves in terms of their values, and what's important to them, they've had a look at their strengths and their skills and their experiences and they start to think, 'I loved it when I was doing XYZ, they made me feel fantastic, the day flew, I was having so much fun, I just loved doing it, it didn't even feel like work.' When we can start to work out what those strengths are, combining that with values and so on. If they think that they want to perhaps go in a slightly different direction, I really encourage them to do lots of research. And I don't just mean doing it online, although start online, because it's a wealth of information there, but actually start to have conversations with people in those industries, in those sectors. You know, people love to give advice or tell you about their experiences or what they think of the industry that they are an expert in. And by just going through the process of doing this research, I call them informational interviews, when you're doing this process, you're building a relationship straightaway with this person. They don't think that they're being asked for a job, so they're happily going to sit there and chat to you and give you lots of information. You're not seeking a job, so there's no pressure on you to be performing or in some stiff kind of interview. You're genuinely out there looking for information and research. Because it's not until you actually start to go down the process of having conversations with people who are in those roles that you can even determine whether or not it is something that you want to pursue. So, for example, I had a client who was convinced that she wanted to start a health bar business. She's very healthy, she's very active, her background was marketing, and she thought, 'I really want to start my own health bar business.' And she'd sat on this idea for about six months and she talked about with all of her friends and she was really excited about it and really... So I told her, before we do anything else, go and have some conversations with some people who are running these businesses or who have done this business before. Talk to them. What was great about it, what wasn't great, what were their unexpected outcomes? Talk about all the things that you possibly can. And after three of those conversations, she came back to me and she said, 'I'm not going to go near that. That is not at all what I thought it was going to be.' So, until people actually take those steps to actually investigate it, research it, get the information back, it'll be in their heads, possibly for years, but they just need to actually do something about it.

Jeremy Cline 25:05
This is something which has come up a few times and I'd be interested in your take on this. So, let's say, to take your example, the client who was convinced initially that they wanted to open a health bar, and you say, 'Great, go and talk to people who already do that', and they go, 'But I don't know any. I don't know anyone. There's just no one in my network. How am I supposed to do that?'

Diana Cregan 25:25
Then, that's when we start to get past fear, which is why working with fear and understanding fear is a big part of what I do with my mums, is to get them to ask for help. You know, someone said something to me a couple of years ago that I just think is so powerful and I just recommend everyone have in their heads. You can't say the wrong thing to the right person and you can't say the right thing to the wrong person. So, therefore, don't be afraid to be asking for help, asking for advice, asking for direction, because the people who want to help you, they will help you. So, whether it's putting a post on Facebook: 'Hi, friends, I'm really interested in doing this as a business idea, but I really need some people to talk to. Does anyone know anyone in this sector?' And the people who will want to help will answer: 'Oh, yeah, Joe's brother, he had one of those.' It's amazing how much people want to help. The people that will want to help you will help you and you just got to let go of the other ones. Don't worry what they think, because you can't fix what they're going to think anyway. So, whether it's on Facebook, or LinkedIn, or whatever platform you've got access to, or friends' birthday parties, or the christening party, or the Christmas party that's coming up, or the Christmas gathering, have conversations with auntie and uncles, and as many conversations as you possibly can. Because again, you're not asking for a job, you're not asking anything from them. You're just asking for someone to introduce you to someone so you can have a conversation.

Jeremy Cline 26:47
Do you have any specific strategies for reaching out to these people and contacting them? I'm not talking about the intermediaries. But let's say that you don't know anyone in your circle who has any contacts in a particular area. But you go on LinkedIn and you find random person who is maybe in the same town as you, maybe 100 miles away, whatever they are. Do you have any strategies for how to get in contact with these complete strangers, so that you do actually get in touch with them and can ask them some questions?

Diana Cregan 27:18
Exactly that, Jeremy, that's exactly what I tell my people to do. So, go on to LinkedIn, do research, find out what industry, what sector, like, really niche it down as much as you possibly can, so you can do a good search. Work out who there is on your target, LinkedIn is fabulous to saying who they're connected to. So, just double check that there isn't a second or third connection there, some way that you can go via, but if there's absolutely no connection, you will be amazed the number of people that will give you time. If you are not asking for anything, if you are not selling anything, if you simply say to them, 'Hi Bob, I'm thinking about going back to work. This is an industry that's really fascinated me. I don't know if it's the right one for me, though. I'm trying to work that out now. I've spoken to somone who's given me some great advice. I've done this research in this area. But I would love to hear your thoughts on this specific area of this industry and just hear your experiences, just to see whether or not it is something that I do want to explore. Can I buy you a cup of coffee for 15 minutes? Or can I have a Zoom meeting with you for 15 minutes?' When people are asked for their advice and their opinion and their experiences, they're often so willing to give it to you, particularly if they feel like you're not asking anything from them.

Jeremy Cline 28:29
And the worst they can do is probably not say no, but ignore you. You just send something and it disappears into the ether and you never hear from them.

Diana Cregan 28:35
Absolutely, that's exactly right. And so, that fear of, 'But what if they ignore me?' doesn't matter. If they ignore you, you move on to next one.

Jeremy Cline 28:35
You only need one or two people.

Diana Cregan 28:36
That's exactly right. That's exactly right.

Jeremy Cline 28:45
How realistic do people returning to work need to be? Let me just explain that question. Someone's going back at the age of maybe 40 or 45. Are there some careers where it's just not necessarily going to be particularly practical for them to start down that road, just because they do involve such a huge amount of maybe training or experience? At that sort of age, there's going to be things which are automatically ruled out. So, I don't think anyone's going to become a professional athlete at that sort of age or, unlikely, not at the top level. But are there any things – I don't know, the professions. Medicine, for example, might be an example, or, I was gonna say law, I'm sure that's probably one which you can go into at that sort of age, but to what extent does there need to be a tinge of reality? Or is it just, no, all bets are off, you can start exploring anything you like?

Diana Cregan 29:42
I think you can start exploring anything you like, but it's in that process of exploration that combined with that level of self-awareness, what's important to me, what are my values, really, at this point in my life, it's in that process that people start to work that out for themselves. As long as they've taken the time to do that prior work, to think about who they are and what they're looking for, they might decide that, 'Actually, I don't want to chase that particular career path anymore. That's really not going to do it for me. What's really more important is XYZ.' But until they go through that process of exploring, it'll always be in their heads, 'Oh, maybe I should, I should, maybe I could.' But until they do the work, they won't know. They won't know. That's why I make sure that clients actually do the groundwork before they start actively pursuing with direction and purpose, a very specific career path.

Jeremy Cline 30:30
And I guess, even if you do start at a late stage in something like medicine, then you can do that, as long as you've just got the recognition that, chances are, you're not going to build up 40 years of experience, because also you're not going to be practising by the time you're 80. But you can still maybe get 20 years in.

Diana Cregan 30:48
That's right. Or if you want to do medicine, because you've always wanted to do medicine and you were always fascinated by it, and you put it aside in your previous career, because it was not, for whatever reason, something that you could do, if your fulfilment is coming from simply doing that, then by all means. Just understanding why you're doing what you're doing is really central.

Jeremy Cline 31:08
I'm going to finish by asking the same question which I asked Janine back in the interview that I mentioned and it's a question which I've shamelessly stolen from Tim Ferriss, which is that, if you had a billboard which was going to be seen by millions or billions, but it's your sorts of people, so these people returning to work, and they're in this place where they're fearful, and they don't really know where to start, what message, image, whatever, would you put on that billboard, to give people the starting point?

Diana Cregan 31:35
There would probably be too many words for a billboard. But I guess I'd be saying, you have the right to choose your future and that the choice is in your hands. And how you want your future to look is up to you to craft. You have to actually do something, though. You have to put some actions in place to explore whatever that might be. You have the right to, you have the rights and the capability and background and experience and all the things that you had before you had kids, none of that stuff's gone away. That's all still there. So, that future that you want, it's up to you to craft.

Jeremy Cline 32:13
Fantastic. You've mentioned VIA Character. Are there any other resources which either have particularly helped you or which you recommend clients take a look at – books, tools?

Diana Cregan 32:25
Yeah, there are. One of my favourite books of the year actually is a book by Mark Manson. And it's called The Subtle Art of Not Giving an expletive.

Jeremy Cline 32:35
I know the book you mean.

Diana Cregan 32:36
Yeah. And whilst the title is obviously very provocative, and I'm sure has sold very well because of that, he actually deals with some really quite deep, quite profound questions that I think are so helpful, not only for everyone to ask themselves, but in the context of choosing to go back to work, that process of working out what's important to you and why it's important to you, which then helps you make choices and therefore take action, I think that was a really helpful book for me and it's a really fast read, despite the title. And yes, there is a bit of language in it. But it's actually a very fast read. I think I read it on a plane trip, in one sitting. But I found it really helpful. And I give it to clients regularly to read, because it will help them in that process, speed up that process of asking those really important questions.

Jeremy Cline 33:28
One of the things I remember, but I read it a few years ago, was that, yes, you've got the title, and yes, you've maybe got one or two expletives dotted around, but actually, I seem to remember the tone of it is actually quite sort of soft, quite friendly, quite, almost reassuring.

Diana Cregan 33:43
Very accessible, really accessible, really, as you say, gentle. It was a really gentle – it was quite beautiful what he was trying to get across. And I thought he did a really good job of it. Yeah, I recommend it a lot.

Jeremy Cline 33:54
Fab, I will definitely put a link to that one in the show notes. And talking of links in the show notes, if people want to get hold of you, where can they get hold of you?

Diana Cregan 34:01
Right, so my website is the backtoworkroadmap.com, my Instagram is backtowork.coach, and I have a Facebook page, the Back to Work Roadmap for Mothers, and the same name, there's a private Facebook group there as well, which you can join, if you'd like to join, and that one's a group as well as a page.

Jeremy Cline 34:21
Is that group just for mothers, or could fathers join it as well?

Diana Cregan 34:25
It is just for mothers, this one. This is a mother's friendly zone, this particular group.

Jeremy Cline 34:32
Fair enough. I'll certainly link to all those. And you've kindly provided me some exercises that I'll put in the show notes as well.

Diana Cregan 34:39
A worksheet that I think is so helpful for anyone who is thinking about going back to work, but feels so disconnected from their professional identity and from their past skills and experiences. It's a framework and a process that leads you through your past skills, and we look at functional skills versus behavioural skills, we look at strengths, working out which are the strengths that are really good and that you want to continue to work with, because they energise you. And we also identify those de-energising strengths, that actually we're good at, but we don't want to keep doing. We look at your experiences, and combining all of those sorts of things, we start to build up a really good platform of language for you to articulate all of those things, whether it's in conversations or interviews, or in a resume or any other kind of written work. So, it's an ability to condense all those past things and bring them forward into the present.

Jeremy Cline 35:29
Well, they will be on the show notes for this episode, so everyone should definitely check them out. Diana, thank you so much, there's been so much value, so much for people to think about here. I'm definitely going to check out the VIA Character website. Thank you so much for joining me today.

Diana Cregan 35:43
You're so welcome, Jeremy, it was a real pleasure.

Jeremy Cline 35:45
Okay, hope you enjoyed that interview with Diana Cregan of Back to Work Roadmap. There was one point which came through so strongly for me, amidst all the great advice that Diana provided, and that was this idea that everybody has a choice. And this doesn't just apply to mothers or parents returning to work after a long break, but to anyone. If you're down in your career, you're not enjoying what you're doing, but you just feel stuck, like you don't have the choice to do something else, well, you know what, you do. There are always choices out there. It might be difficult to make that choice, it might be difficult to make a change to get somewhere different. But that choice is there. And I think recognising that you do have a choice, that you are in control, that you can, to a point, do whatever you want, is really very enabling. It's quite powerful, and it's just worth remembering that. Hopefully, there were tips in that interview which weren't just helpful for parents returning to work after a long break, but for all of you. I'm definitely going to try out the VIA Character assessment to see what it comes up with.

Jeremy Cline 36:52
Show notes with the links for where you can find Diana, links to the resources that she mentioned, full transcript of the interview, and a summary of everything we talked about is at the Show Notes page for this episode, they're at changeworklife.com/79. And I mentioned this last week, but Episode 100 is actually fast coming down the track. And I'd love to know your thoughts on how best to celebrate Episode 100. What do you think I should do? How do you think I should mark this occasion? Which frankly, I mean, 100 episodes – for me, that sounds pretty good. I mean, that's almost two years of podcasting. So, I'm pretty excited to be getting to that. And I'd love to know how best I can celebrate it. So, if you go to changeworklife.com/contact, and you can get in touch using the contact form on that page, I'd love to hear from you. There's still about 20 or so episodes to go until I get to Episode 100, but there's gonna be another great one next week, so subscribe to the show if you haven't already, and I can't wait to see you then. Cheers. Bye.

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