If you’re a mom making a career change, there are many factors to consider. Are you willing to get more training or education? If you’re changing industries, are you willing to take a pay cut? What type of flexibility does your target job or industry offer?
Career change after kids is entirely possible. In fact, it can be down right exhilarating and even fun. You just need the right information and a simple framework.
I’ve never actually sat down and thought specifically about how my mom skills connect to my career as a coach and educator. But looking back on the last seven years, everything about being a mom has affected my career. In fact, I consider being a mom an integral part of my career.
Read on to learn my top career change tips for moms.
See related: Need a Career Make-Over? These FREE tools can help!
Keep a record
One thing I regret regarding my career change after kids is not asking for more recommendations over the years. I cannot count the number of times I have helped friends or colleagues with their resumes or interview skills. Although I typically don’t charge a family member or close friend, I have learned to ask for something in return for my valuable time.
Are you taking a career pause after having kids? If you provide contract, freelance, or even free services during this time, record it! This is one of my top career change tips for moms.
Ask for LinkedIn recommendations after each project. Update your resume with new accomplishments and skills.
Make a special folder in your email for any positive feedback or compliments you receive from clients, co-workers, managers, or friends. Moms often do not realize that volunteer work counts as work experience. Let’s say you volunteer for the PTA or in your child’s classroom. You can list transferable skills on your resume like organization, time management, public speaking, and project management, to name just a few.
See related: Top Ten LinkedIn Mistakes for Moms Returning to Work
Translate mom skills to job skills
Another of my top career change tips for moms is tracking your skills. As moms we learn so many skills it’s hard to keep track! Patience, listening, attentiveness, calm under pressure, problem solving, and stress management are just a few I can think off the top of my head.
You might be thinking, “Sure, I’ve got lots of skills, but how do they translate to my paid career?” I love taking pen to paper. Or you can also make a list on your computer. Either way, carve out some time and make several lists:
Before mom skills: Which skills or strengths did you have before you became a parent or caregiver?
Mom skills: Brainstorm all the skills you have acquired while being a parent or caregiver. The sky is the limit! Examples include: CPR / First Aid, flexibility, problem-solving, communication (listening & empathy), project management, time management.
Skills I love using: Narrow down your skills by including only those skills or strengths that you love using. You can also list skills you like but may not love. The idea here is to exclude skills you don’t want to use in your next job.
What the world needs: Now that you’ve narrowed down your skills (both mom-related and work-related), it’s time to connect them to the work world. I’ll use myself as an example:
I’ve always been skilled and passionate about writing. For a long time I didn’t know how to connect that with being a mom and also my career as a career coach.
One my biggest “mom skills” is understanding what it’s like being a mom and juggling life and career. A couple years ago I decided to start a blog. I wanted to use my knowledge and skills as both a mom and writer to help moms navigate their careers. You might not have a clear or obvious connection right away. It takes time to explore and soul-search when it comes to career change after kids.
Use sites like O’Net and The Occupational Outlook Handbook to get information about fastest growing careers and in-demand fields. Browse professionals’ profiles on LinkedIn using keywords. There are literally thousands of people on LinkedIn working in hundreds of capacities in every field!
Get & stay connected!
It can be isolating to be a stay-at-home or working mom. Even if you take a short maternity leave, staying connected with friends, fellow moms, and colleagues is key.
In order start your path towards career change or reinvention after kids, you need to get connected! Facebook has mom-related groups by geographical region, as well as groups by interest. When my kids were very young I wish I had joined a mom group. I felt so lonely and disconnected and I didn’t realize how easy these groups are to join.
In my mom groups I see moms post questions every day like “I’m getting ready to head back to the workforce. Or, I’m changing careers. Does anyone have any connections in the ____ field?”
LinkedIn has thousands of groups for alumni as well as professionals in just about every industry. Some groups allow members to join automatically, and some you have to make a request. Once you are a member, make sure to participate and fight the urge to just be passive. Share relevant insights and articles, and comment and like others’ posts.
See related: Top Networking Tips for Moms Returning to Work
Utilize mom-specific resources
Take advantage of the many online job search resources (including job search portals) specifically designed for moms and stay-at-home-moms reinventing or changing their careers after kids.
In case you haven’t heard the buzz about “returnships,” this is a relatively new phenomenon specifically designed to provide caregivers who have been out the paid workforce the opportunity to become up to date on industry skills and certifications. The non-profit organization Path Forward partners with numerous organizations to provide paid internship or “returnship” opportunities.
Another organization, The Mom Project, partners with companies who are committed to helping working parents achieve better work-life balance. The employers working with The Mom Project are passionate about matching job seekers with opportunities that match their personal and work preferences.
Make sure your next job offers the kind of flexibility you need by reading employee reviews on sites like Fairygodboss and Glassdoor.
See related: How to Land a Job in the Hidden Job Market in 2023
Combat success blockers
Lastly and most importantly, kick negative thoughts to the curb:
I’m too old to change careers. I’m too busy. Everyone is smarter than me. I’m not skilled enough. I’m overqualified. What will people think? I don’t have enough money. I’ll never be happy! What if I fail?
It’s important to realize that what is holding you back from a fulfilling career change after kids is often you.
Shed the noise. Shed the guilt. You’ve spent years taking care of others. Now is the time to focus on yourself!
See related: Five Signs You’re Ready for a Major Career Change
Create a Vision
To have a successful career change as a mom, all you need at first is a vision. It doesn’t have to be a concrete plan. Just an idea of what your career could look like in an ideal world. Dare to dream a little! You’ve sacrificed so much for your kids or caring for others. Now it’s your time to focus on you. If you don’t think concretely about your ideal career situation, it will never materialize.
Take the time to write down your long-term career goals and your vision of your ideal career. If it’s on paper, you will be more likely to commit to it. After you write down your vision, give yourself some short-term goals or action steps. For example, write down daily or weekly goals and check them off as you go.
Once you’ve got a vision, it’s time to take it to the next level. It’s all about baby steps! I am going to outline several career change scenarios below, as well as corresponding actions you can take to make a successful career change.
Create a Portfolio Career
A portfolio career is a career comprised of two or more jobs or career paths. For example, a flight attendant who teaches ESL on the weekends. Or a lawyer who is also an author. If you’re the type of person who is drawn to a more unconventional career path, and / or if you are someone with many passions and interests, a portfolio career might be perfect for you.
To create a portfolio career, you just need to think a little outside the box. Maybe you already have a career you like or even love, but you still feel like something is missing. With a portfolio career, you can have your cake and eat it too! You don’t have to “quit your day job.” You can simply add another job or career path.
Start by talking to friends or professionals who are doing portfolio careers. Ask them questions like how they got started, what it’s like working in several different fields, and if they have any advice for you.
Re-Invent Your Existing Career
If you don’t feel like you need a major career change but you feel stuck or bored in your current job, there are small steps you can take to create or re-create your dream career.
Are there any special areas of interest in your organization or field that you can learn more about? What about taking a colleague you admire out for coffee (or having a virtual coffee meeting)? Can you talk to your manager and see if there are any new projects or responsibilities you can undertake. Are there any professional development opportunities you can participate in?
If you like your job but you need more flexibility, for example, ask for it.
I recently worked with a client who was returning to work after maternity leave. She liked her field but wanted to go part-time. Previously, she had worked in fashion merchandising, but was interesting in transitioning into human resources for a change.
She drafted up a proposal to her manager, outlining what she could do for the organization to help with its HR-related goals and strategic vision. Her manager accepted it and she now has her dream job!
Make a major career change
Sometimes you need a complete career overhaul or make-over. Your industry doesn’t excite you anymore (or maybe it never did). You’ve always dreamed of getting your degree in ______ or becoming a ________.
But for whatever reason, you never went for it.
Even if you want to change industries, you don’t have to undergo a major transition right away. If you follow the steps outlined in this article and do your research, moving from one industry to a totally new field can be done easily and with great success!
Start by doing your research. If you have always wanted to be a social worker, the first thing you probably want to do is read about the field of social work. What type of education and training does it take to become a social worker? Which personality types, interests, and strengths do social workers have in common, and more importantly, do you share these commonalities? It might also help to know if the field of social work is growing or shrinking.
The more information you arm yourself with, the more likely you will find success and happiness in your new career field once you make the switch.
Career change after having kids does not happen overnight. Reading about the top career change tips for moms is a great first step. Give yourself a big pat on the back!
It takes time and effort to decide your next step, make a plan, and then put your plan into action. Patience and hard work will eventually land you your dream job!