Sometimes, your career path deviates from what you might have hoped — for instance, having to relocate or the need to take time off for health issues or caregiving. You may not have a choice at that point of time but to prioritize the situation at hand and deal with it. Unfortunately, sometimes meeting these urgent needs means that life, as you had planned, deflects from its path, especially on the professional front. I see this a lot when I coach women. At times, they accept the situation as the hand dealt to them by fate but feel frustrated, nevertheless. The longer the duration of the detour, the heavier the hit on their confidence levels and the guilt of falling behind in their career.

Here are some thoughts to help you not lose your confidence and take control of your career sooner if you are in a situation that requires you to make similar tradeoffs –

Stay in touch with your aspirations. If you love what you do and want to grow in your field, but you have to pause to support other priorities in life, invest small amounts of time consistently in learning the –

  • Hard/technical skills you want to acquire to stay relevant in your profession.
  • Power/soft skills you want to develop to enhance your effectiveness and remain attractive in the job market.

Explore non-conventional ways of doing what you love. Depending on what your unique situation allows for, there may be opportunities to –

  • Work a few days a week.
  • Be a freelancer.
  • Volunteer.
  • Teach what you know.

Stay connected with your network of colleagues and mentors. Everyone likes to work with people they know, like, and trust. Maintaining your network helps you retain the goodwill you have built over the years. It can also be a good source of figuring out what to invest in and keeping people informed about everything you are doing to stay relevant.

Reflect on the lessons you are learning during the pause from your career. Hard times surface dimensions of our personality that we may not be aware of, e.g., prioritization, resilience, patience, emotional intelligence, kindness, compassion, courage, endurance, etc. Reflecting on them is a great way to build self-awareness and acknowledge that you continue to grow and learn valuable skills.

Reframe the situation. Your job is a vital element of your life and a big part of your identity. You may choose not to put aside your professional aspirations. You may choose to make a temporary detour to support other goals that are equally important to you. 

During challenging times, it’s crucial to remember that your circumstance does not define your potential. By nurturing skills, exploring innovative approaches, and maintaining connections, you can shape a path that aligns with your ambitions. Reflecting on the lessons during the pause will empower you and unveil your strengths that you were unaware of. Detours may veer you off course temporarily, but you can integrate career aspirations as well as other callings of your life.