Project Management Institute

Bouncing Back after Baby

How Female Project Managers Can Return to the Work Force after Time Away

By Deepa Bhide, DCH, PMP

A long queue at the grocery store one day allowed me and a young woman to strike up a conversation. It turned out we were both project managers—and the chat quickly turned serious. Although the woman had swiftly and successfully ascended the corporate ladder, she was apprehensive. She was nearing the end of a long maternity leave, and the time away from the office had rattled her confidence.

The feeling is common among mothers going back into the workforce. Here are four tips for preventing time away from feeling like a handicap.

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PHOTO BY PORTRA/ISTOCK

1. Remain confident. You might feel out of touch with project management—women tend to suffer from a lack of professional confidence more often than men, according to Bain & Co. research. But remember that your skills are valuable, and realize that you might have improved some skills while away from work. Childbirth and rearing a child are among the hardest tasks anyone can undertake; taking care of a baby or child calls for consummate project management skills. Viewing a workforce “sabbatical” as time spent honing a skill set can boost confidence and your ability to succeed.

2. Prepare to adapt. It's important to expect and accept changing dynamics in the organizational and project landscape. First, acknowledge that your workplace (and any long-term projects you were working on) have likely changed—and that adapting to change is an increasingly valuable skill in the project management world. Flexible communication, time management, negotiation and risk management skills are needed to adjust to the new normal. Use your re-entry into the organization to prove you know how to quickly adapt to change.

3. Seek a mentor. Sharing your concerns with other female project professionals in the organization can be helpful. Women who have been through similar experiences can provide much-needed empathy and offer practical solutions. Be candid with your mentor about challenges you see and stresses you feel. It will help her provide valuable suggestions for deftly balancing work and family.

4. Get the right support. Successful project delivery can require intense focus. It's easy to start feeling out of balance. So be sure to get the support you need, such as flexible work hours, flexible child care hours and job shares. Don't be afraid to delegate work at home just as you would on a project at work—strong time management skills are a must-have for working moms.

The bottom line for getting back into the groove: Trust your abilities, accept change, seek help and create a reliable support structure for yourself. And remember that stakeholders at work likely won't be as demanding as a newborn child. PM

img Deepa Bhide, DCH, PMP, is associate vice president of research at Cotiviti in Hyderabad, India.

Childbirth and rearing a child are among the hardest tasks anyone can undertake; taking care of a baby or child calls for consummate project management skills.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

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