Career change can be both exciting and scary. You probably have lots of questions swirling around your head. For example, where do you start? How do you know if you’re making the right decision? What if you make a change and wind up hating it?

If you are a mom re-entering the workforce, you have most likely honed many skills during your career pause like communication, multitasking, and project management, to name a few. You might be eager to use these new skills in a brand new career field.

Regardless of your motivation, if you do some self-reflection and research before jumping into a new career, you will greatly increase your chances for success!

Read below for three important questions to ask yourself before you make a big career change:

Career Change Question #1

What is Your Motivation?

Why do you want to change careers? Common reasons for parents are greater flexibility and higher pay. Other valid reasons include a lack of passion or feeling undervalued or underpaid.

If you are a mid-career professional, you might feel like you know yourself pretty well and know exactly what you want. However, it’s helpful to re-assess your priorities and motivation periodically, especially if you’ve had major life changes.

If you are wanting a change because you’re bored or maybe you dislike your co-workers, have you considered the possibility that you might just need to change jobs? For example, maybe taking on a new, challenging project at your current job would alleviate the boredom problem. Or, getting a similar job at a different company or in a different setting.

Working in a new capacity in the same field might also allow you to meet new people and get a fresh start (for example, a financial planner changing jobs from working at a large bank to a small boutique financial advising firm).

However, if you are truly feeling a lack of passion and interest in your current or prior field, maybe it’s time to seriously consider making a bigger change.

See related: The Ultimate Guide To Job Search and The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Resume

Career Change Question #2

How well do you know yourself?

As a career coach I’ve heard clients tell me they’ve changed careers many times. And each time they change paths they are still unhappy.

Do not let this be you.

How can you maximize your chances for achieving career success? A great place to start is by asking yourself important questions like:

  • What are my interests and biggest passions?
  • What are my greatest strengths? More importantly, do I enjoy using these strengths?
  • What are my top priorities in a future job or career? For example, more flexibility, greater pay, more creativity?
  • What are my natural personality preferences? If you are more extroverted for example, would you be okay with a career that requires you to work mostly alone?
  • How do I typically go about making decisions? Do I tend to over-analyze and agonize, putting off making a commitment? Or do I tend to make decisions too quickly, relying solely on my gut rather than doing some analysis and research?

It can also be helpful to ask yourself questions about past jobs. For example, what specifically did you dislike about your previous job(s)? Which work tasks did find tedious or boring? What specifically did you enjoy and why?

If you have been unhappy in numerous jobs or career fields, maybe it’s time to dig deeper and figure out if you have an internal or personal struggle that you need to address.

See related: Top Three Flexible, Online Jobs for Moms and Resume Tips for Moms Returning to Work

Career Change Question #3

How much research have you done?

Job security is a significant factor for many people when choosing a career, especially given the effects of the pandemic on the job market. With the internet it’s incredibly easy to research career paths and learn about important factors like projected growth, salary, and training & education requirements.

Career information databases like O’Net and The Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Occupational Outlook Handbook are two great places to start researching potential career paths. Doing preliminary research is important because you don’t want to get specialized training or a degree in a field that is shrinking.

Once you have researched your career(s) of interest, it can be helpful to get out and talk to people doing the types of jobs you want to do. This is called informational interviewing. You can ask questions like: What do you like about your job / field? What are the current challenges facing XYZ industry? Do you have any tips for me?

If you feel intimidated asking people for interviews, you’re not alone. Approaching people cold-turkey can be scary. That’s why you have to practice! Start by asking friends, former or current colleagues, and / or family members if they have any contacts in your targeted field. It always helps when you have a connection in common.

Once you practice a few times, you can search on LinkedIn and find additional people to interview.

In addition to informational interviewing, job shadowing and / or volunteering will allow you to experience your targeted field first-hand. Doing the actual work is probably the best way to tell if a job is going to be a good fit.

Volunteermatch.org offers a wide variety of volunteer jobs, as well as virtual volunteer opportunities.

See related: Four Simple Strategies for Landing Unadvertised Jobs in 2020

Career Change Question #4

Have you considered a portfolio career?

A portfolio career is basically having multiple jobs or careers simultaneously. For example, a real estate agent who also tutors online in the evenings. These days, portfolio careers are more common than ever. With the ability to do work online, the sky is the limit in terms of possibilities.

The best thing about having a portfolio career is that you don’t have to quit your day job to start a new career path. It makes the risks go down tremendously. For example, let’s say you currently work as a project manager for a large company. However, you also have a passion and knack for all things beauty and fashion. You can continue to work in project management while experimenting with starting a beauty blog, or doing online sales for a major beauty or fashion company. If it doesn’t work out, you’ve lost nothing but gained new skills as well as more information about yourself!

I have always been someone who has 100 passions and interests, so a portfolio career has always appealed to me.  For the past 20 years I have been a career coach, but I’ve also done creative writing on the side, including publishing articles and starting a blog / online business.

Career Change Question #5

Are you open to a gradual change?

Rather than jumping cold-turkey into a new field, what about testing the waters first? You can do this a couple different ways. Let’s say for example you are a human resources professional who has a passion for writing. You could get a job in HR at a publishing firm or somewhere in the writing / editing industry. Once you’re working in the editorial field you can job shadow writers and editors and / or volunteer to take on writing-related projects and see if it’s really something you want to commit to further.

Another route you could take is to start a blog or write freelance articles for publications. This allows you to build and hone your writing skills, make new connections in the field, and build your portfolio.

In Conclusion

Digging deep and acquainting or re-acquainting yourself with your motivations, as well as your top personal traits, is an essential step when making a career change. Regardless of how much research or self- assessment you do, however, there is never a guarantee for success.

It’s important to keep in mind that at the end of the day, if you change careers and wind up unhappy, it’s not the end of the world. These days it’s common to have several or even many careers. Making mistakes is sometimes the best way to learn more about yourself and what you value most!