“Your career is not a second option! Take help to balance work and personal life” – The Career Break Story of Shivani Banerjee

A Commerce Honors graduate from Delhi University, I started working in the corporate sector in 1994. Since then, I have grown to have a very successful career to now lead the client servicing and business development effort for a few key clients of HGS.
A few years ago while I was expecting my second child, I had to suddenly go on a career break due to both my and my child’s medical condition. Since I have been very passionate about my career and my independence and I was doing really well in my career too, it was a very tormenting call to choose between my job and family. My responsibilities towards my children and family took precedence and I had to take a career break. However, I had never imagined nor was I prepared for the emotional turmoil and the feelings of anxiety that hit me and that I had to endure and manage. During this period, I thought of doing something to enhance my skills or pursue further studies. However, with my hands full with a newborn and a two year old kid and a fuzzy mind, I was unable to actually take up anything.
After a gap of two years, I decided to get back to the corporate world. But I struggled to get a desirable job in line with my talent and previous experience. Everywhere I went, all that was discussed was my break instead of my capabilities and achievements. I was made to feel that the break I had taken was a huge loss in my career growth and that I might not be a stable resource with two kids and a family in hand. With not many options available, I joined as a logistics role in an upcoming organization of repute working the UK shift. Unfortunately, I had to soon contemplate leaving on account of the location change of my boss and in turn was asked to do a permanent graveyard shift to fill up for him. It was during this time that one of my previous employers contacted me and I rejoined them thanks to my previous work reputation and achievements. I worked with them for over 6 years till 2010, till I thought of doing something different and joined my husband to set up his business. However, in a year I realized that my strength was in the corporate sector. This time fortunately, it seemed that the sabbatical concept had become somewhat accepted in the corporate world. However discussions at various organizations did make me feel that they wanted to shortchange my profile and remuneration on account of my break. This time, I was able to drive home the point that it was unfair and that they could not discount my experience, exposure and capabilities on account of a break. I returned to the corporate world in 2011 through HGS.
I can only say I was lucky and had the good fortune to have got this opportunity post experiencing the outlook of organizations while I was trying to get back to my career. I performed well and received the “Leadership Excellence Award” in 2013. I also feel blessed for the opportunity to work with the most dynamic, tenured & encouraging HGS senior leadership team. At HGS, there is a clear focus on Diversity and Inclusion initiatives at all levels and not only did I get introduced to the focused approach but as encouragement, I was sponsored to do a women’s leadership program at IIMB. This has further deepened my commitment to encourage women that I meet during the Agrima facilitations (an exclusive training program for our entry level to mid management women employees) or those that I come across otherwise to help acknowledge and work towards their career and personal aspirations. The journey till now has been a great learning experience, at HGS.
I had unstinting support from my family. My husband and my mother specially are my pillars of strength. And while I have been enjoying the phase of motherhood and feel blessed nurturing my daughters, yet I wish there were no breaks in my career, which have been the main cause of loss of time and my career growth. And both breaks happened when I was at the peak of my career. There have been wonderful opportunities that I missed over this period of time due to this.
I don’t see my story as different from any other woman. We all reach a point in our lives where a tough decision needs to be made or are forced to take one under pressure of our near and dear ones. My message to all women in the workforce is to never consider career as your second option. Take help when you need to prioritize your personal commitments versus career but do not think that career breaks help.
With the introduction of so many women-oriented benefits in companies, it has become much easier to manage your personal commitments while still working. As women, it is critical to be independent. When women have economic empowerment, it is a way for others to see them as equal members of the society. Through this, they achieve more self-respect and confidence by their contributions to their communities. When women have the strong aspiration to do what they want, a higher equality between men and women is established.
This is also what I keep sharing and re-iterating to my daughters.
Please note: The views, opinions and beliefs expressed by the authors in the articles on the blog are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Lean In India.

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