The numbers are crawling. They are crawling slowly. Nonetheless, unemployment numbers are moving in the desired direction: down! My personal experience illustrates this, as I see clients and friends going back to work after being engaged in a job search for months -- even years. Recently, a concern that I have been hearing a lot, as a result, is how to successfully transition back into a full-time, structured work schedule after not having one for so long.
Below, I've outlined some tips here on how to make this transition a graceful one:
Go To Bed
I've noticed people frequently develop erratic sleeping patterns when structure and schedule are fluid and flexible. If you're moving into a position that is going to require you being at an office at an early morning hour, I strongly urge you to start shifting your sleep pattern. More than likely you will want to start getting to bed earlier and setting an alarm for an early hour. Some tips to do this include preparing for sleep time an hour prior to getting into bed. This includes turning off your computer, dimming lights, engaging in your bedtime rituals (this can be as simple as setting the alarm on your coffee pot and flossing).
Get Your Clothes Ready
If your formal, work shirts have been rolled up in a laundry bag since your last day on your last job, it is time to grab the bag and drop it off at the dry cleaner. Also, do yourself the favor of pulling your clothes out the night before, when you go to bed.
Take Care Of Yourself
Make sure you eat healthy, drink enough water, take necessary breaks and keep exercising. It may be very easy to get swept into the whirlwind of a hectic work environment when you go back to work. You may even think this is the way to impress your boss and new colleagues. However, if you're not taking care of yourself, and end up calling out sick sooner than desired or are unable to function optimally, then who, may I ask, does that impress? (See my article: "6 Tips to Recharge at the Office.")
Leave Work At Work
Before leaving the office for the day, make a list of the things that you think might plague your mind when you go home or move on to the next day or evening's event. Then tear it up! After tearing up the list, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and say to yourself, "Breathe in love, breathe out peace." After a few of these breaths, envision leaving all of your work concerns and stress behind, as you walk through your office door and turn to lock it.
Listen More Than You Talk, And Ask Questions
Even if during your interview process you fully illustrated how you are the strategic solution to the problem your employer seeks to solve, initially, upon starting the job, it is critical to listen more than you talk. You may have presented a top notch strategy during the interview. However, no strategy can be effectively executed without the critical input you will get by asking questions and listening to the stakeholders in your work area. Also, it's critical to ask questions regarding basic lines of communication, reporting structures, expectations and the location of the bathroom, as well.
Manage Your Expectations
People often do what is known as misfiling your past in your future. What does this mean? It means that we often base future expectations on past experience. For instance, if in the past you had a negative experience with a boss or employer, you may, perhaps unconsciously, be holding onto this with a subtle expectation of going through this experience again. This can affect your behavior and interactions in your new environment. Ask yourself, "Am I harboring old resentments, or negative beliefs about past experience?" If so, acknowledge it, acknowledge yourself for your honesty, and let it go. On the other hand, positive expectations about your return to work can help you to get through the initial few days and support you in planning how you will approach your new work environment and the people in it.
Implement Support Systems
Who said you have to do it alone? I strongly encourage you to enlist the support of a friend, coach, partner, etc. who you fully inform about your intention to transition back to work gracefully. Ask this person to help check in with you regularly. Invite them to specifically ask how you are doing with your intention. A support system can also include non-people support. For instance, meditating or keeping a journal can be very supportive tools to help get you through the challenging moments on your path to success. This includes the work environment. If your company doesn't set up a buddy system during your orientation, create one for yourself. Identify colleagues who you can engage as a support networks. Also, identify people in your company who you would like to emulate.
I know for me it is easy to get into the mindset of always feeling like I must do more and constantly do what appears to take me closer to success. However, achieving success also means taking a break and acknowledging yourself for what you have accomplished. It is easy to overlook current accomplishments when we have not yet reached our goal. However, it is the little accomplishments along the way that are the true successes. The goal in and of itself is just a destination. So acknowledge yourself, set up times for personal celebration and reward yourself with something you love.
Jason Mannino is an Executive Talent Acquisition Consultant and Coach. For inquiries, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.