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5 Signs You're Ready to Go Back to Work

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I'm currently looking for a full-time job. While I built up to this decision gradually over the past year or so, this summer I began to experience all the tell-tale signs that it was time to take the plunge.

If you're wavering over whether or not to get back into the work force, here are five signs that you might be ready:

1. You feel wistful when you watch others go to work. I ran into a friend the other morning just before school drop-off who was dressed to the nines. "Where are you headed?" I asked, still clad in some variation on my pajamas. "Work!" she exclaimed with a big smile on her face. "It's my first day!" And though I was happy for her, my heart also sank. Because I, too, wanted to be darting out the door to somewhere important. Instead, I'd be heading upstairs to my home office, where I can at best manage a saunter from my bathroom to the computer.

My husband and I have an expression for that feeling you get when you order something at a restaurant and then immediately regret it when your dinner partner's plate arrives. We call it "order envy." This applies in the work world as well. When you run into a friend who's rushing to jump on the Tube or furiously tapping out a message on her Blackberry or leaving early from the PTA meeting because she's got a conference call - and you actually feel envious rather than relief that you don't have her life - you know that you're ready to look for a job.

2. You put too much energy into projects that don't require it. I saw a friend of mine back in the States recently whose wife had just gone back to work after seven plus years at home with their kids. "Wow! That was fast!" I commented, as only months earlier she'd seemed completely ensconced in her domestic routine. "Yeah, well, she kept talking about re-doing the kitchen this summer and I finally turned to her and said: You need a job!" Partly, he wanted her to earn some income before they invested in major household renovations. But mostly, he told me, he felt that - in her particular case - the energy she was going to pour into their kitchen could be more fruitfully deployed somewhere else. (Happily for their marriage, she agreed. I could easily imagine a less diplomatic response.) In my own case, lack of gainful employment tends to make me over-invest in my kids, which is unhealthy both for them and for me. So if you find yourself caring a wee bit too much about something that you wish occupied your attention less, get out that resumé and get cracking.

3. You finally buy a smart phone. Yeah, I know. I'm probably the Last of the Mohicans here, but until about three weeks ago, I'd gone five years with a generic, no-bells-and-whistles cell phone, even while iPhone mania raged all around me. This decision was partly driven by my husband's (well-founded) fear that if I ever got my hands on a smart phone, the family would never see me again. But mostly it was driven by the fact that without a full-time, out-of-home job, I didn't really feel that I needed one. In anticipation of the coming Tube rides and conference calls-on-the-go (see #1), however, I'm now the proud owner of an HTC Desire.

4. You get active on Linked In. If you're not a member of the social networking giant, Linked In, I heartily recommend that you join. Linked In is a fabulous tool for building professional relationships of all sorts. As a journalist, I've often used it to solicit views/find sources for stories I write. But it's also - perhaps even primarily - a great way to find a job. A freelance writer friend of mine here in London recently found full-time employment via Linked In. She swears by the (free!) webinar, LinkedInfluence. (You need to be a member to view.) As I write this, I just went and updated my profile. Yippee!

5. Coffee mornings no longer appeal to you. The flip-side of having "order envy" vis a vis your friends' jobs is that you will also start to find coffee mornings tiresome. I love my friends and I love going for coffee. But lately, my desire to participate in purely social coffees - as opposed to networking coffees - has diminished considerably. And don't think about asking me to a coffee where I don't know anyone. One of the nadirs of my social life this past summer was attending the "welcome" coffee for the newly-renovated Giraffe café in Hampstead. It was basically me and ten other weirdos who clearly had nothing better to do on a Tuesday morning in August but chat with strangers over stale croissants and muffin baskets. Taxi?

How about you? Have you ever had a burning (non-economic) feeling that you needed to get a job? Or quit one?