Career Gap: Not a taboo anymore

Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. –Maya Angelou Having a gap in employment is a lot more common than you may think. And with the millennials comprising 80 % of the workforce today, it is actually becoming popular to take time out of work voluntarily.  Here is an article on my take on “Career Gap- not a taboo anymore”. Please read and share your views in the comments section.   Happy reading!

Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. –Maya Angelou

Achieving work life balance is one of the most frequently discussed topics in the corporate world today and especially the Millennials, who make up 35% of the global workforce today, are leading the way with this new mindset.

Some statistics

1.  A recent report by ManpowerGroup shows that 84% of Millennials foresee significant career breaks along the way. This trend reinforces the idea that “career waves” are replacing the “career ladder” of earlier generations.

2. A study written by TSNE’s Deborah Linnell and CompassPoint’s Tim Wolfred, exposes the myth that an executive sabbatical will be a chaotic disruption, finding instead that the creative disruption of a well-planned sabbatical can be productive for the entire leadership of an organization. This study recommends funding sabbaticals as a best practice for leadership development, succession planning and organizational capacity building.

3. In the research conducted by The Sabbatical Project, 50 people were interviewed about their experiences of taking a sabbatical from work, and how it played a part in shaping their lives afterwards. Patterns in their responses show that separation from a stressful working environment, and the opportunity for rest and restoration, can provide a powerful ‘identity workspace’ to reflect and make lifestyle changes for the better.

4. According to the Huffington Post, Cliff Bar has a low employee turnover rate of less than 3%, and when the firm conducted a survey among its employees to determine which perks were the most useful to them, Sabbaticals came out on top.

5. A study by TSNE found that people who’ve took up the roles and responsibilities of employees on sabbatical leave have pursued them effectively.

How it benefits

Employment gaps exist between jobs. Career changes are evident. Parental leave is common. So why is there such taboo surrounding the topic of taking a “gap year”?

Gone were the days when for corporate employees their work life was everything.Today’s workforce prioritizes balance and yes they want to have a proper work life balance throughout their lives. Hence this trend of taking career gaps or work sabbatical is going to stay.

Also, since last 2 years there have been a lot of changes in the work culture across organizations as most of them have transitioned to remote working because of the pandemic. A lot of new leave policies are being introduced at the workplaces, but Sabbatical leave is still there and surprisingly being availed as well. Although the reasons for taking the Sabbatical leaves in the pre pandemic times were quite different like travelling, pursuing passions or hobbies, or opting for higher education.

A lot of work from home experts believe and state that they are suffering from Digital Fatigue and want to take a break just to spend time with their family and that’s how a new reason to take sabbatical leaves is coming into being.

In one of the recent articles in Times of India, Kelloggs South Asia director (HR) Nimisha Das said, “Despite the pandemic, it is unlikely that sabbaticals will go out of the vogue. Working professionals will continue taking them with the exception that the reasons for taking a sabbatical will change. For instance, one of the reasons earlier could be travelling. Now it might be to deal with the challenges of digital fatigue, pursue a newly acquired passion or to simply spend time with their families.”

Another reason which that has been the cause for career gaps nowadays is that when covid pandemic swept across the world in 2019 it caused millions to lose their jobs and made it difficult for them to get employment in the next two years.

There are several misconceptions around sabbaticals, one of them being that for an organization it will be a productivity loss to give an employee so many leaves. As a matter of fact, it actually benefits companies in many ways.

Let’s understand few benefits for both the parties:

For employee:

Ø Employees return rejuvenated and feel like working for challenging opportunities with renewed rigor

Ø Declined stress levels and improved emotional well-being

Ø Personal fulfillment and achieved personal goals

Ø Up-skilling and personal development

Ø Feeling of being valued by the organization and hence, more motivated and sense of belonging and loyalty towards the organization

For employer:

Ø Improved retention

Ø Improved work culture

Ø Productive and motivated teams

Ø Employer branding

Ø Attract new talent

Current scenario around career gaps in the corporate world

While some companies may still be resistant to the idea of sabbaticals, many companies have learned that they benefit both employees and the company.There are a lot of big organizations like Adobe, Intel,TCS, Infosys, EY, Accenture, Deloitte, L & T, Cognizant, Paypal and IBM who have made sabbatical policy official now.

What these new changes in the work culture clearly point towards, is a future where people don’t have to feel embarrassed and afraid because of a gap in their resumes. One’s gap year is for them, and there is no proper way to define another’s gap year or determine if it was worth it or not – that’s for the individual, themselves, to decide.

It’s for business leaders and organizations to understand the changing reasons why their employees may be tempted to leave them and start to update and evolve with the changing times and on the other hand it is employees’ responsibility to contribute back to society by improving or working on themselves during their sabbatical days.

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Remote working: A mixed blessing for women

Given the social construct around the role of women as primary caregivers there is a clear gender push when it comes to choosing remote working as an option. Today, with evolved working models in place, remote/hybrid working has been a blessing for women, helping them manage work and home effectively. While it has provided tremendous flexibility to them, it is important to understand how it may have implications in terms of – lack of visibility at work, assumptions around their commitment and not to forget the missed opportunities to network and build collaborative relationships at work. How is remote working impacting careers , growth trajectory, compensation, performance ratings of women and what are its implications on the existing gender inequities?    Is it a remote work penalty they are paying? A food for thought for organizations and for leaders to create a level playing field for all.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of teleworking modes by employers across the corporate world. Teleworking has allowed organisations to continue operations while protecting employees from virus exposure during lock downs and other restrictive measures implemented by governments. As the pandemic started, we often spoke of ‘Work from Home’ being the new normal and today hybrid working models have become a common feature of corporate culture, as we have started moving to a form of normalcy. These hybrid models, combine in-person work with work from home. In such a context, it is reasonable to wonder whether this trend will narrow the gender divide and help address the corporate culture of “presenteeism” that penalizes women, or whether it will worsen the existing gender inequalities.  When we talk of remote working, work from home – who is more likely to engage and use these formats, men or women?  What are the implications for gender? What impact will it have on their careers, growth trajectory, compensation, and performance ratings and gender pay gap?

Remote Work for Women – Is it a Mixed Blessing?

Prior to the pandemic, a small percentage of the workforce was teleworking occasionally – working from home or a location outside of the employer’s premises. According to a global survey of CIOs, prior to the pandemic, approximately 15 to 16 percent of respondents stated that their companies’ workforce worked remotely. But after a year, in March 2021, 70% of respondents were working remotely.  Reports suggest in EU – in Finland, 60% of employees shifted to working from home, whereas in Italy and Austria, 40% of employees shifted to this type of work (Eurofound, 2020). As per LinkedIn Talent Solutions, in the US in 2020, 1 in 67 was in a remote job as compared to now in 2022 where 1 in 6 is in a remote job.

One of the proclaimed objectives of remote working has been to support working parents, especially mothers, and reduce gender inequalities in employment. Hence, there is a clear gender push when choosing the remote work option. Even in the hybrid working models prevalent today, women have been the ones using the WFH opportunity the most. According to a Forbes poll, 19% of women never want to return to in-person work, compared to only 7% of men. According to a recent LinkedIn survey, women are 26% more likely than men to apply for remote jobs.

Here, it is worth reviewing how the remote working trend has been impacting working women both on personal and professional front.

THE REMOTE WORK PENALTY

While on a personal front, there are compelling reasons – remote working has eased things for women giving them flexibility, making it easier for mothers to balance paid work and family responsibilities, first hand evidence clearly shows that they do a disproportionate amount of housework and childcare when compared to men. Women continue to pay motherhood penalty, for the unpaid care work they do. But the intense multitasking between these responsibilities has led to increased levels of stress, anxiety, spiked burnout rates among women which in turn has been adversely impacts their employability.

We can’t stop at the above. In the current ways of working which is a mix of remote and hybrid working models with a predominant percentage of women in fixed remote working roles we come across what we call – Remote Work Penalty which women often end up paying. This includes an array of things which the corporate culture of presenteeism brings with it and puts remote working women at a disadvantage. It important to note that these could be potential threats that can impact even men working remotely in terms of their experiences, key decisions around their compensation, performance ratings and team involvement. But women working remotely at are a higher risk of experiencing these. Let us see how.

  • Assumptions round Commitment

This is the biggest challenge women face as they work remotely. Asking for accommodations like flex working specially by women is assumed to be a sign of low commitment. This lack of trust often dampens the work opportunities for women and hinder their likelihood of promotion since working from a distance could make them seem less involved.

  • Lack of Visibility

Women working remotely often find it harder to showcase their achievements, find it uncomfortable to speak up, make their point or carefully listened to in virtual meetings as compared to men. They find it hard to interject and participate in conversations, meeting etc impacting their visibility in the team and organization. As per a catalyst survey, women business leaders reported its difficult to speak up in virtual meetings.

  • Missed Opportunities to Network/Relationship Building

The saying out of sight, out of mind fits appropriately here. Working remotely becomes a barrier in the way of building relationships at work with co-workers and leaders. Working remotely, women miss on the opportunities to network, meet colleagues in person, develop mentors which are key as they collaborate for work and grow in the organization.

  • The Power Differences

In the hybrid working model, the proximity bias or the face time bias as it is called, often creates power differences between those in office and those working virtually, in terms of allocation of work responsibilities, influence and decision making.  Again, women working virtually, find themselves mostly at a disadvantage here.

Creating a Level Playing Field

Organizations and leaders need to reflect on how they can create a level playing field for employees working virtually or otherwise. They need to be intentional about how they view the hybrid workplace and at the same time be mindful of the drawbacks of remote working.

Certain tweaks in current practices at work can make a huge difference. For example, it could be in terms of how performance reviews are taken, team meetings are conducted or avenues for communication provided or reviewing expectations set around remote working – focusing on productivity rather that hours logged.

Leaders should go out of their way to ensure that a two-layer workforce is not created in which in-person employees have greater access to special projects, raises, and promotions. And organizations need to bring in policies that can support leaders create that inclusive and equitable ecosystem in a remote/hybrid working model.

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Servant Leadership – A RELEVANT STYLE IN TODAYS TIME

We live in a society where leaders are expected to lead, coach, guide, monitor, motivate and drive business but not be selfless and serve juniors or subordinates. Which is why, even though the concept of Servant Leadership is decades old, it has found renewed importance in todays age and post COVID times. A leader is somebody who leads by example and prioritizes self-growth before coaching other and a Servant Leader aspires to serve his/her team and the organization first, ahead of their personal goals. Here is my article on “Servant Leadership – an Important Leadership style in todays corporate world”. Being a servant leader is amazing, but it’s a huge commitment because you’re really going to have to take very intentional actions to be a servant leader. It’s really about truly walking that talk every day and the road often gets blurred. Do read, like and share your comments.

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Driving inclusion in black history month

Organizations are a sub-unit of the society at large and Diversity and Inclusion are at the heart, as a core value for many organizations. While we go all out on driving inclusion through diversity, what we often miss is Equality and Equity. A place where everybody feels valued, heard and taken care of. Black History Month is not just about being aware of the history of the Black community, recognizing their contribution and providing equal opportunities; it is also about sensitizing your employees on building empathy and overcoming the bias of diversity hiring. Here is my next article on how to create safe spaces for the community in organizations and accepting them for their talent and experience, for what they bring on the table. Do read and share your comments!

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The Big Quit – How to Handle the Great Resignation

An unexpected fallout of the pandemic has been the “Great Resignation”. While some said that the #trend was driven by #economicconditions, others said that it was led by the fact that #WorkfromHome and #Flexibility has become a way of life, and hence, coming back to work was not easy for employees. Some even said that Work from Home had #upskilled the employees and hence, they felt #underpaid! And as the #corporateworld tried to retain their employees, a deeper look at the problem in hand led to #structural and #workstyle changes for many.
Here is my article on The Big Quit – How to handle the Great Resignation! Do read, like and comment on your thoughts about #theBigQuit – Why, What and How of it.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/big-quit-how-handle-great-resignation-krishan-she-her-hers-/?trackingId=IZ6H0t2A3WCiSImWwpQLLA%3D%3D

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How you communicate at work matters

The art of communication is the language of leadership- James Humes

Communication as a process at the organisational level, or as a competence at an individual level has always been one of the key factors for success. Since when we have transitioned to remote and hybrid working, the value of communication at work has increased significantly. A workplace that communicates more effectively establishes a “safe” place for people to think creatively and express their ideas.

Here’s an article where I have penned down my thoughts on “How you communicate at work matters”. Please comment down your views on the same.

Happy Reading!

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-you-communicate-work-matters-prerna-arora/?lipi=urn%3Ali%3Apage%3Ad_flagship3_company_admin%3Bk2SwAUJZS1O4sLWR%2B1jtRA%3D%3D

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How women self sabotage their career and how to deal with it?

Self-sabotage is when we say we want something and then go about making sure it doesn’t happen.” – Alyce Cornyn-Selby.   Self-sabotage is when you consciously or unconsciously do things that work against your own best interest. The biggest trigger of self sabotaging behavior is fear, fear of rejection, fear of failure or may be fear of criticism.    Here is my article on- How women self sabotage their career and how to deal with it.   Please share your views in the comments section.   Happy Reading!

Have you ever been self-doubting yourself and thinking you are not able enough to do something? Yes, it is a very common scenario for many women out there. We women are conditioned since our birth to be modest, to not boast about our success, our achievements, to be soft spoken and what not and this conditioning what an ideal women should be like plays a very vital role in our careers.

Because of this conditioning and the environmental pressures women usually self sabotage their career.Self-sabotaging behaviors can be both conscious and unconscious depending on how aware you are of them.

Ways in which women self-sabotage their career

1. The “Good Girl” trap: We as women always try to please everyone, we don’t want to say No and that is why we avoid having difficult conversations or we give up easily when someone doesn’t agree with us and this approach affects our career and work life in a negative manner.

To share an example, your approach towards an assignment might be different from your manager’s but you choose to follow the template provided because you don’t want to upset the apple cart or be labeled as someone who doesn’t accept the norms which are in practice for years.

There are so many instances where capable women work hard on projects, but at the first sign of challenging feedback, they withdraw, all to avoid conflict or confrontation.

2. Seeking perfection all the time:Author Julia Cameron wrote in The Artist’s Way, “Perfectionism is a refusal to let yourself move ahead. We all get to learn perfectionism from a very young age and if not checked,this tendency to chase perfection in everything starts sabotaging your success.

Attention to detail is one thing, but attempting to polish off every task on your to-do list with pure perfection is not realistic. Setting goals is a good thing, but it’s also important to remember that we’re all fallible. Accepting the imperfection of humanity is a liberating gift, and people will respond to you better once you become comfortable with any perceived flaws.

3. Selling yourself short: Women often sell themselves short in business, playing small to make others feel comfortable rather than acknowledging their strengths. While this may appear as innocent modesty, it can cripple your chances of getting that promotion or landing a dream job. Focus on your strengths and practice self love.

Own your accomplishments just as you celebrate the achievements of others.Even if we get an increment, we wonder if we are worth it. Often women work and deliver more than what is expected and don’t even seek recognition for it.

4. Seeking feedback or permission: Women, in general, tend to seek feedback or ask for ‘permission’ or validation, which is a form of resistance and denotes self-doubt. We do not want to be labelled as overpowering and want to get the approval of everyone concerned so that we fit in, which also results in women not holding leadership positions.

5. Not speaking up: “When we avoid speaking up and expressing how we feel or what we need, we are sabotaging our self-esteem and allowing negative feelings to build up internally,” says Emily Roberts.

Assertiveness and effective communication is the key here. Stop trying to please everyone in each and every situation, if you do not agree, you don’t feel fit in, just say it out loud. Demand the respect you deserve.

7. The imposter syndrome: With imposter syndrome, it’s more than just self-doubt. It’s a condition of such deep-rooted insecurity that we are faking ourselves and we are not good enough. To sum it up you underestimate yourself and don’t understand your worth.

And hence this feeling affects your career, for example not striving for promotions simply because you  don’t believe that you deserve it, or you become intense micromanagers which can make you  susceptible to burning out quickly because you are constantly trying to overcompensate.

8. Not asking for help: “I can do it all”, “I don’t need any help”, these are few thoughts which are always there at our mind lest we be seen as vulnerable. We always try to be a superwomenand hence we do not ask for support.

We stop ourselves from communicating our needs in an authentic and effective manner. Repressing your needs is also another self-sabotage mechanism, that drives you to take on too much, grow resentful and miss out on being the person you’re truly meant to be and focusing on what matters most.

9. Relationship aggression: Relationship aggression is just one of the many ways women sabotage their careers.

A very common scenario is where one female employee gets a promotion and suddenly you see change in the behaviour of other female employees towards her. They start whispering whenever she walks by; they stopped inviting her to gatherings, there is workplace isolation etc.

These actions define relationship aggression at workplace. Sometimes women work against one another instead of working together as a team or allies. Women tend to fight over the throne instead of fixing each other’s crowns.

 

How to fix this

2 step process to stop self sabotage

1. Reflect and recognize your self-sabotaging habits: To stop this habit of self sabotaging for good, firstly you need to be aware of that, yes you are actually doing this to yourself. You need to understand the need these habits fill in your life and then act accordingly.

As we discussed above these can be very actions or behaviors like procrastination, thinking negative all the time, underselling yourself, being too tough on yourself, not owning your achievements and many more.

2. Work on the path for improvement: Once you recognize your habits you can start working on reversing them and in the way to convert self sabotaging with self empowerment.

You can beat self-sabotage by monitoring your behaviors, feelings, thoughts, and beliefs about yourself, and challenging them when they stand between you and your goals. Consider how failing to overcome certain behaviours could cost you professionally. Start building positive behaviour and create an affirmative, confident voice to guide you to keep you on the right track.

Fortunately none of these self sabotaging habits are chronic and can easily be rectified and even reversed if checked at the right time and the right actions are taken.Making conscious effort and some minor adjustments in your approach will put you back in control and get you on the track.

So if you are still struggling with these self sabotaging issues, start working on it today and don’t let anything keep you away from a positive, successful career.

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