It’s easy to dismiss the idea of changing career when you’re a parent. Retraining can be hard work and the job application process is stressful, not to mention the energy you need to climb a brand new career ladder. Don’t despair, because we’re here to tell you that changing career is perfectly possible if you do your research and prepare properly.
So if your current job has lost its appeal, why not embrace the opportunity to do something that truly inspires you? Read on, to discover how to combine a career change with family life.
1. Understand Your Motivations
Before you commit to anything, take a moment to consider whether it’s really a career change that you want. You might come to the conclusion that you’ve simply had enough of your current workplace, manager or shift pattern, in which case you could stick with the same career but look for a new job.
If you’re sure you want to find a more fulfilling career, you’ll need to spend some time thinking about the things that really motivate and inspire you.
Here’s a simple way to kick-start the process:
What Makes You Happy?
Think about every job that you’ve done so far and note down the things that made it fulfilling. Do the same with any social activities and hobbies.
What Feedback Have You Received From Others?
Listen to what other people say about you and notice the things that they ask you to help them with.
Where Do Your Skills Lie?
Think about your work experience and note down any transferable skills you’ve developed as an employee. Next, make a list of the transferable skills you’ve gained through being a parent. You’ll definitely want to include excellent time management and communication skills!
The next step involves looking for new careers that would suit your personality, skills, interests and passions. Don’t be afraid to let your imagination lead the way at this stage. Ignore any potential barriers and have a bit of fun checking out our industry guides and the job overviews on the National Careers Service website.
Part of your research could even be practical. For example, if you like the idea of becoming a psychologist, how about taking a short introductory course in counselling? If you think you’d make a great teacher, you could spend some time listening to children read at your local school.
There’s also the possibility that your dream career might involve setting up your own business.
Real Story: Tara Gold
After she had her second child, Tara Gold decided that she didn’t want to return to full time accountancy. Keen to be around more for her growing family, she began to rekindle her interest in sewing and handicrafts. At the same time, while her new baby slept, Tara found herself reading a lot of articles and books about environmental and ethical issues.
Tara created her company Ethical Kidz to “start taking steps towards tackling some of the issues that affect the future and well-being of our friends, family and community. In particular, our children”. Based at her home near Bath, Ethical Kidz sells products that encourage kids to be creative, healthy and active, while learning about the world around them. Popular items include recycled craft kits, sewing kits, party bags and fair trade party ware including biodegradable straws. All of the company’s products are sourced from ethical and environmentally friendly companies.
2. Consider the Practicalities
Once you’ve come up with a handful of careers you’re keen on, it’s time to check out which ones would suit your lifestyle and what kind of changes you’d need to make. Find out how competitive entry is, whether flexible working would be an option and whether there are many local jobs. If not, would you be prepared to relocate? Not to mention, have you looked at a career change in your own company?
As a parent and career changer, one of the main issues is likely to be whether you would have the time to do any training that’s required. However, it’s worth remembering that some careers can be accessed without any formal training. For example, if you like the sound of a particular career but you know that your computer skills aren’t quite up to scratch, you’ll find plenty of online video tutorials that will help you to improve them for free while the kids are asleep.
If online training isn’t appropriate for your a chosen career, it’s worth checking whether there are any short classroom based courses that would fit around your family’s life. Journalists wanting to become copywriters for example, can sign up for an intensive one day course that teaches them how to adapt their writing.
However, sometimes a longer period of training is unavoidable when you’re changing career and this can be tricky when you’re working or caring for kids. Try asking the HR managers of a few potential employers exactly which qualifications they require and whether any on the job training is available for your chosen career.
Alternatively, you could take an online course, as a wide variety of careers are now accessible via this method. The second practical issue affecting your career change is cost.Training, childcare and a potential drop in salary are the three main expenses.
3. Help With the Cost of a Career Change
While university fees aren’t cheap, help is available for parents. If you’re studying a full time higher education course or doing initial teacher training, you could apply for a Parent Learning Allowance when you apply for your student finance. Eligibility is based on income and you don’t have repay anything.
Some careers also come with a bursary. For example, postgraduate trainee secondary school teachers receive a tax free amount of up to £32,000. Alternatively, aspiring teachers can apply for a postgraduate salaried apprenticeship or salaried programme. Bursaries are also available for social workers, as well as doctors and dentists in their fifth year of study.
If you decide to train with an online learning provider, you’ll find that you can often pay your fees in monthly instalments, an option which is great for families on a budget.
4. Help With Childcare Costs
Flexible working isn’t suitable for every career, so if you’re moving from a career where you sometimes work remotely to one which needs to be done on site, you’ll need to consider the cost of extra childcare. But don’t despair, as there is help available.
Tax Free Childcare
For: Working parents with kids under 12 (or 17 if they’re disabled)
Provides: up to £2000 per year, or £4000 for disabled children
Pays for: Registered childminders, nurseries, nannies, after school clubs
Involves: Opening an online account which the government will top up by £2 for every £8 you pay in.
Eligibility:: You and any partner must earn at least £125 per week but less than £100,000 per year
15 Hours Free Childcare
For: All families with 3 and four year old children
Provides: 15 hours of free childcare or early education for 38 weeks of the year
Pays for: Nurseries, schools, childminders, playgroups, children’s centres and after school clubs
Involves: Contacting your childcare provider for details
30 Hours Free Childcare
For: Working families with three or four year old children
Provides:30 hours free childcare or early education for 38 weeks
Pays for: Registered childminders, nurseries, nannies, after school clubs
Involves: Applying online to receive a code for your childcare provider
Eligibility:: You and any partner must earn at least £125 each a week but less than £100,000 per year
You can also get help with childcare costs if you need to study in order to retrain. If you’re eligible for student finance and your kids are under 14 (17 if disabled), you can apply for a non-repayable Childcare Grant. Alternatively, if you’re under 20 and doing a publicly funded course at school or college, you’ll have access to the government’s Care to Learn scheme, which funds childcare and the cost of travel.
While most colleges and universities provide basic child care for under fives during term time, you’ll need to apply early in order to secure a place. If you do you miss out however, you can apply for a place with any registered childcare provider.
5. Help With a Pay Cut
Does your change of career entail starting at the bottom of a new career ladder? Then it’s worth exploring the support on offer for families with lower incomes. This includes Working Tax Credit, a means tested benefit which is aimed at families with 16-24 year olds. To claim, you and your partner will need to work for at least 24 hours a week and one of you needs to work for 16 hours. If you’re not sure whether you’re eligible, you can check by using the government’s tax credits calculator.
Families with children under 16 (20 if in education or training) can also apply for Child Tax Credits . Based on your household income and the number of children you have, this benefit is well worth claiming, as it could boost your income by as much as £2,780 per year.
If your career change plans involve becoming your own boss, we recommend heading over to www.smallbusiness.co.uk, where you’ll find plenty of information to get you started. You could also visit the gov.uk website, which explains how to go about researching your market, developing a business plan and finding funding.
There are several sources of financial support for self-employed parents, including New Enterprise Allowances and start-up loans. However, if you’re still working and you’d prefer to test the waters before you hand in your resignation, you could begin by running your business on a part-time basis.
Many of us begin new careers when we become parents, as the process of bringing up children changes our priorities and challenges our perspective on life. Making a fresh start can be scary, but it’s also enormously exciting, so if you’re stuck in an unfulfilling career, why not explore your options today?