When looking for a new job we usually start from what we can do, or what’s available in our area. That sounds sensible, but it limits your options right from the beginning. And how can you be sure you already know all that’s available anyway? Often, opportunities only appear when you go out there and look for them!
Let’s say you’ve always wanted to be a teacher, but you have young so it’s just not practical to spend three years doing a teacher training course. You might write off teaching as a possibility and settle for a different career instead. But if you’re open to new ideas you could find a franchise to run a sign language or singing group for toddlers. That could give you everything you’re looking for but without the years of study.
So don’t start from what you could do – start from what you want to do. If you could choose any job, what would it be? Whose job do you want?
Now grab a pen and paper and write down why you want that job. What is it about that job that appeals to you? Really pull that job apart, so if you write “I want to work with people”, dig deeper until you nail down exactly what you want to be doing with those people. Do you want to care for them? Teach them? Campaign for their rights? Manage them? Help them to do something? (What?) Which people do you want to work with? Children, old people, senior managers, parents, recent graduates, technical people, nurses…Be as specific as you can.
Now you have a list of what you want it’s time to get researching. Search online for the profiles of the jobs you’d like to do and what skills and qualifications you need to get them. Ask around friends and family to see if anyone does a job similar to the ones you’d like to do. Arrange to have a chat with them and find out about their job – what do they do every day? Which parts of the job do they enjoy? Which parts are not so great? Could you see yourself doing a job like that?
If your choice of job means you’d need to spend years retraining, don’t be disheartened. True, some jobs need a university degree, but many need some relevant experience and a short course, which are much easier and faster to obtain. You can get experience by doing volunteer work, applying for a more junior job and working your way up or arranging some work experience. If you’ve spoken to someone already doing that job, ask them if their employer might allow you to work for free for a few weeks to get experience. Or phone an organisation that employs people doing your chosen job and see if they would consider giving you a placement.
You could also look through your list of what you want from your job and see if, like our aspiring teacher, you can side-step into something similar. Can’t find the job you want in your area? How about creating your own job by becoming a self-employed mum? The internet has opened up business opportunities that allow you to work from anywhere at all, so living in the most remote of locations needn’t be a barrier to finding work you enjoy. If you like the idea of being your own boss, take a look at Start a Family Friendly Business by Helen Lindop and Antonia Chitty.
Take a look at the skills you already have. Grab your notepad again and write down the tasks you’ve done both in your jobs pre-children and since you had kids. Then write down the skills or qualities that you needed to carry out these tasks. Are you a good organiser? Are you good at thinking of new ideas? Are you methodical and good with detail? Write it all down. Which of these skills would be useful in the job you’ve chosen? You may find you’ve already got more to offer than you first thought!
By now you’ll have a good idea of the job you want, what you’d bring to that job, useful contacts to help you get started in your new career, a list of your skills to put on your CV, an idea of the courses you might need to take and maybe even relevant work experience. So go get that job!