If you have been out of the workforce on maternity leave or taking some time out to nurture your little ones then maybe it’s time for a Career kick-starter for mum? Sometimes 2 weeks in an organisation can mean they have rearranged the seating or reclassified your role and if you have been out of the workforce for longer than a year, you may be seen as ‘out of touch’ with new concepts/buzz words/fashion/clients or BS hashtags used to describe your industry. But hold up. Maybe you aren’t the same person you were before you had bub? Having a baby has actually been the biggest and best professional development workshop you have ever been on. Now you know more about who you are, what you can cope with and what you don’t want and have more insight and self-reflective skills than you have ever had. But what do you want? Where are you going? Still lost?
Having a baby is a HUGE transitional point in a woman’s life, sometimes a Dad’s too. But they don’t get the glory for very good reasons. Whether it’s the tiredness, the shear magnificent achievement of creating a human being or realising you are a real life transformer incubating a baby. The downside is your body has transformed from a Renault Clio Sport into a Volvo Sedan. There are ups and downs, highs and lows, reflection and action and your brain is as busy as a toddler in a toy room. It’s no surprise you can get lost in thought, loose your sense of self and ponder on the big questions of life. Sometimes you’re just plain stuck in a rut. Immobile because of a lack of self-confidence, direction or personal barrier e.g. you now have a small person to look after, how can you re-train as a nurse? We have 5 practical steps to help you head in the right direction.
1. Consider your direction – Some people choose a ‘dream job’ and work their way back to planning their training, networking and job search strategy around their end goal. Some people reflect on their skills, abilities, interests, qualifications and experience and see what potential areas they could target based on their career profiles. If you are completely lost go back to basics and explore a wide variety of options by thinking about 5 careers and then interviewing people in those careers and getting them to tell you their ‘warts and all’ accounts.
2. Know who you are – You have probably spent so much time being the Human Resources Development Officer for your children you may have forgotten who you really are? Take some time to reflect on the things you enjoy doing, what you don’t enjoy doing and what you would like to do. Rally your supporters and get some help in reminding yourself about the things that you are good at. Get back to a creative, sporting, music or social activity that makes you feel good about yourself. Sometimes that lift lets you see above the clouds. Acknowledge the skills you have developed as a parent. Never undervalue the learning, development and humourous anecdotes you can draw on having brought up children, but the caveat is – know your audience. Be clear about your direction whilst acknowledging your past experience.
3. Know what you want – Do you want to work for a corporate, not for profit or government agency? Do you want to work part time or full time? Do you want to work in a small niche organisation or a large multi-national? You already have experience informed by age, maturity and exposure to the workforce so without even realising you have some sort of selection criteria in terms of what’s in and what’s out. Switch on radar to the fields that interest you. It’s like buying your first house. You have a criteria and the more you look at houses the more you refine and are specific about what you want. This process takes time so don’t rush it. TAFE’s, Uni’s and industry associations run careers fairs. Pop along to be inspired, tune into friends talking about their careers and ask them questions. Join forums and linkedin groups in companies and areas you are interested in. Post questions and investigate your options and gain a real perspective from someone working in the field.
4. Build your profile Apparently it’s a little of ‘what you know’ and a lot of ‘who you know’ these days that gets you the job. Tap into family and friends and their extended networks. Use your networks to build your knowledge, understand your options and get to know people in the field. Join an industry association, attend events, networking functions and collect business cards. Online you can create a profile on Linkedin but if you don’t know who you are and what you want you will find it hard to create an effective networking strategy. Before you enrol in an education courses, get to know what the industry considers ‘the standard’ and ‘valuable’. Education is expensive and you want to get it right. You often don’t know as an outsider and think you know what an employer wants. Some industries value experience over education. Think about the outcomes of the course e.g. Membership of a professional body, up-to-date industry knowledge, industry placement? Some institutions differ and some courses may not be eligible for membership in the professional association so look into the details.
5. Stop thinking about it and do something about it – Never have you been more aware of time than when you have children and you see them growing up before your very eyes. In such a short amount of time they gain so many skills, build their knowledge and test, try, practice and try again. We should actually pay more attention to their strategies. Obviously you will know when the time is right to put your plan into action. Be aware of your barriers to action, your excuses and your ability to procrastinate. Change comes through pushing through, gaining momentum, seeing results and motivating yourself to go on. It’s not easy to try something new or consider change. No one said it was. They just said have a try.
The key is overall to keep it simple and build a plan of attack built around big outcome goals e.g. “I want to gain employment as a nurse in 5 years time”. These big goals should be broken down into process/task goals like, “I am going to speak to 3 nurses about their career,” “I am going to research the best university to study nursing online” “I am going to calculate the cost of studying in relation to our households other commitments in the next 5 years to develop a cost/benefit analysis.” Before you get too excited and leap into planning take your time to go through the 5 steps above. Returning to the workforce, job searching and changing careers can be an emotional RollerCoaster. It is a little bit like getting back to the gym after a break. It is going to be a bit painful, it’s a long road but you will reap what you sow. If you are looking for a more in-depth analysis you can find a careers counsellor who will guide you through a process of reflecting on your skills and abilities, understanding the latest labour market information and assisting you in evaluating your options. You can find a Careers Counsellor through the Career Development Association of Australia