Becoming a mother for the first time is a transformative experience in many ways, and lots of women find themselves looking at all aspects of their life from a new perspective. This is particularly true when it comes to making career choices as maternity leave gives us plenty of time to step back and reevaluate our professional position. It’s why many women take the opportunity to take a new direction in their careers, even if they’ve spent all of their time to date in a specific role or industry. The big question, however, is where do you start when it’s time to change careers?
This guide takes you through some key steps to help you kickstart this new chapter of your life.
Explore your motivations
Before you make any important decisions, it’s best to take some time to work out why you are considering a new career path. Have you been thinking about a particular career or business idea for many years? Are you deeply passionate about something? Or is your desire for change due to some anxieties about returning to your usual employment? If you are worried about going back to your job, it may be that you should give yourself a period of adjustment to try and settle back into your old routine. Consider contacting your employer to discuss a phased return to work, which would enable you to take on fewer hours per week until you feel fully back up to speed.
If you decide that you want to go for it and start a new adventure, it might be best to explore it on a part-time basis or as a side hustle in addition to normal work so you can work out if it’s really what you want before leaving your job. So, assuming you are still interested in a career change, you need to decide what that change will be.
Focus on your interests and passions
The most rewarding careers are those which enable us to connect with what fires us up. This could be an art form, a charity, a skill we have, or a hobby which we gladly engage in simply for the joy of it. Thinking about what gets you up in the morning aside from financial rewards will help you to identify a potential new path that will feel less like work and more like a vocation.
Discuss your plans with your partner
Your priority is your family, so it’s essential that you involve your partner in your decision process. If your current salary is necessary for your lifestyle and living situation to continue and a career change would reduce your income, are you both prepared to make sacrifices while you establish yourself in your new career? How will you manage childcare between you, and will you have more or less quality time with your family? If you are not the ‘breadwinner’ as such or your career was changeable pre-baby, your future plans may not represent much of a change, but it’s crucial that your partner is kept in the loop.
Get advice and support from family and friends
Your friends, family and even colleagues will be able to provide support and encouragement during a period of change. Try to spend time with people who believe in your abilities and are in support of your decision as this can have a significant impact on your own level of self-belief and your likelihood of success. Your friends and family may also be able to focus your attention on pros and cons, which you haven’t considered before, as well being able to help out with childcare.
Find a career coach
If you are convinced that you need a change but are not sure what that change should be or how to begin, a professional career coach should be able to help you to create a plan. Depending on your current experience and skill set, you may need to retrain, so it’s often helpful to speak to a professional career coach. They will be able to assess your skills, experience and talents to advise you on the best route in terms of finding employment or starting a business.
Consider online study
When you’re balancing motherhood with starting a new career, it can be challenging to find the time to retrain or get the experience you need to move forward. An online degree program, however, enables you to study from home at your own pace so that you don’t need to leave home or stop working in your current job while you study. For example, an online social work degree does not require any previous social work experience but can lead to a well-paid career in social and health care, which will enable you to make a positive impact in your community.
Try professional networking
When you have decided on a particular career or business idea, it’s essential to carry out research and to get as much hands-on experience as you can. The best way to do this is often to speak to someone who is already working in that industry. They may not be someone you know, but if you approach them in the right way and ask to pick their brains over a coffee, they will probably be very flattered. You may even be able to shadow them or keep them in your contacts as a mentor as you launch your own career. Professional networking events are also great environments for expanding your network and establishing connections who may be able to help you in your career.
Prepare for interviews/create your business plan
When pursuing a career change, it’s likely that your resume to date will not be relevant for the new industry you are hoping to enter, but that doesn’t mean that your career hasn’t equipped you with transferable skills which will be assets in your new job. Rewrite your resume to focus on how your career and experiences to date will be of benefit to your new employer, but focus on getting as much hands-on experience as you can. When you have an interview make sure you have researched the sector thoroughly and can evidence your enthusiasm for it.