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Career Break, Post Partum Brain Fog, and Interviewing: How to succeed?

I wanted to start a discussion here for the many of us who have gone through a career break and/or actively interviewing while in the post partum period. I hope to use this space for us to share ideas of how to make this work!

When I became pregnant, I took a year off of full-time work after being burned out from working in HR during the pandemic and to manage a medical condition that could have been exacerbated by pregnancy. I continued working very part-time as an independent consultant and career coach and completed my master's degree. Some 'professional break', I know.

Now at five months post partum, I am actively interviewing to get back into the full-time workforce but am running into a few issues. For one, while I worked part-time, my unintentionally short stint at my previous role (6 months) potentially looks a bit suspect to hiring teams and I have a year then as an independent consultant that together may make me look like a job hopper.

Not only that, while I am still working part-time, I am finding I am struggly with post partum brain fog. I have multiple times set up calendar appointments at the wrong time due to time zone confusion, joining meetings a the wrong time (thankfully almost always an hour early), have found more typos in my emails, and have been doing the usual 'mommy brain' things in my personal life. For example, I put my phone directly in the sink as I was actively washing dishes this morning. This is driving me crazy as I have always been a super organized and strong communicator, and here I am having a hard time with simple tasks.

So my question for discussion is two-fold:

1) How does make yourself a stronger candidate after a short professional break from full-time work?

2) How can one best manage the brain fog that comes with early parenthood to make yourself a more reliable, on-top-of-it person?

Would love any anecdotes or perspectives from this community!

KatePresc's profile thumbnail
Hi Tori, I also took a career break and consulted/studied over the past two years, although I didn't also have a baby! It sounds like you have plenty of things to be proud of achieving and you're being a little hard on yourself.I, too, have been interviewing recently as I feel ready and excited for full-time work again. I haven't found people to be too concerned with my career break - I have my spiel I use that focuses on what positives I gained from the time and it doesn't seem to arouse suspicions. In fact, I think a lot of people are in a similar boat after covid and can relate. If you feel and can talk positively about it, it seems to rub off on others you're talking to as well.Going back into interviewing mode is tough though, and for more senior level roles, takes time and a lot of effort. Steel yourself, you'll get there, and if you need some moral support and cheerleading, DM me, happy to help if I can!
I haven't taken a break besides leave of absence for maternity. I'm experiencing major brain fog due to sleep deprivation and have been trying to do the following:- Since I'm the type of person who tends to run at 110%, I'm trying to push myself to envision and practice 80% effort, reminding myself that my 80% is often others' 100%. So, no one really notices the difference.- Saying "no" so that I don't overload my tasks, priorities, calendar, social requirements, etc.- Writing everything down. I know this one's obvious.- Trying to unitask. It's really difficult, as I live in my head and am often problem solving something else while doing another thing. But that means I keep messing things up. Like it took me five tries to "remember to remember" to click "purchase" for the supplies in my digital cart yesterday.- Slowing down in conversations. The added benefit of that is that people think you're being a good / active listener by not interrupting or talking too fast.- This may sound weird, but sometimes I schedule my emails for 10 minutes after I complete writing them so then I can then proofread them in a completely different visual format while they sit in my to-send folder. (this is assuming no visual difference / disability present)- Color coding all the things, assuming the same as above.- Creating shadow meetings on my calendar so that I'm not in back to backs with other people. It's basically blocks of time where people can't schedule with me. It's not 100% consistent because of how life works, but it still helps.- Declaring my "power hours" during the day so that people know before X time and after Y time, I'm not going to be the sharpest conversation partner. I play off the early bird / night owl stereotypes to shape that one.