What did you want to become when you were younger? When I was 18, I wanted to become a lawyer. When I was 22, I wanted to become a teacher. By 26, I wanted to save the world and started an international career with the United Nations. And once I became a mother, all I wanted to do was find a relaxed day job that would let me work from home and allow me to spend lots of time with my family.
Very few women set out in the job world knowing exactly what they want to do and how they want their career to fit into their lifestyle. Finding the right career to go along with your life is like finding the perfect outfit for each season. As the seasons in life are changing, so are career aspirations.
Recent estimates show that over half of American workers (52%) are considering a career change. Changing careers is not uncommon and chances are you’ve done it before. Taking the leap as a working mother, however, can be a different ball game. Motherhood comes with additional responsibilities and financial considerations that may make it more difficult to embrace the uncertainty that comes with a career transition.
1 in 3 women consider a career transition or leaving altogether due to burnout and being overworked. While some mothers are citing the cost or unavailability of childcare as a reason to quit or temporarily downshift their careers, an overwhelming majority simply want to spend more time with their children and watch them grow up, according to a study done by Mother Untitled.
If you, too, are contemplating a career change – you are not alone. However, contemplating a big change like that and acting on it are two different sides of the story. Many women will never go through with a career change for fear of losing out on the career progress they’ve built, financial insecurity or the dreaded response to the “gap” on their resume.
Making a big transition as a mother does not only affect your own life but potentially the livelihood of your whole family. It is scary and the stakes are high – but so are the rewards. So, if a career change has been on your mind, here are 5 sure signs you should consider the move and some tips to follow through.
Signs It’s Time for You to Take a Career Leap
You’re mentally checked out
Do you often find yourself daydreaming as your workday goes by? Maybe you feel disconnected from your work and you just “show up” but your mind is elsewhere. You don’t really care about your performance anymore and hardly get the energy to fake some enthusiasm for what you are doing. If your career has started to feel like you’re stuck in a hamster wheel, it might be time to move on to something that feels more aligned with your passions and leaves you energized, not drained.
You haven’t been advancing or growing professionally
When was the last time you’ve been promoted or given new responsibilities? Have you recently been able to invest in your professional growth at your job? If you are in the same place as last year, you’re not developing professionally. You’re interests and talents are no longer nourished, and this can make you feel more than demotivated. It’s time to find a new job that allows you to use your strengths, develop new skills, and make meaningful contributions. Your career should be a source of self-esteem, not a cause for its decline.
You only live for weekends and holidays
We all have those days when we’d rather sleep in than get out of bed and head to work. Suppose those days are the majority and you feel like the only times you look forward to are weekends or the occasional holidays. Even if the steady paycheck is good, you’re beginning to feel like you’re wasting your potential. These are clear signs that you could use a career change. It might be time to seriously consider a career transition to something that lights you up more. We should never settle for work that leaves us feeling drained or frustrated most of the time, especially as mothers who need their energy to grow a family.
You feel guilty for not spending enough time with your family
Contrary to what women are often told, we can’t have it all at the same time and to the same extent. Mothers who are raising a family but also working full-time will absolutely need to make trade-offs. If those trade-offs leave you feeling guilty, sad or angry most of the time or you are experiencing negative physical symptoms, this may be your body’s way of telling you your career is not currently in alignment with what matters to you. It’s important to remember that your professional life shouldn’t negatively impact your personal life. Being in a constant state of anxiety, guilt and stress can not only negatively impact your job performance but also your family relationships and your long-term well-being. There’s no shame in pursuing a career downshift or a career break to allow you to focus on your family if that is what feels best for you at the moment.
You think about quitting all the time
Have you ever thought about what you’d say in your 2 weeks’ notice or what amazing things you’d be doing if you didn’t have to work a day job all the time? If you spend a lot of time browsing job portals to “finally find your dream job” and you can’t wait to see your boss’ face when you say you’re quitting, it might be time to let go and pivot to something new. Constantly thinking about quitting is a telltale sign that something is off – either you’re not able to use your skills to the fullest potential, the work environment is toxic or you’re just in a new season of life that needs you to focus your attention elsewhere.
How to Go About Your Career Pivot?
If one, or all these statements resonated with you, you know it’s time to make a change. Chances are you’ve felt like that for a while but haven’t found the motivation to act on it. Maybe you’ve found yourself at a forced career crossroads because you’ve been laid off. No matter the reason for your career pivot, there are several things you can consider now to set yourself up for a successful career transition as a mom.
Start by figuring out what matters most to you in your current season of life. Is it making lots of money? Having the flexibility to work from wherever you want? Having enough time to spend on personal endeavors or raising your children? Whatever it is, write it down and make sure you include these aspects as non-negotiables for your career transition.
Then, don’t make the same mistake as most job searchers and start sending applications like you’re throwing spaghetti at a wall and hoping one sticks. Instead, make a plan: scout out 3-5 companies that align with your values and that offer jobs that match your passions and skillset. Start building a network with real people who work in those companies and apply and reach out to your contacts strategically.
Lastly, women are more successful when they are part of a community of other successful women instead of working in isolation. Find a group of like-minded mothers in the same situation, such as a virtual peer support group for professional mothers. This can be the most efficient way to build your personal and professional network, exchange lessons learned and challenges and get the professional support you need to go from contemplation to action in a short amount of time.
Julia Billings, M.Ed., CPC, is a working mother, professional life & leadership coach, international HR expert, and motherhood advocate. Through her work at Motherhood Matters, she helps other moms make bold decisions in their careers and lives.