During the time when I was desperately looking for a job, I got a call from a recruitment manager of a well-known company. I was naturally very excited because any opportunity which would bring me back to the world of work, was a milestone achieved.
I went for the interview and the guy who called me said to me that if I knew why I was called for the interview. “Obviously, because I fit the role and am qualified for it”, I replied cheekily. By this time I had gained enough confidence by going through so much rejection, that I thought I had nothing to lose really. He said, “No, it’s because in my career spanning over two decades in the field of HR I have never even once come across someone wanting to re-join the workforce after such a huge gap – 13 years is HUGE!” When he received my CV, he was shocked and went online to research about women re-joining the workforce after a huge gap and found out that such cases were rare. He told me that even if women like me get a job somehow, they usually don’t last more than a year. He said, “If you do, you’ll turn the tables!”
Although I didn’t get the job, but his words stayed with me. Now I had a challenge more difficult than the one of actually landing a job, which I did exactly five months after this interview. I was nervous and unsure of myself because I had been away from the industry for over a decade. I felt old and wasted and wanted to give up every single day. I wanted to go back to being a regular everyday woman I was used to for the past 13 years. My body hurt because of the long hours and lack of sleep. I was overwhelmed by the transformed corporate dynamics and trying to balance my duties as a mother with my new job. I had no one to talk to because everyone was so much younger and different, or so much older and different! What are these millennials! The people I used to work with so many years ago had gotten old and gray, and become kind of scary! I felt like an alien in the workplace because no one really understood why I was there in the first place. I felt like Captain America!!!
Initially I was discouraged, because during the first few months at my new job, many people did not take me and my work seriously. They thought I was just there for fun and time pass, or some other reason they couldn’t probably fathom! It was very difficult to make myself heard and seen and to ensure that people know that I mean business!
Whenever I wanted to quit, the words of that man haunted me like a demon– will you be one of those who didn’t last a year?
Here I am, two years down the road. I was able to make it this far because I didn’t give myself the choice of quitting, but also because I was extremely lucky. I had mentors, who believed in me, an amazing team bursting with infectious energy, and my girlfriends who put up with all the cancelled plans and long silences which lasted months, but still gave me hope and courage to carry on. Some of you may say that I haven’t mentioned my family; of course to be able to go on this path would not be possible without a supporting family.
This International Women’s Day I want to tell all of you who are afraid to step out in search of your dreams to take the leap of faith and go for it, even if no one supports you. To all the recruiters – give their passion and abilities a chance instead of rejecting their career gaps. I don’t know if I am able to turn the tables or not, but at least I made it past a year in the industry. I am still struggling but I have learned a lot in the past two years and my work is making a difference – for now that is enough.
Ayesha Aziz is a Mom, Mechanical Engineer, Teacher, Aspiring Masterchef and Photographer, Wanderer and a lot more!