How to change careers when you’re a mom

How to change careers when you’re a mom

There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one. – Jill Churchill

As every working mum knows, juggling a job and kids can drive you crazy at times. Throw in the extra time involved in figuring out a career change, studying or searching for a job and the wheels can start to fall off pretty quickly.

When I changed careers my son was only 20 months old and my marriage had recently ended. To say my timing was a little off is like saying Donald Trump is a little controversial.

But regardless of your circumstances I want to let you know that you can do this. Maybe it will take you a little longer than you would like. You will need to be adaptable and get creative for sure, but managing a career change when you have kids is doable.

Here are a few tips that I learned from changing careers with a kid:

1) Have a (flexible) schedule

When it comes to your schedule, I would have to say, please don’t try and be a superhero. I’ve worked nights. Early mornings. While my son napped, played or ate. You do what you have to do in these situations. But I also came close to burning myself out a couple of times and I learned that the only workable answer is to get help.

I know there are people out there who talk about how they get up at 3am or stay up until 2am to fit their work in around their kids. I honestly have no idea how anyone can do that. For me there was little joy in getting up at 5am every day and I get run down when I burn the candle at both ends. You’re going to need support during this time. Hire someone or call in free babysitting favours and give yourself some space.

2) Let go of guilt

I’m a mother therefore I must feel guilty if I’m not with my children on a 24/7 basis. If you feed this collective guilt our society perpetuates around motherhood you are just hurting yourself and other mothers, so let it go. Remind yourself that what you are doing will ultimately benefit your family and make a conscious decision not to buy into the guilt. You’re a great mum and you are doing your best.

3) Forget perfect

If you are studying do you really have to get an A in every subject? While I was studying my mantra became ‘done is better than perfect’ and it served me well. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to excel in your new field but there will be times when you will have to compromise. Do your best and let the imperfections go.

4) Edit your life

I highly recommend you streamline or edit your life in any way you can during a career transition. I’m not talking about fun or social activities because you still need your downtime. Instead look for obligations that fill time you could use for study or working towards your career plans. What needs to come off your plate so that you can achieve what you want? Whose needs are you prioritising? Some of these decisions will be tough but you will thank yourself in the long run.

5) Always trust your heart and your gut

The truth is you know best. Not the gurus. Not your mentors. Not your boss. You alone can make the right decision for you. Even when you don’t know how you’re going to manage it all and you just want to hide in your car with chocolate, you will figure it out.

It’s a juggle managing your career when you have kids, whether you’re going through a career change or not. Be gentle with yourself when things don’t work out and then course correct.

Thankfully most decisions are not irreversible so you can always make a different choice.

What tips do you have for juggling motherhood and work?

How to choose the right job

How to choose the right job

Image by Unsplash

Image by Unsplash

Great people do things before they’re ready. They do things before they know they can do it. Doing what you’re afraid of, getting out of your comfort zone, taking risks like that – that’s what life is. You might be really good. You might find out something about yourself that’s really special and if you’re not good, who cares? You tried something. Now you know something about yourself  ~ Amy Poehler

You know when the perfect job offer comes along and you jump at it knowing that it’s perfect for you?

You probably also know it doesn’t always work out that way.

Sometimes you really don’t know if you should take the job or not. And that’s when you drive yourself crazy writing lists of pros and cons and asking everyone what they think you should do.

Here are a few tips I’ve learned about how to choose the right job or opportunity for you.

1) Is it going to get you where you want to go?

Is this job or opportunity going to move you further along the path to your bright shiny goal?

It’s easy to get distracted by opportunities that sound good at first. Maybe the money is great or you know this particular company would look awesome on your resume. But when you take a closer look you realise it’s not really going to help you progress your career in the way you want

When you ask yourself this question there’s nowhere to hide. Either it’s going to help you achieve your goal or it’s not.

And remember, if this opportunity isn’t right for you something else will come along. There’s always more than one option.

2) Is it a Hell Yeah?

Opportunities can be a little like buses. You wait for what seems like forever and then three come along at once. How do you decide which one to jump on?

If you’re overwhelmed with choices you’ll appreciate Derek Sivers’ approach to editing your life. It’s one of my favourites.

His philosophy: It’s either a ‘Hell Yeah’ or it’s a No.

In his excellent book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown calls this the power of extreme criteria. In other words, if we feel total and utter conviction to do something, then we say yes. Anything less should get a thumbs down.

This is very similar to the KonMari approach to tidying and decluttering your life. If you don’t absolutely love it it’s got to go.

I love this approach, because simplicity is a wonderful thing. It cuts through all the ‘I shoulds’ to bring you back to what really matters. Sometimes you may need to say no to everything until your Hell Yeah comes along. And that’s ok too.

3) Do you feel ‘ready’?

Do you feel that you’re absolutely 100 per cent ready for this opportunity?

Then you should say no.

Here’s why.

When you read about people who’ve achieved great success (such as Marissa Mayer and Amy Poehler) you’ll find a common theme. They take risks and grab opportunities before they feel ready. They take on opportunities they’re not really sure they can do.

Opportunities that stretch them and test their limits.

Opportunities that scare the hell out of them.

Opportunities that lead to breakthroughs and outrageous success.

So if you’re feeling ready for this job offer.

It’s time to aim a little higher.

What do you feel ‘not ready’ for?

How to handle job interviews with confidence

How to handle job interviews with confidence

How to handle job interviews with confidence

You’ve just landed an interview for your dream job. Congratulations! Now all you have to do is hold your nerve and give yourself an opportunity to shine. Having fluffed my lines under pressure a few times, I know it’s no fun. Here are my top tips for handling job interviews with ease and confidence.

1) Act like you’ve already got the job

I’m not encouraging you to be presumptive here. But let’s say you’re interviewing for a Marketing Director position. You need to answer the interviewer’s questions as if you already have the job. What do I mean by that? Well a common mistake job candidates make is to answer questions from the perspective of their current role. This is appropriate when talking about past events of course. But when you’re asked ‘what would you do in this situation’ what the interviewer really wants to know is, if we give you this job how are you going to handle it? It’s the future version of you they’re interested in, not the here and now. So instead of launching into your answer right away, ask yourself, what would the new head of marketing do? Respond as if you are that person already and you are much more likely to impress.

2) Deliver a compelling case

When you want to persuade someone to take a particular course of action – like hire you for example, you’ve got to create a compelling case to make them say yes. Don’t rely on your sparkling personality to seal the deal (although that’s important too). You need to lay the groundwork before you head into your meeting. Think about accomplishments you’re really proud of. Make sure the examples you choose highlight your strengths and the value you have to offer and when you recount them, focus on the actions you took and the results of those actions (this comes from the STAR approach, read more here). You need to sell the interviewer on the benefits of hiring you. It also really helps to think of yourself as a product.

3) Don’t forget to breathe

When the pressure is on, you’re feeling anxious and you need to do a lot of the talking, it’s easy to get a little out of breath. We tend to take shallow breaths when we’re anxious which makes us feel worse, but if you focus on breathing into your stomach instead it will have an instant calming effect. Here is a great article from Zen Habits about how to calm down and breathe.

Those are my top tips for handling job interviews with confidence.

How do you keep your cool in high pressure situations?

How to love your work even when you’re crazy busy

How to love your work even when you’re crazy busy

When you’re feeling overwhelmed it’s easy to fall a little out of love with your work and start feeling tired and resentful.

After a recent busy spell I’ve learned there are better ways to cope than mainlining café lattes and making paper airplanes out of your to-do list.

Here are 5 ways to bring back the love.

1) Pay attention to the way you start your day

I used to think I was happy to be woken by my 2 year old, but it turns out I’m even happier when I get a blissful half hour to myself before he even stirs. Getting up extra early to practice yoga or have a cup of coffee in peace has made a big difference to the way I feel about my day. I also try and avoid reading or listening to the news first thing because I rarely hear any happy news on there. If yoga is not your thing you could try going for an early morning walk, visiting a café for breakfast, listening to your favourite music. Whatever it is that makes you feel good, build it into your morning ritual. The benefits will stay with you all day long.

2) Use EFT to have amazing days

EFT (emotional freedom technique) is a tapping technique that stimulates meridian points – kind of like acupuncture without the needles. I’m not sure exactly what the science bits are but I do know how effective it is as a mindset changer. There are EFT videos for every conceivable fear or issue. I’m a huge fan of Brad Yates so I recommend you start with this one on having an amazing day.

If you’re pushed for time here is his amazing day quickie.

Try it for a week and see what happens.

3) Be honest with yourself

If you are constantly feeling overwhelmed with work it’s time to take a good hard look at the situation before it takes a toll on your health (been there, done that). When you’re feeling under pressure I find it helps to be curious about what’s really going on.

Start by asking yourself:

What is it about work that is stressing me out? Is it the people, the environment, the crazy schedule?

What can I change to make my work easier or simpler?

What do I need to stop doing?

Be guided by your intuition because chances are, you already know the answer.

4) Clear the crap

I mean literally clear your desk / workstation / kitchen table, wherever you work from. It’s amazing the crap that builds up on there. In the spirit of KonMari (and in the interests of your sanity), it’s time to clear it right off your desk. The more beautiful you can make your work area, the better you will feel about being there. Plus you can’t expect to have mental clarity when you can’t even find a post it.

5) Be guided by your intuition

If you’re having trouble figuring out what to do about work (or anything), I highly recommend this guided meditation by Tara Mohr called Inner Mentor Visualisation. I found this to be a life-changing exercise and it’s one I repeat whenever I have a tough decision or problem to figure out. I think it’s a great tool to help you see a dilemma or issue from another perspective.

How do you deal with busy periods at work?

7 job search tips for parents going back to work

7 job search tips for parents going back to work

7 job search tips for parents going back to work

Photo by Death to the Stock Photo // cc

If your most significant role in recent years has been full time parent, transitioning back into paid employment can be nerve wracking.

Here are my top 7 tips to make the process less stressful and more successful.

1) It’s normal to feel anxious

When you’re a stay at home parent it can feel like you live on another planet to the rest of the world. Maybe you’re worried about how potential employers will view the gap on your resume, not to mention how smoothly (or not) things will run at home in your absence. It’s normal to have confidence issues during this time. Just remember that your fears about being out of touch don’t necessarily reflect reality.

2) Give yourself credit

You may have taken a career break but you didn’t spend it on the sofa watching Grey’s Anatomy, so don’t put yourself down. Parenting is not an easy job (hello understatement) and you have developed valuable new skills that will benefit you in the workplace. Parents who return to work tend to have a stronger work ethic, for example, not to mention superior time management skills and many employers value these attributes.

3) Audit your skills

List all the roles you’ve had in the past (including full time parent) and the tasks you performed in each one. Now list the skills required to carry out those tasks. Examples might include: caring for others, conflict management and delegation. You may also be good at showing empathy and giving direction (just guessing!). Document everything because you are going to use this list to update your resume later. Here is a list of the top skills employers look for to help you along.

4) Research the market

If you know what kind of role you want, start researching relevant job descriptions to see what employers are looking for. Do your skills match their selection criteria? If not, now is the time to think about acquiring those you lack. You don’t have to enrol in formal training to do this. You might be able to find a free course or webinar online that offers what you need. Check out Open to Study or MOOCS.

5) Network like a motherfucker

Whatever you do, please don’t limit yourself to the advertised job market particularly if you’re searching for part-time work. These roles are hard to come by and not always advertised. Your best bet is to start networking like crazy. Get in touch with people you know, including those from your child’s school, crèche, your parents’ group, friends and neighbours and let them know about your plans. Ask them to keep an ear out for opportunities. Send them an email. Update your LinkedIn profile, connect with your contacts and follow companies of interest on social media. If you can engage with potential employers online it will give you an advantage over other applicants.

6) Update your resume

Review the skills audit from earlier and add these to the first page of your resume. If you want to address your time out of the paid workforce, there are a number of approaches you can take. One option is to include it in the career profile: “I am returning to teaching after spending 5 years as a full time mother and I have stayed up to date with relevant training and industry developments during that time.” If you need to explain a long gap in your employment history, you could create an entry under “full time mum/dad” and list the skills you acquired (e.g. multitasking) or responsibilities held, (e.g. managing the family budget).

7) Brush up on your interview skills

If you haven’t been interviewed in years don’t be tempted to wing it. It will make you feel even more nervous on the day and that can seriously hamper your performance. I recommend that you review some common interview questions online and practice your responses with a friend. Good luck!

How do you feel about returning to work?


Why loving your work is not as important as you think

Why loving your work is not as important as you think

I used to say that I loved to write (especially for this blog).

But the truth was, and still is, I don’t always. Not exactly.

Sometimes it’s like beating a piñata with a stick at a party. A hot sweaty embarrassing mess with very little to show for all that effort.

There are days when those feelings pass and I get into the flow of it. There are days when they don’t. And that’s when I need wine.

I thought of this when I happened to catch an interview with Adele on TV the other night.

Multiple Grammy-award, Brit award and Academy award winning, on her way to becoming a billionaire by 30, Adele.

She opens her mouth to sing and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

If anyone loves their job surely it would have to be her.

Yet this is how she describes it.

I get really nervous. It doesn’t feel that comfortable being on the stage with a massive spotlight with people wanting to be entertained. I never think I’m going to live up to it.

And then this.

I love it afterwards. Once the show’s finished, I love it.

It’s rare to hear a performer speaking so candidly about how it feels to reveal your work, and yourself, in such a public way.

I thought to myself, well if Adele’s scared shitless, maybe the rest of us shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves.

I also thought that maybe doing great work was never meant to be fun in itself, whether it’s creating art like Adele, or doing something a little more mundane like the rest of us.

Work is meant to be messy and painful sometimes. That’s why it’s called work. It’s ok to feel frustrated and unsure when you’re doing or creating something you care about.

So maybe it’s time to change the conversation around ‘doing what you love’.

Because what really matters is how you feel when you get off the stage.

How do you feel about your work?