The single most common problem that mums ask me about on forums and in clarity conversations “I want to go back to work but how do I work out what career to choose?”
Very often when mums take a career break after children (or redundancy), it gives you the opportunity to stop and reflect on your previous career. Something to be celebrated because it’s an opportunity that many dads don’t get.
One mum said to me: “I hated my previous job. I want to go back to work but I don’t know what to do. I have applied for jobs but I am just not getting getting anywhere. I haven’t got any transferable skills. I don’t know what I’m good at. What on earth am I going to do instead?”
Another mum said: “I’ve drifted along from job to job with no clear idea on what I wanted to do. Now I’m really stuck because I didn’t have a career.”
Today I’ll share the most popular activities from my Back to Work Confidence group programme.
1 – Get absolutely clear on what you’re brilliant at
Start by getting absolutely clear on what you are brilliant at. Don’t be modest – we are all brilliant at something.
Think about all the times that somebody has said to you “Wow, you made that look so easy” or any other positive compliments on work you’ve done. When is it that you think to yourself when somebody else is struggling “well that’s easy” or “that’s just common sense“. All those skills are your talents and strengths.
If you’re not sure what you are brilliant at, some former work colleagues (or good friends who can be objective or anybody in the community that you volunteer alongside).
Ask them for open and honest feedback on (tell them you’re doing a personal development programme and that you’ve been challenged to get this feedback if it makes it easier).
- What am I good at?
- What could I do more of?
- What can I do less of?
- What three adjectives come to my mind when you think of me?
2 – Identify what you love doing
Get a clean sheet of paper. Ask yourself these questions and make some notes.
What do you love doing?
What are you passionate about?
What would you love to do all day if money wasn’t a concern?
What did you dream about doing when you were young?
An alternative is to create your Hell Yes, Hell No list (see below).
3 – Create your Hell Yes, Hell No list
Take 15 minutes to create your Hell Yes, Hell No list.
Get a clean sheet of paper – divide it into 3 columns. At the top of column 1, write ‘Hell Yes‘, column 2 ‘Hell No‘ and the 3rd column ‘Maybe‘.
Write down all the things you LOVE doing at work in the Hell Yes column. Is it working with Excel spreadsheets, talking to customers, problem-solving, being part of a team, detail, fast pace … Think too about the environment – do you like to work in open plan? Do you love the hustle & bustle of a busy offices or do you prefer a calm atmosphere? What sort of organisation do you want / not want to work for?
In the Hell No column, write down all the things you hate. Maybe it’s working with Excel spreadsheets, or talking to customers, being stuck behind a desk … we’re all different. What one person loves, another person hates.
Anything you’re not fussed about, goes in the Maybe column. The Maybe column is for the things you don’t mind doing but you wouldn’t miss them.
4 – Discover your core values
This might not help you figure out the right career, however when you discover your core values, this will help you make tough decisions more easily.
Values are the things that are really important to you. They are things that you can’t touch. Intangibles such as loyalty, community, and creativity. These things really matter. You could probably name 6 or 7 of these straight off the bat.
However the things that really really matter .. the ones that you won’t compromise on. These are your core values. Sometimes when these are compromised, you’ll have an emotional response. You’ll get very angry, very upset or very passionate. I had a lightbulb moment about one of my core values while watching 12 Years A Slave.
We all have a different set of values. Some of us need freedom and independence. Other mums want stability and security. For you, it might be integrity, equality or honesty.
We are all different however when you understand your values, you will be in a better position to make decisions that are right for you and your family. Check out my free workbook that you can download and discover your core values.
5 – Understand your transferable skills
What about your transferable skills? The skills you have acquired in one career or one role, and which can be easily transferred to another. We all have transferable skills.
When I worked in a law firm, I was responsible for user acceptance testing on the big software rollouts. I loved to roll up my sleeves and get stuck right in because I have a keen eye for detail. The developers didn’t love me so much when we got to that part of the project but at the end of the day we had a better looking, more robust product and therefore fewer complaints from our users. My attention to detail was very much a valuable transferable skill when it came to editing and proofreading my book last year.
Maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t have any transferrable skills”. In that case, try this:
- Make a list of all the different skills you used in previous jobs. Try to be as detailed as possible.
- Now include the new skills you have you learnt as a parent. Check out my post at Birds On The Blog for suggestions on this.
- While on a career break, what volunteering have you done? What new skills did you learn or existing skills did you enhance?
- Final step: cross out the skills you didn’t enjoy using. Now for the skills left on the list, how else could you use that skill? What other roles would that be useful for?
Now you have your list of transferable skills.
What else can you do?
Work your way through all these activities and you will have a much clearer idea of your skills, strengths and values. You are now in a much better position to explore alternative career options. When you identify the skills you want to use, you can start to search for jobs or careers that make use of that skill. Keep an open mind. If a career pops into your head, use your LinkedIn network to find a connection that you can talk to and find out more.
p.s. I use these activities in my Back to Work Confidence group programme. If you’re stuck or feeling overwhelmed or unsure about what you really want or whether you have the confidence to go and do it, don’t stay stuck. Let’s have a conversation about what’s working, what’s not working and if that’s confidence related.
A simple conversation with me might be all you need. Book your conversation here.