How To Switch Careers After You Have A Kid
Three years ago I was a busy nonprofit executive who worked 60-hour weeks. I loved my job at times, but I was mostly miserable. Now I work from home, doing the things I love — writing, advocacy, and teaching yoga. Oh, and there's an added bonus: I get to snuggle my baby whenever I need a fix. So, how did I do it? Well I'm not gonna say it's easy to switch careers after you have a kid. I consider myself pretty luck, actually. But, in my case at least, it was totally possible once I figured a few things out, and I know it can be possible for you, too.
So, how did I start to transition from office life to work-from-home life? I actually remember the moment I decided to make the switch rather vividly. I was sitting in a meeting with child protective services, talking about a horrible case that was breaking my heart. I stepped out of the meeting in tears because I felt like the system was failing a family and there was nothing I could do about it. Within the confines of my job, I was stuck. I texted my partner and he asked me to imagine where I would be and what I would do, if I could do anything, career-wise. What would make me happy? What would make me feel like I was doing something, anything, instead of feeling helpless? The first thing that came to mind was a beach in Costa Rica. You too, right? But, not just sipping drinks. In my dream I was writing and teaching yoga on that beach, all while my kids played in the sand. Little did I know that I would soon move towards that future; a future where I didn't feel like what I did for a living didn't matter or make a difference or evoke some kind of change.
It wasn't easy, to be sure. Being a working mom is hard enough. Changing careers, as a busy, single mom, seemed impossible. Once I envisioned a career-change, I needed get some sh*t done to make it happen. I built my support system, did a ton of research, and networked like a boss. My partner and I spent more than a few hours going over our family budget and figuring out how we were going to make everything work. It was hard in more ways than one, but I'm doing it, and I honestly couldn't be happier. So if you're considering a change in your career path, here's how you can make it happen:
Figure Out What You Want
The first step to making a change is figuring out what you really want. For me, this was especially hard, because I totally thought I was "living the dream." Then I spent some time soul-searching and speaking with my partner about what our "best possible future" looked like. It turned out that I wanted to trade my pantsuit for yoga pants. No one was more surprised than me.
So be honest with yourself. Seriously. Forget about what other people expect or want for you. You deserve to decide for yourself.
Make A Plan
Changing careers requires some serious planning, especially if you have kids. You not only have to figure out what training or education you may or may not need to invest your time, finances, and energy in so you can get your dream job, but you also have to find a break in your schedule to facilitate it all.
So ask yourself, can I afford this? How will I add yet another thing to my already busy day? Am I even brave enough to take the first step (or, in my case, a huge leap). It's so hard, but asking yourself the difficult questions and making a concrete plan will make all the work down the road, worth it.
For me, the most crucial part of changing careers was having lots of support. I could have never done this without help and encouragement from my husband, parents, and kids. When we combined our power and resources, we figured things out, and I gained the confidence to make changes in my life and career that I never thought were possible.
Budget Like A Boss
I am not going to lie: money was seriously tight for a while. I highly recommend figuring out a new budget and then making changes to live within your means while you invest in a career change. I do make less money than I did before, but I have way more time, confidence, freedom, and flexibility. I love my life so much. Money is necessary to pay the bills, but as long as you can manage, you are so much more than your paycheck.
Adjust As Necessary
As you change careers you will find that you have to make some changes, both big and small, and not just in the beginning but as you go. Like parenting, you won't get everything right immediately, you will make mistakes, and you'll have to be flexible. Be sure to check in periodically, with yourself and your family, to make sure you are on the right track. Shift gears if you find that you made a wrong turn, or there's a bump in the road (and trust me, there will be many bumps in the road) and be kind to yourself as you get a handle on the new life you are creating for yourself and your family.
When I was in the corporate world I freaking hated networking. It was a necessary evil to have cocktails or coffee with strangers to advance my career, though. Then, when I wanted to make a change (and I really hate saying this) I realized how vital networking really is. I have literally connected with every client I have and gotten every job lead through the power of networking. It totally works, and now that I am in a field that I love, I actually really like reaching out and establishing relationships with people.
Ignore The Naysayers
This was a difficult step for me, but it's so necessary. There were a lot of people who questioned my sanity and the wisdom of my decision to change careers after I became a mother. I needed to remember that my critics didn't have to live my life. They also didn't see how bad things were (and how burned out I was getting) before I made some crucial changes and switched careers.
You are the expert in your own life. Haters will definitely hate, but you will be way better off if learn to not care so much what other people think.
Believe In Yourself
As you change careers, you need to keep your eyes on the prize and believe it can happen. Otherwise, and I truly believe this, it won't. As you stumble and fall, and have moments when you think that you can't do it, you learn to pick yourself up and be your own, most enthusiastic cheerleader. Now, I am not saying that dreaming and pep talks are enough, because changing career paths also involved some serious hard work, money, sacrifices, and life changes, but the first, and maybe most crucial step in changing careers, is getting over your fear and believing in yourself. You can do it, you badass. Besides, you will never know what you're capable of unless you try.
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