Parents everywhere can find themselves reassessing their careers after children come into their lives.
It could be that they love their work, but the hours are too demanding. Or it could be that the work itself is not engaging enough to sacrifice time with their children. Kirsty Levin is a careers counsellor with The Parents Village. She has helped a number of parents find their way once their priorities have shifted.
Listen to Kirsty Levin on Feed Play Love:
Here is what she advises we do:
1. Review your work-life before you had kids
Kirsty says that taking a look at your work before kids is a good guide to your first steps. If you enjoyed your job, but predict it will be too demanding going forward, chances are you are looking for flexibility more than a totally new job.
If you were itching to leave work to have a baby, that could be a clear sign that you need a career change.
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2. If you love your work, stay in touch with your colleagues
If your reluctance at going back to work is more about the hours than the job itself, Kirsty says you need to stay in touch with your colleagues. She says that opportunities for more flexible roles only happen when you’re part of the work conversation.
If you’re still talking with colleagues you can ask questions about whether your role can be redesigned when you return to work, or if you can do the same job with a slightly different workload. You can find out if there’s room to move laterally in the team or within your area to a slightly different (and more flexible) role.
Without these conversations, you won’t know whether it’s possible to stay with a job you love and get the hours you want, or whether you need to move to another organisation to get what you need.
3. Do a career self-assessment
A self-assessment helps you work out where you’re at, and where you can go.
The first step is to identify your core strengths. What do you know you can do well and when did you get great feedback? Once you’ve worked out what your strengths are, you can separate the skills into technical skills – those skills that pertain to your industry, and transferable skills – those skills that could work in any type of job.
Next step is to acknowledge where you struggled. Kirsty says, “In those areas you have to ask yourself did I actually want to improve upon those skills or did I want to leave those behind and never apply them ever again? That will give you an idea of which direction you should be moving towards.”
The final step is working out where you’d like to work. What kind of work-culture do you enjoy? Do you like a hierarchical structure, or something more open and relaxed? Do you like working in a big team, or do smaller teams suit you better? What kinds of industries appeal to you?
Kirsty says the idea is to open up your mind to the number of possibilities that exist in the job market.
“There are a lot of clients that I deal with that have no idea about the range and the breadth of jobs that exist across all the different types of industries because they’ve only ever worked in one area.”
Armed with your skill set, and your understanding of where you’d like to work, you can start researching different industries and filtering down to the most desirable workplaces. Then you can find out if the remaining companies have any jobs available.
4. Don’t underestimate your own skills
After you’ve taken a break to look after a baby, you can feel like your brain power has disappeared somewhere in that 100th load of washing you did. It hasn’t.
Kirsty says, “A lot of parents underestimate the strength of their skills and their expertise that they’ve built up because their confidence has taken a little bit of a beating with having a new baby. The process of drawing out their experiences and wins in their previous lines of work helps them to see that they have a huge bank of knowledge and expertise that they can apply to the next opportunity.
5. Keep trying, even if you feel trapped
Sometimes it can feel like you don’t have a choice. Your management team might be completely inflexible. You might have pressing bills to pay and no back up should you stop working. Kirsty accepts that for some, working is a job, and it doesn’t need to be more than that. If, however, you crave something more from your workplace, Kirsty says not to give up.
“It takes a lot of courage. It takes a lot of assertiveness and the message that I want to send those parents is that you have to own your own career. You have to do whatever it takes within those current boundaries. Keep your eyes open for any opportunities that might arise in the organisation. It may not happen overnight. You may really have to toughen up and slug it out for the first six to 12 months.
“I would never suggest to anyone you’ve just got to suck it up and stay put because most of your life is spent at work. You’ve got to try and enjoy it in some way shape or form.”