Considering a New Career?

Advice for mothers seeking an occupational change.

After giving birth, many mothers decide they want to alter their careers. If that’s the case for you, you’re not alone. But exploring a career change can feel like a daunting process— particularly if the task is competing with a busy family life. Here are some helpful tips to get you started.

When considering a career change, realize that you need not figure out all of the answers or even the right course of action through introspection alone. That belief can be paralyzing. While thinking about your goals, skills, interests and desires is an important component of a career change, making an occupational transition is often a gradual process. You may even develop clearer insights into your next career move through your interactions with the world around you.

Instead of imagining that you must know where you’re going next in your career, think in terms of organizing a series of small experiments designed to test one or more theories you have about one or more new career paths you might like to pursue.

Thinking of pursuing a dream career that may not be lucrative? If necessary, be willing to meet your bliss halfway. It’s a common notion that if you follow your passion, then somehow everything is likely to work out economically. However, when I interviewed career changers, I didn’t come across a strong correlation between how passionate people were about their new career and how much money they earned from it. The money maker, not surprisingly, was good pay or good demand— or both. People who shifted from a previous career into one that was known for being lucrative tended to make the best livings.

If you have a dream career you’re aching to land that doesn’t pay well, yet you want to earn a reasonable living, brainstorm how you can bridge these two ideals. Instead of thinking about what you’d like to do most, look for an intersection between something you’d like to do with something for which people will pay you adequately. For example, you might choose to use your existing skills to serve a cause, issue or industry you care about. Or you might undertake a two-career solution, where you pursue your new career part time while earning money from a better paying career.

Don’t underestimate yourself. If you change the type of work you do, it’s true you will probably have to learn some new skills. But you can also bring skills from your previous work, and other life experiences, with you. You aren’t starting from scratch the way you were when you first entered the workforce. Also keep in mind that you have a network of contacts who may be able to assist you as you explore new directions. Your network includes friends, family members, neighbors, former colleagues, former classmates and people with whom you share community and leisurely activities.

Find low-risk ways to explore career options that interest you, such as:

  • taking one or two classes in a new field.
  • trying a part-time job or consulting projects that expose you to a field you enjoy.
  • exploring a field as a hobby.
  • volunteering.
  • talking to people already working in a particular field about their work.
  • educating yourself about an industry by attending industry events like trade shows.