There’s something about September that always signals a new start.  For me, it’s even stronger than the calendar New Year.

It may be years since I left full-time education, but that ‘back to school’ feeling remains incredibly familiar, with it’s mixed sense of anticipation, optimism and sometimes foreboding, plus a strange urge to buy new stationery.

It’s that time of year when your head is still in holiday mode, but your body is back in the formality of work, with all its expectations glaring at you.

I’ve always found that the longer you are away from work, the harder it is to return.  Monday mornings after a 2-day weekend can be hard.  Bank holiday weekends harder.  Getting back into work after a 2-week summer holiday can feel like an hourly battle (imagine a year’s maternity leave!).   And you can pretty much double the struggle if you are less than motivated or feeling severely overstretched or unfulfilled in your current job.

So, how can you manage your initial ‘back to work’ hurdle? 

Allow yourself a bit of time to get back into the swing of things – it may not be as bad as you think after a day or two.

  • Do some planning, write lists and prioritise – get started on something you enjoy or know you can achieve quite easily.
  • Go for lunch with colleagues – share each other’s pain – you will not be the only one
  • Get outside, take a walk if you can – surely research must exist to show that being cooped up at work after spending time outside in the summer magnifies the challenge of returning
  • Reward yourself for each small achievement.

With a bit of luck, you’ll soon be back into your routine, with all the usual balances of highs and lows.

But if after a week or so, you’re still finding yourself desperately doing job searches, hoping that no-one will walk past your screen and notice, or worse, feeling close to tears during every meeting, what then?

Time to reassess

Maybe it’s time to pick up on the optimism of September and take stock of your career?  This simple technique can help you assess your career and focus on the direction you want – and the steps to help you get there:

  1. Start by getting a picture in your head of your ideal career and working life.  Consider:
  • Which 3-4 elements of your current job/career do you enjoy and want to keep?
  • What 3-4 bits would you like to change?  Be as specific as possible.
  1. Next, take a piece of paper:
  • At one end, write your current job/career.
  • At the other end, write (or draw) where you plan to be one year for now, including any points from your answers above.  This could be a promotion, starting a new business, having better balance in your life etc.  Include a few bullet points to describe what you will be doing and what it is like.
  • In the space in between, write what you are currently doing to make your goal happen.  Add any new actions that will help you to achieve it. Gradually map out all the small steps that will help you bridge the gap – and cross out anything you are doing that isn’t helping.  What do you need to start, stop or continue?
  1. Believe you can make these changes; you could make this September a turning point in your career.