For many mothers, the thought of going back to work after spending time at home focusing on the family is a daunting prospect. And particularly so if you are wanting to try something new, something more closely aligned with your post-baby identity, values and life priorities, something you would really, really love to do.
So how do you figure out what it is that will bring you alive, and how to make the change happen?
Here are six lessons I learned from my own career shift from marketeer to career consultant:
Recognise that taking action is the key to change
It is hard to let go of the past, figure out the new you, and embrace change. However you can do it and it all comes down to taking action. Even if you’re not convinced that what you are planning to do is the right thing, just begin. Small steps at a time create the momentum you need to move in a new direction.
Get to know yourself
Your starting point is to look inward and assess what is really important to you in a career. What sort of working environment do you think you'll be happy in? What energises you most work-wise? And what do you naturally love doing and are good at? To identify your strengths, use a tool such as the StrengthsFinder assessment or think of at least three trusted people who know you well and ask them:
- When I’m at my happiest or my best, what kinds of things am I doing?
- What do you think I do uniquely well?
- How do I inspire you?
- What seems to come easier to me than to most people?
Look for patterns. What rings true? What surprises you?
Digging deep and asking yourself these questions to get to know yourself better will help you increase your confidence in your skills and capabilities, and identify some possible new career options.
Test-drive one of the options you’re considering, whether it’s a new job, new career, or new business
Try one of your options on for size. Shadow someone in the field you want to go into, do some volunteering work, or offer a simple version of what you’d be focusing your business on to a small group of people.
Walk, don’t run
A gradual approach to changing your career is more realistic than radically reinventing yourself over night. This might mean making changes in your current job, studying a course in the evening, or learning new skills you need to set up your own business. It might also mean that you gradually move into your new career via a series of jobs or projects rather than one giant leap – and this is important if you want to protect your salary rather than going back to entry level wages.
Have a plan
Craft a career change plan to get you from here to there. Once you know what direction you want to move in, you’ll need a map to get you there. Your strategic plan may include skills attainment, a job search plan, career planning, or even CV writing and interviewing.
Don’t do it alone
Career change is easier when you have someone to do it with. Find a partner, coach, friend or family member who might be in the same situation as you. You can experiment, learn and support one another, and can hold one another accountable. People can talk about changing careers for years and never do it. When you commit to somebody else, you are more likely to make the move.