Maybe you’re a mum that is taking a few tentative steps towards returning to work after a long career break. Or maybe you are just finally listening to that little voice that has been long telling you to that chase that dream job.
I have not only seen the challenges that women seeking a career change face in my work as a career consultant, but I’ve lived it too. I took a career break to look after my two young sons, and also relaunched my career when I felt it was time, so I know first hand how it can be daunting.
I am a big fan of having a plan, so that’s why I have taken my experience and expertise and devised six steps to help you both mentally and practically to relaunch with confidence.
1. Start talking and putting yourself out there
The dreaded word ‘network’ will be mentioned later but for now I just mean baby-steps here. First things first, so just start talking and putting yourself out there. This just means talking to as many people as possible about either returning to work, or changing your career, but essentially about your dream job. You will be surprised by the connections and support you will find in your own circle, and even more surprised when you widen this.
For some busy mothers this idea of networking can seem impossible but lucky for mothers, baby groups, toddler groups and the school playground are actually rife with great contacts. Don’t overlook them. They are often full of like-minded people. So many new businesses and ventures have been started by mothers. Barefoot Books, a very successful children’s books publishers, was started by two mothers with five kids between them, who wanted merge their love of books with a family-friendly job. Now they are a successful international business.
Another great first step is to get in touch with old colleagues. For mothers who have taken a career break this can be a great morale booster because even though your old professional self might be a distance memory to you, your colleagues haven’t forgotten that capable, smart person they worked with. They don’t know about your days spent changing nappies and sitting in the sandpit. These people know something you may not know which is that—you’ve still got it! Those skills and expertise that you previously had are just laying dormant waiting for to find your dream job.
This leads us nicely to step two.
2. Think positively, be confident
This can be one of the biggest barriers to going after what you really want, whether it is to return to the work place after a career break, or to really pursue a dream job.
I can vividly remember this feeling myself when I returned back to work after my career break. I remember setting up my first workshop for 20 people and recognising that I was feeling nervous, even though I had previously done workshops with 200 people!
Be your own cheerleader. For mums returning after a career break, this is often the first time in a few years that they are really thinking about themselves. Or if this is a move towards getting a better and more fulfilling job, this step is also about doing something just for you. It takes bravery to set change into motion, particularly when it comes to a career. Don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back.
3. Skill up, empower yourself
Another reason people can often feel a lack of self-confidence when they take a career break is that they can feel out of touch with the professional world.
One way to boost this is to skill up. For example whatever your field of interest, start reading up. Do some research. If you are interested in a job in the arts, read the arts section of all the main newspapers. Same goes with finance or science. It’s good to be up-to-date on new developments and this is also good when talking to new potential contacts or employers.
Also with the fast progression of technology it is easy to become technologically obsolete. This is easily remedied. All this needs is practice. Ask around. Start using the most common software. Get acquainted with social media. Skill up and in no time you will feel more in touch.
4. Know what you want, aim high
In terms of a career and searching for that right job, it is always best to know what you want. Get specific and ask the right questions. Don’t just aim for a field of work that you might be interested in. Pinpoint what you would like as much as possible. From work atmosphere and colleagues to the pay and hours. Think about a job that will fit you and your lifestyle. As questions such as ‘is this job family-friendly?’ if you have kids. And probably most importantly ask yourself what are your excited about.
The old adage about a 1000-mile journey beginning with one step may sound clichéd but it is so true. It’s not necessary to worry about what you want to do for the rest of your life. Just think about the next step and the next step after that. Most goals are achievable when approached in this deliberate and methodical way and most successful people will probably tell you that it is the secret to their success.
5. Now go for it!
Now that you have goal, this is where I mention the dreaded word ‘network’ and your ‘Hello World’ moment.
So first, your ‘Hello World’ moment. Though this may sound flippant, this is when you will really be presenting yourself to the professional world. Here a great cv and cover letter is essential. Many mothers who are returning after taking maternity leave may feel self-conscious about the gap on their CV. For more on this see my blog post “How to mind the gap on your CV”.
And lastly, when you get to talk with employers directly, go for it. Be direct and ask for what you want. This is your dream job after all! For example, don’t restrict yourself to applying just for part-time jobs unless you just want a couple of days a week. There is often flexibility in full-time roles and sometimes part time hours can be negotiated as part of an overall package once a job offer has been made.
6. Embrace the opportunity!
Think about how lucky you are to be asking yourself these important life questions. This is a great chance to choose a career that will really suit you and your needs. Though it may not feel like it yet, this is a wonderful new phase of your life. It’s exciting to be able to go after something you want in a direct and deliberate way.
This change in attitude can make you feel more empowered, and can turn what may have seemed a daunting challenge into your next big adventure.
Getting started with a new job search? Follow our step-by-step guide to help you organise and structure the process, and make going back to work or changing careers a whole lot quicker and less stressful. You can find it here in our Resource Hub. We hope you find it useful!